Will NASA Ever Fly People to Mars?

•March 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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

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

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


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

The Lewis and Clark Expedition sights the Grea...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But private explorers will build it…not NASA.

Will the Big Falcon Eat SLS?

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

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

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

However, then I read this article…

SES signs up for launch with more powerful Falcon 9 engines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Future of Orion

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

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

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

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

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

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

English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Space to Earth

•January 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment


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

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

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

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

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

3D Endoscope to Boost Safety, Cut Costs of Surgery

Audio App Brings a Better Night’s Sleep

Algae-Derived Dietary Ingredients Nourish Animals

Space Grant Research Launches Rehabilitation Chair

Shock Absorbers Save Structures and Lives during Earthquakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Science of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

iPhone Abuse

•December 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

Folks, please…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orion Flies

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

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

Write it on your calendar.

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

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

Project Constellation insignia

Project Constellation insignia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

English: Artist rendering of SpaceX Dragon spa...

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

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

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

Project Orion logo

Project Orion logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone close to you might even be one of them.

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

Artist impression of a Mars settlement with cu...

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

Orion Launch Coverage Live

•December 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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


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


Time To Vote

•November 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Running for School Board

•November 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Soon to be Unbroken

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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






She Won!

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

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

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

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

Wings in Space–Part 2

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

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

So…the plot thickens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English: Promotional image showing a rendering...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wings in Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

It Takes a Thief–Part 2

•September 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Congress…You’re Fired! (Maybe)

•September 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English: The International Space Station is fe...

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English: President Barack Obama delivers a pol...

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

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

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

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

It Takes a Thief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to you.

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

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

Let’s catch a thief.  :)

Orbiter 2010 Space Flight Simulator

•May 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

I really don’t.

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

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


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

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

But this one is SO COOL!

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

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

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

You can build your own.

The sky’s the limit (pun intended).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore the New Cosmos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carl Sagan <3

Carl Sagan <3 (Photo credit: miscellaneaarts)

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

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

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

Cover of "Cosmos"

Cover of Cosmos

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Elevator Pitch

•March 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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You Are Here

•February 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Just in case you get lost…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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The Drama of #Mars

•January 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

For crying out loud people…just send some humans.

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

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

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

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

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Life, the Universe, & Everything 2014

•January 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closeup of Michael R. Collings at Life, the Universe, & Everything 2008 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February 14th, 9:00 am–“Signing a Contract”–Canyon Room

Brett T.M. Peterson
Jaclyn M. Hawkes – Moderator
Kevin H. Evans
S. M. Anderson

What’s more important, getting the money or controlling the destiny of your work?  You’ll need to draw your line and sign your name somewhere in the balance between those in order to get published.

February 14th, 4:00 pm–“Marketing Yourself as an Author”–Canyon Room

Annie Oswald
Chas Hathaway – Moderator
Shawna Fillmore
Teri Harman

Published authors are each one in a million…literally!  Never has that been more true than now.  So how do you stand out in the crowd?

February 15th, 12:00 pm–“ePublishing Short Stories”–Canyon Room

Me! – Moderator
EA Younker
Elana Johnson
Joe Vasicek
Paul Genesse
Scott William Taylor

ePublishing is the way of the future, that much is plain.  But how to do it?  Where do you submit your material?  I don’t know as much about how to do this as I would like, which is why I asked to moderate this panel.

Some of these people I know and some I don’t.  It’ll be fun.  Will I see you there as well?  I hope so.

Fellow panelists…I made an honest effort this morning to link to all of your websites, but perhaps I tried too hard.  If that’s not your website that I linked to…or if your weblink is here but you’re not who I think you are, please let me know in the comments and I’ll fix it.

Update 2/6/2014–Made some changes as the schedule added and removed some panelists.  I also add the rooms. 

In another addition, though I can’t be there, Tom Carr will present The Pinkertons at the film festival on the 14th at 4:00 pm.  My face will be in two rooms at the same time, once in the Amphitheater on the screen and in person in the Canyon Room at the “Marketing Yourself as an Author” panel.  Of course, you *could* download and print pictures of me off of my Facebook page and pass them around the symposium so that I could be many other places at once–but I never suggested it, no not at all.  ;-)

The first issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fictio...

The first issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction (January 1993) had a cover illustration by Alex Schomburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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#SpaceX Launches the Year Of Space

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

On Monday, only about a month after their last launch of 2013, SpaceX used one of their Falcon 9 rockets to deliver a Thai communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit from the same launch pad.  From there, the satellite will move itself into its assigned slot in Geostationary orbit (GSO), which is quite far out where the orbital period is exactly 24 hours and causes the satellite to appear to “hover” over a specific spot along the equator of the planet so that folks can aim stationary satellite dishes at it.  This was their first launch into that orbit and one step closer to Elon Musk’s goal of eventually launching a rocket to Mars.  Mars won’t be reached by this rocket though.  Every launch, each higher orbit, adds to their launch history and knowledge base to help them better refine their rockets and launch support.  Increased launch frequency also lowers overall cost per launch.


The Falcon Heavy will be their Mars rocket, as well as the launcher for even larger payloads into those higher Earth orbits like GSO.  Some time this year they plan their first two launches of the Falcon Heavy and they already have signed contracts for Falcon Heavy launches for the Air Force and for IntelSat.

What will this do?  Well, they still intend to maintain their $1000 per pound price tag to Low Earth Orbit.  In fact they plan to reduce the cost even further by developing a vertical power-landing ability for their first stage, and maybe even the second, and then reusing the rockets.   They say that this will be even easier with Falcon Heavy, because the two strapped on boosters leave the rocket sooner than with the Falcon 9.  They compete with long-standing market leaders in the heavy-launch industry who are now struggling to figure out how to match the SpaceX price point.

I want to talk about that today.  Their price also tops any launch vehicle that Governments, notoriously wasteful, can contract and build.  China has already told Elon that they can’t compete with him.  When the Falcon Heavy launches for the first time, SpaceX will be in direct competition with NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System (or as critics of the SLS have called it, “Senate Launch System“) and will fly in space while the SLS is still a paper rocket.  How that will play out politically will be fun to watch.  NASA (or maybe Congress) continues to refuse to fund the SpaceX’s proposed Red Dragon mission to Mars.  I think they’re snubbing SpaceX for Mars missions because they don’t want the Falcon (and the Dragon capsule) to get there before SLS and Orion.  Of course, the entire Falcon Heavy program costs less than even one SLS launch, so it in today’s tight budget environment it is only a matter of time before they see the light.  It’ll just take that one launch of of FH later this year to get the ball rolling.

The SLS will be the biggest rocket in history, but until it launches Falcon heavy will have the capacity to launch the most weight to orbit of any vehicle currently in operation, more than the Space Shuttle ever did and second only to the now-extinct Saturn V.  According to the SpaceX Wiki…

“While the official specifications of the new launcher limits LEO payloads to 53,000 kilograms (120,000 lb)[4] and GTO payloads to 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb),[11] reports in 2011 had suggested higher payloads beyond low Earth orbit, including 19,000 kilograms (42,000 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit,[18] 16,000 kilograms (35,000 lb) to translunar trajectory, and 14,000 kilograms (31,000 lb) on a trans-Martian orbit to Mars.[13][19] As of January 2014 SpaceX’s website states that the payload to GTO will be 21,200 kilograms (47,000 lb)”

Trans-Martian is a solar orbit that jumps a spacecraft from Earth orbit out to Mars orbit, SpaceX will be an Interplanetary launch provider and will then drop the price of such launches astronomically (yes, pun intended ;).  They will place Moon and Mars launches well within the reach of countries, self-funded commercial enterprises, and variously funded research projects…for which Interplanetary travel would not be feasible at the ridiculous prices of the standing “old school” launch service providers who’s pricing structure depends on “GSA” type Government contracting for their bread and butter.  It also takes the progress of Interplanetary space flight out of the hands of the U.S. Congress forever, since Government is incapable of cutting waste and lowering cost and because Government-built rockets will no longer be necessary.  The SLS and the Congressionally mandated budget, suppliers, schedule, and politics that go with it, will become completely obsolete overnight and forever.  This will waste the many, many billions of dollars that have already been spent on it…dollars that are currently being strip-mined from Interplanetary and Interstellar research projects throughout NASA to feed the SLS dinosaur that we would never have been able to afford to fly.

It’ll also give the United States a monopoly in a global, multi-trillion dollar  export industry that relies on high-paying, high-tech engineering jobs here at home.


This is what will happen over the next few years.  The first Falcon Heavy launch to Mars will be pushed by the need to try to meet the next Mars launch window (when Earth and Mars align with each other in orbit).  Yes…I think that once the design is considered reliable and solid, Elon will try to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket into that window, even if he has to spent every penny of his own personal fortune to do it.

The Falcon Heavy will make 2014 a very big year in space.

The Moon and Mars

The Moon and Mars (Photo credit: Tolka Rover)

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Look! See the Distant Planet, Orbiting a Distant Star?

•January 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Look here…


Gemini Planet Imager‘s first light image of Beta Pictoris b, a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. The star, Beta Pictoris, is blocked in this image by a mask so its light doesn’t interfere with the light of the planet. Credit: Processing by Christian Marois, NRC Canada.
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2014/01/07/Planet-hunting-telescope-camera-returns-first-images-of-exoplanets/UPI-67751389129075/#ixzz2pw6deXVY


That’s right.  What you see is a really big gas giant planet in orbit around someone else’s sun.  It is not a computer simulation or an artist’s rendering of what might be, but an actual world, Beta Pictoris b, bathed in light from its own honest to goodness star, Beta Pictoris.  Cool huh?  Thanks go to the Gemini Planet Finder.

Now go out on a clear night and look to the East a couple of hours after sunset (sometime soon after I write this).  See that bright light in the sky?  That is Jupiter, the largest of our own gas giants.

Beta Pictoris b

Beta Pictoris b (Photo credit: Dallas1200am)

Of course, you can imagine that the planet in the above image has rings too.  They’d look different from Jupiter’s or Saturn’s, like a fingerprint, unique to that world alone.

It must shepherd a number of moons too, tugging them along with it like a flock on its long journey around the star.  You can’t see them, but you can think of no reason to imagine that they’d be missing.  The planet would appear lonely without them.

It also has Lagrange points that it shares its orbit with.  It is fundamental to orbiting bodies and all of the planets that orbit Sol have them.  Picture, in your mind’s eye view, some rock stuck there in the planet’s sky just tagging along, suspended as if by an unseen hand.

Terra Mater LIVE: How to build a Planet

Terra Mater LIVE: How to build a Planet (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)

Somewhere, much nearer the star, shrouded in its brilliance, are the rocky little places that we rather euphemistically call “Earth-like”.  None of them look exactly like Earth of course, and Beta Pictoris is very young so you won’t find anything even remotely like Earth orbiting it.  But if but you close your eyes you can make one!  Form a blue globe, splotched with interconnected browns and greens for land masses.  Put small, irregular patches of pure white at opposite ends, and surround it with willow wisps of clouds twirling and dancing close over its surface.

Now zoom in close.  See those two little people down there, straining their necks to look up at the sky?

What are they doing there?  Why did they stop to gaze at the stars?

Tell the world their story.  ;-)

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Who’s The Racist Here Really?

•December 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Ok.  I try not to talk politics much here in my blog, even when things annoy me.  I use my Facebook page for that.  But come on!  This has steam escaping my collar is puffs.


Black conservatives in the U.S. are villified and called “not really black” by the African American community and the Liberal Left, and for what, so that bigots like Melissa Harris-Perry, Pia Glenn, and Dean Obeidallah can make heartless cracks about Mitt Romney‘s adopted grandchild being the only black in an all white family, saying that the family looks like the Republican Party?

Excuse me?  So who does the child in this photo represent to these people?  Colin Powell?  Condolisa Rice?  Prior to Barack Obama, they were two of the highest ranking African Americans to hold an office in the Executive Branch, and were both appointed by Republican administrations.  To my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong) Bill Clinton only hired blacks as speech writers when he was President.  I’ll admit that there are some in the Republican Party who still hold on to their age-old bigotry against African Americans, but the rest of us treat them as people…as equals, while the left treats them as a locked-in voter demographic, to be kept down in poverty and subsistence so that they can be controlled by Democrats.  The Republican party was founded on an anti-slavery platform while Democrats today still treat African Americans as slaves to keep themselves in power.  Equality for blacks is automatic in the eyes of most Republicans, while the Democrats seem to give them nothing but lip service.

Ben and Andelynne Romney did a good thing by adopting little Kieran.  These snide comments from the Liberal Media say more about them and the racist roots of the Democratic Party than they do about Mitt Romney, his family, or the Republican Party.

I’ll get off of my soap box now.


Update: Melissa Harris-Perry apologized, at least for attacking Mitt’s family on-air.  I’m good with it, but she didn’t admit to or apologize for her own racism.  There is the content of the attack that needs to be publicly…enlightened upon.  Liberals have isolated the African American demographic from Conservatism by belittling Black Conservatives and they have done it to maintain a cultural separation along racial lines and a reliable voting block for themselves.  The fact that these comments from within the media ever occurred at all still makes us all wonder who the racists in this discussion really are.  Melissa should have opened discussion on this by apologizing for her own racism.  Apparently, she and the left still aren’t yet ready to throw any light on that.  Frankly, I’m not surprised.


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#LadyGaGa To Go to #Space?

•December 26, 2013 • 1 Comment
Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa (Photo credit: ama_lia)

I once whined that while science and commercial space make history over and over, Twitter and Facebook trends still followed Justin Beiber and Lady GaGa around like lonely puppies, heralding their every trivial move.  I even quipped that Planetary Resources might get more Twitter coverage if they named a spacecraft after Justin.

Well, someone must have been listening.  I learned today, somewhat belatedly, that Lady Gaga plans to perform in space.  Apparently, someone gave her a ticket to fly with Virgin Galactic in 2015.  While she’s up there she’s going to sing something.

My sarcasm aside, this is clearly a PR stunt and shows that routine access to space might be growing in importance to someone other than just us geeks.  I hope that Congress is listening.

And…just in case your wondering…the answer is yes.  I will be here when she launches, shamelessly trying and get attention by sticking #ladygaga on Tweet again.  ;-)

Justin?  Are you next?

#JustinBeiber on the #Moon <insert blog link here>

Christmas Music Playlists on YouTube

•December 15, 2013 • 2 Comments

It’s that time of year again.

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve updated the YouTube Christmas Music playlists that I built in previous years, removing deletions and adding a few to replace them.  The Kathy Mattea video, “Mary Did You Know”, that kicked off this 2 year long habit of mine (and cover track for my Christmas Favorites playlist), was deleted this year.  So I went searching and found another copy of it to add back in and then moved it up to the start where it goes.  The slide show playlist from last year lost a few titles too, but it looks like folks are making and posting those a lot faster than they disappear.  I’ll just need to keep looking and adding.  I want to double its size so that listening to it repeatedly doesn’t sound to…you know…repetitious. ;-)

This year, I’ve added two new lists.

Christmas Music Videos

During this past year or so I’ve become a big fan of YouTube music videos performed by The Piano Guys and Lindsey Sterling.  The advantage of these to a playlist is that these people are native YouTubers and the videos are posted by them, on purpose, instead of by fans posting without permission.  Therefore, these videos will endure and won’t drop off of the list.  I found both of those two artists when I was mesmerized by “O Come, Emanuel” by the Piano Guys last Christmas.  Earlier, I had seen a brief clip of Lindsey Sterling in an advertisement for something else and wanted to see more, but didn’t know who she was or where to find any more of her work.  Then while going through Piano Guys postings, I found her in one of their videos–the fun-filled Misson Impossible Theme Song that they made together.  Anyway, their videos do not have the home-movie flavor so common to YouTube.  They shoot multiple takes from different angles and often with different backdrops and wardrobe and then mix them together in a cool way while the music rolls right through.  It stands right up alongside material produced by pros with a lot more money to throw around.  This is why I decided to put together a playlist of Christmas videos by them and others.  It’s kicked off by two Piano Guys videos and two Lindsey Sterling videos, but I’ve fleshed it out with other professionally produced (or professional-looking) music videos by other artists of various arrangement styles.  Eventually I will refine it more, but I need to find enough of that type of material to fill it with before I get too picky.  The cover is not “O Come, Emanuel” however, but an innovative arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High” that they released last month.  In it, several guys stand around the piano and play it like a stringed instrument.  Way cool.


This is a bit of a toughy.  The entire purpose of these playlists was to be able to just set up a computer and walk away and have it fill the area with the Christmas Spirit while I go off and do something else.  Well, some folks have put together whole videos with a collection of tracks played against slides and/or video snippets of Christmassy scenes.  Some of these are as long as four hours and each plays a bit like my slide show playlist.  I’ve managed to collect about a dozen in then list so far, however cuts like these seem to have a short lifespan.  They are bound to contain copyrighted material somewhere which someone notices eventually.  When that happens, the powers that be don’t delete the video, they replace the entire four hours with dead air, played over a black background with text that explains the infringement.  I guess what I’m saying is that I’ll need your help keeping up with this list because it’s going to be higher maintenance than my other ones.  If you see a dead-air video on it, just let me know somehow and I’ll remove it.  The playlist won’t miss it, since I probably have about a full day’s of material in the list so far.  Also, some of these tracks are a little off-the-track, but I haven’t finished vetting all of the songs in some of these videos (for obvious reasons).  So have patience while I find time to play them all the way through for myself.

BTW, when I first started doing this, some mobile YouTube apps didn’t like playlists and I even had trouble posting a link to a playlist in WordPress so that it played the whole list and not just the cover video.  Now, both mobile apps and WordPress are playlist smart!  We are going to have lots of fun with these in the future.


For an easy list of all of my playlists, go to my YouTube page by clicking here or just search YouTube for whousley.

O Come O Come Emmanuel Lyrics

•December 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

From India to Mars: The Voyage of #Mangalyaan

•November 9, 2013 • 3 Comments
English: Photograph of Martian Sunset taken fr...

Is this Mars sunset in India’s future? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago, during my college days, I saw a magazine cover article on India’s space program.  This was back when that country first started providing Earth-orbiting launch services shortly after that industry first began.  It showed a man leading an ox-cart full of hay down a jungle road, back-dropped by a rocket launch.

Now Earth-orbiting satellites are a huge industry and India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  Their policies concerning debt mean that they have weathered the last couple of recessions better than most, but their leaders admit that they still have two populations, and one of those remains very poor.  The conflict in Kashmir rages on as Islamic fundamentalists and Pakistan struggle to establish Shiria Law in the India’s Muslim-dominated North.  The country is also uncivilized in several other serious ways that I would like to see reformed.  Some look at India’s list of problems and say that they can’t afford a space program.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Paine Sign a Satel...

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Paine Sign a Satellite Agreement – GPN-2002-000081 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this week, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched a Mars probe which some call MOM (for Mars Orbital Mission) or Mangalyaan.  Earth’s oceans, Solar orbit and the Mars surface are littered with the bones of failed Mars spacecraft, so this probe still has a long way to go yet before anyone can call it an unqualified success.  Be that as it may, each milestone achieved makes history and forges a new future for India.  If it arrives in Mars orbit successfully, it will perform some new experiments that will add to the world’s knowledge-base regarding the atmosphere of Mars, though its primary mission is just developing and testing the capability to get there.

Here’s the thing.  This knowledge-base of which I speak is not just some numbers on a computer printout somewhere, it resides in the expert-base and technical infrastructure of the country.  The experience that they gain, the capabilities that they develop, and the reputation that they forge will be resources that other people the world over will need going forward.  Knowledge is power, and power is position and opportunity and in the new space race that positioning is more valuable than gold.  At a measly $69 Million U.S. for this mission, India is spending proverbial pennies on the dollar to possibly become the fourth Mars-capable country of the world.

Documentary INSAT 1B spacecraft STS-8 cargo, H...

Documentary INSAT 1B spacecraft, Space Shuttle STS-8 cargo, HGR. AO. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is the reality and anyone who thinks otherwise has blinders on.  Even while Mars is still nothing more than a scientific interest, knowledge about how to get there already brings positive returns on investment.  However, at some future, as yet unknown, date someone will discover something about Mars that is unique, valuable, and unavailable here on Earth.  It is…well, I don’t know yet, but it will trigger a fervor that historians will later liken to the Gold Rush in the United States.  Everyone with Mars experience will then become part of a new industrial revolution that will produce unimaginable wealth for the few infrastructures around the world that possess Mars expertise, and provide high-paying, high-tech jobs for millions of people.  India wants to be one of those few, and rightly so.

I hope that their probe achieves Mars orbit.  Such efforts cost such a small amount in comparison to their benefit.  Kudos to India for investing in their future…spending money paying people who will build a hope for the country and its poor.

Moons of Mars

Moons of Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dollars to Doughnuts

•October 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

 In August of 2012. NASA landed a highly advanced rover the size of an automobile on Mars using an innovative, one of a kind, rocket-propelled sky-crane. Hitting Mars orbit with anything is not easy and

Mosaic image of Mars as seen by Viking 1, 22 F...

Mosaic image of Mars as seen by Viking 1, 22 February 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NASA is the best in the world at doing it. This effort was historic, highly successful, employed (and continues to employ) large numbers of high-paid engineers and support staff, and raised the technology level for such landings significantly not only for Mars but for other targets all over the solar system. The science being performed by the rover is unprecedented both in quality and quantity and has redefined our view of Mars. The effort is so successful that they are planning to land another just like it and some talk about using the sky-crane for a different mission as well. As usual, there are also a bunch of benefits in direct and indirect spin-off technologies, as well as increased interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields among the rising generation as a result of Curiosity.

The total cost of that project, spread out over 8 years, has been around 2.5 Billion U.S. dollars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Science_Laboratory). About 20% of that was the cost of the launch. It works out to about a dollar per year per citizen.

By contrast, in 2012, the same year that the rover landed, the average DAILY interest payments on the U.S. national debt were just under 1 Billion U.S. dollars. (http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/ir/ir_expense.htm)

Which pays more?

Mars Rover Curiosity, Right Side View

Mars Rover Curiosity, Right Side View (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Agents of Shield vs Family Friendly

•October 26, 2013 • 1 Comment

Marvel's Agents of Shield

Marvel’s Agents of Shield (Photo credit: evansonline)

It is now obvious to me that Hollywood agrees with my earlier post here (The Incredible Shrinking Genre) about the importance of Family Friendly entertainment.  I say this because they appear to be willing to tease folks with it…case in point, Marvel’s Agents of Shield.

Sorry about the mild spoilers ahead.

I need to go back and find the pre-release clip, where one of the folks involved in the project (producer or actor or somebody) calls this series “family friendly”, so that I know not to trust anything else that person says.  The first several episodes walked on the edge with some of the actions, clothing and dialog for the character Skye.  But in the latest episode they crossed that “here is what we are willing to do” line, showing way too much skin when she goes to bed with an old friend and hacker partner of hers, a character so shallow that I can’t even remember his name (he is a liar, even to her, as he risks outing her to S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to make a million dollars, then he uses their intimate relationship to distract her, then when they finally show her what he did he gives her the classic “it was all for us” B.S.).

Also, Agent Coulson uses a popular phallic euphemism to describe the personality of a certain flame-throwing and out of control superhero (another very poorly developed character) that is trying to kill them.  Then that super hero very vividly and explicitly torches the evil redhead from the first episode to a crisp.

I still like the show, in spite of my annoyance with their willingness to go so far over the top on sex, dialog, and violence after claiming to emphasize making the show “family friendly”.  The movie Avengers, from which the series is a spin-off, seemed to make an effort to stay within the lines and be a show that I could have in my home.  But Agents of Shield doesn’t seem to want to follow that winning pattern, but instead wants to go more the direction of the Iron Man movies…and maybe even a little bit beyond.

Now I know that Agents of Shield doesn’t want to be called a “Children’s Show”. I get that. Some people will say “Children’s Show” any time their preferred higher levels for sex and violence aren’t met. I get that too. But the producers of Agents of Shield are smart enough to know that children’s shows have child protagonists, solving children’s problems in child-like ways…and maybe talking animals ;-). The Agents of Shield story line is about adults solving adult problems in adult ways. This can be done in such that an adult can still watch show with a child in the room. Many very successful shows have done this.  Any adult who thinks that explicit sex and violence should be the only difference between children and adults never actually grew up themselves and “Adult Programming” as the world defines it suites them ill.
Agents of Shield; you released advertising material at the start of your series that used the words “Family Friendly”, but the episode entitled “Girl in the Flower Dress” was not.  No one should label what is easily PG-13 content “family friendly”.  You didn’t have to say, “Family Friendly” but you did.  Some viewers have started to question the quality of your writing and character development as well. If it isn’t family friendly, and the quality of the story is poor, then you will have no value.

Straighten up your act or I am through with you.

One Year Notice

•October 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment
The impact of a meteorite or comet is today wi...

The impact of a meteorite or comet is today widely accepted as the main reason for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now.

I was once given two months to vacate a house that I was renting.  It was pretty scary because I rally didn’t have anywhere else to go. When I finally did find a place it was…like…right on the edge of the deadline and I didn’t want to get locked out.  Moving myself out quickly, I gave myself a back injury that persists to this day.

Around one year ago, scientists found a comet inbound.

Now, let me be clear first, because I don’t want to frighten anybody.  Comet ISON (C2012 S1) will NOT hit us.  It’ll miss by something like half the distance to the sun.  Back yard astronomers, as well as the pros, scan the skies with photography every night, looking for movement. Then, when it is found, they can track its motion and it really doesn’t take much to nail down where the object is headed.  I don’t know how to do it, but lots of folks do.  The methods and math aren’t simple, but they are widely known and very straight forward, so as to make it impossible for governments to lie to us about such things.  Sure, orbital mechanics carry some variables, but none of those are anywhere near large enough to matter much against the momentum of an object this large, moving this fast, over such a short period of time.

But ISON’s size and speed…and the short time since its discovery…are important for another reason.

What would our lives be like right now if they’d done their magic math and calculated that ISON would smack us dead-on?  What if we had lived out this past year with the reality of a major impact event coming late this year projected to wipe out civilization?

Somebody discovered this object on September 21st, 2012.  Prior to that we possessed no knowledge of its existence.  ISON is thought to be around three miles (almost 5 Kilometers) across.  That probably isn’t big enough to wipe out a species as versatile as ours, but it’s enough, more than likely, to bomb us back to the stone age.

Some folks on the Internet discussed the possible damage here.  There is even a cool BattleCalc style damage calculator that Purdue University put together here.

You see, infrastructure is a touchy thing.  Infrastructure means all of those layers of technology that we rely on to allow us to continue to go to work everyday to build or prop up more layers of technology to rely on.  The knowledge base that supports it all is really only one or two generations of hunter-gatherer away from being forgotten.  A major, planet altering event like a class 8 caldera eruption (long notice and unlikely) or a celestial impact (umm, potentially SHORT notice), that kills enough people could cause the network of skills that supports our current population to come unraveled like a moth-eaten sweater.  Ten years of that would kill off most of our species through starvation and strife, because the land really can’t support more than a certain density of hunter-gatherers.  Then, after one or two generations of eating rabbits, twigs and berries for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the memory of all we see around us today would fall to dust.

“Mommy, what’s that?”

“We call it the ‘food tower’.  See that cat walking in that fourth square opening on the third level?  Take careful aim…Good Girl!  Now climb up there and get it and I’ll teach you how to dress it out for breakfast.”

Three mile wide comet impacts do that sort of thing, and it could happen someday…just one year after astronomers look at their charts some morning, cuss, and spill their coffee.

Please understand, one year is not enough time to do anything about an incoming killer impact, so it’s a really good thing this comet won’t hit us.  It’ll pass us like so many others, just a cosmic shot across our bow.

Comet ISON seen by Hubble

Comet ISON seen by Hubble (Photo credit: UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences)

So we still have some time.

I don’t know exactly what to do about it…but somebody needs to.

Modern #Slavery

•October 17, 2013 • 3 Comments
Slavery Still Exists - SSE

Slavery Still Exists – SSE (Photo credit: Wolfram Burner)

Index on Modern Slavery

I wanted to do more than just Facebook meme this one.

It is ironic that the way of life that so many of the people in various parts of the world are fighting to preserve, and sometimes to extend, include the barbaric practice called slavery.  It pains me to think that there are still areas on our planet that are still so backward and uncivilized that this industry persists.

Here in the U.S., we have just finished (postponed?) two political fights over our national budget.  Somehow, seeing the release of this report on slavery puts our disagreements in a better perspective for me.

A pox on anyone in the modern world who participates in and/or profits from or otherwise supports this horrendous activity elsewhere.  For the rest of us, save this link…http://www.walkfree.org/ then whenever you feel an urge to get angry at the opposing political party (whoever that opposite is for you) go and read, and reread, this report as a remember that there are still many, many important things that all of us in the civilized parts of the world agree on, regardless of our various disagreements.


You Will Never Silence Her: #Malala vs the #Taliban

•October 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

IAmMalalaCoverAn armed man with a gun, hiding behind cloth and camera, brags and vows to shoot an unarmed child and calls her a coward, not realizing that he paints a picture of a coward himself.  It does not look like they have learned their lesson, what they have done by shooting her.  It was stupid to shoot her before, it is more stupid to talk about doing it now and it would be the highest of stupidity to succeed in killing her later.  That shot heard around the world is now etched in the record of history and heaps shame upon the names of the Taliban and all of its members.

She lives on and she speaks on.  She spoke before the United Nations in July.  She published a book today.  She might receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.  There are few people in the world right now who are as big as Malala Yousafzai.  I wrote here last year that by shooting her the Taliban amplified her voice beyond their pathetic reach.  Killing her would only make her a martyr to her cause, and martyrs can only be killed once.

They say that she dishonor’s Pakistan.  Those in Pakistan who shoot children dishonor themselves; she is only a voice crying out of the darkness against them.  They point guns directly at innocent, weaponless, harmless people and then and call other people cowards.  They murder children in cold blood and then compare those deaths to those caused by misguided American bombs aimed at themselves.  They call Malala a puppet of the West, but they are puppets of false priests, corrupt and immoral tyrants, and even Jinn.  They claim they speak for God, but the tears of God fall upon the people who are abused by the Taliban and their ilk all over the Arab world.  They say that those who speak out against them speak out against God, Islam, and Pakistan, but I hear the voices of all of those and they condemn the extremes of the Taliban.

I read today that Malala’s book is for sale in Islamabad, proving that the Taliban are too small even in Pakistan to stop this girl, her book, or the symbol that she has become.  The atrocities that the Taliban have committed in darkness are now seen under the lights of millions of bookstores, librarys, coffee tables, and Kindles the world over and can never be recalled by any Islamic radical group or anyone else.  What will happen when thousands of little girls all over the Middle East see her example and figure out that violence can only blot out those names of the silent?  They’ll will go to Blogspot, or WordPress, or Facebook, or Twitter and begin telling us of their lives.  There aren’t enough bullets in the world to stop them all.

The world is growing smaller and the eyes of civilized people can now see much that was hidden from their view through the centuries.  The faces of nations have recoiled in horror over the acts of the Taliban and those like them.  But the sun has now begun to set on the ruthless reign of radical Islam and it is none too soon. 

Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First...

Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First Initiative anniversary event (Photo credit: United Nations Information Centres)

Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty

•September 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment
English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color i...

English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color is #d69d36 from the image at http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/maplib/flag.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I usually don’t share personal political opinions here.  I won’t start now.

However, I think that the issue described below could use some…sunlight…as it were.  I think that my personal viewpoint will be served by this.  I have read a number of posts on this topic that, now that I’ve read up on it directly from the source, seemed obvious to me that the posters were clueless and hadn’t actually read the relevant document.

The topic is the United Nations treaty that Secretary of State John Kerry signed earlier this week on the International proliferation of weapons.

On the surface…well, there I go starting to get all political.  I’ll just post the text of the treaty and encourage you…urge you…to read it.  Unlike anything our Congress might publish, this is only thirteen pages long, about the length of a short story.  It is also worded simply, for ease in translating in multiple languages, not the dry and complex legalese that you might expect.

I’ve reformatted it from the original PDF that I found here, for your convenience, so I apologize for any formatting errors.  I would have just posted the link, but WordPress tells me that most of you don’t actually click on those very often…and this issue is important.  It has probably resulted in the longest post ever on my blog, but I think it’s worth it as this issue touches (or will touch) everyone who reads it.

-If you are pro gun-control in the U.S., particularly national gun registration, then you might read this and say, “Yay!”

-If you are against the U.N. becoming more powerful, then you might say, “Booo!”

-If you are against the proliferation of arms to terrorists, then you might say, “Yay!”

-If you are against the slow leakage of U.S. citizen’s rights, or concerned about privacy rights with respect to the activities of the U.S. National Security Agency, Dept. of Homeland Security, or other non-elected government agencies, then you might say, “Booo!”

Whether you agree with the current U.S. Presidential administration that this treaty should be ratified, or you agree with the majority of the U.S. Senate that think that it should not, YOU must read it, so that YOU know what it says.  It is too short, to easy, and too important to neglect.  This is a highly emotional and polarizing topic, with lies abounding on both sides.  You cannot have an opinion about it by just reading the comments of other people, not when informing yourself is as easy and scrolling downward.

Enough preamble.

Ladies and gentlemen…presenting the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.


United Nations A/CONF.217/2013/L.3

General Assembly Distr.: Limited

27 March 2013

Original: English

13-27217 (E) 270313


Final United Nations Conference

on the Arms Trade Treaty

New York, 18-28 March 2013

Draft decision

Submitted by the President of the Final Conference

The Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, Adopts the text of the Arms Trade Treaty which is annexed to the present decision.


The Arms Trade Treaty


The States Parties to this Treaty, Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recalling Article 26 of the Charter of the United Nations which seeks to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources,

Underlining the need to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, or for unauthorized end use and end users, including in the commission of terrorist acts,

Recognizing the legitimate political, security, economic and commercial interests of States in the international trade in conventional arms,

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system,

Acknowledging that peace and security, development and human rights are pillars of the United Nations system and foundations for collective security and recognizing that development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing,

Recalling the United Nations Disarmament Commission Guidelines for international arms transfers in the context of General Assembly resolution 46/36H of 6 December 1991,

Noting the contribution made by the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, as well as the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons,

Recognizing the security, social, economic and humanitarian consequences of the illicit and unregulated trade in conventional arms,

Bearing in mind that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict and armed violence,

Recognizing also the challenges faced by victims of armed conflict and their need for adequate care, rehabilitation and social and economic inclusion,

Emphasizing that nothing in this Treaty prevents States from maintaining and adopting additional effective measures to further the object and purpose of this Treaty,

Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law,

Mindful also of the role regional organizations can play in assisting States Parties, upon request, in implementing this Treaty,

Recognizing the voluntary and active role that civil society, including nongovernmental organizations, and industry, can play in raising awareness of the object and purpose of this Treaty, and in supporting its implementation,

Acknowledging that regulation of the international trade in conventional arms and preventing their diversion should not hamper international cooperation and legitimate trade in materiel, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes,

Emphasizing the desirability of achieving universal adherence to this Treaty,

Determined to act in accordance with the following principles;


– The inherent right of all States to individual or collective self-defence as recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations;

– The settlement of international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered in accordance with Article 2 (3) of the Charter of the United Nations;

– Refraining in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations in accordance with Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations;

– Non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State in accordance with Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the United Nations;

– Respecting and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law in accordance with, inter alia, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and respecting and ensuring respect for human rights in accordance with, inter alia, the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

– The responsibility of all States, in accordance with their respective international obligations, to effectively regulate the international trade in conventional arms, and to prevent their diversion, as well as the primary responsibility of all States in establishing and implementing their respective national control systems;

– The respect for the legitimate interests of States to acquire conventional arms to exercise their right to self-defence and for peacekeeping operations; and to produce, export, import and transfer conventional arms;

– Implementing this Treaty in a consistent, objective and non-discriminatory manner,

Have agreed as follows:

Article 1

Object and Purpose

The object of this Treaty is to:

– Establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms;

– Prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion; for the purpose of:

– Contributing to international and regional peace, security and stability;

– Reducing human suffering;

– Promoting cooperation, transparency and responsible action by States Parties in the international trade in conventional arms, thereby building confidence among States Parties.

Article 2


1. This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories:

(a) Battle tanks;

(b) Armoured combat vehicles;

(c) Large-calibre artillery systems;

(d) Combat aircraft;

(e) Attack helicopters;

(f) Warships;

(g) Missiles and missile launchers; and

(h) Small arms and light weapons.

2. For the purposes of this Treaty, the activities of the international trade comprise export, import, transit, trans-shipment and brokering, hereafter referred to as “transfer”.

3. This Treaty shall not apply to the international movement of conventional arms by, or on behalf of, a State Party for its use provided that the conventional arms remain under that State Party’s ownership.

Article 3


Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition/munitions fired, launched or delivered by the conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), and shall apply the provisions of Article 6 and Article 7 prior to authorizing the export of such ammunition/munitions.

Article 4

Parts and Components

Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of parts and components where the export is in a form that provides the capability to assemble the conventional arms covered under Article 2

(1) and shall apply the provisions of Article 6 and Article 7 prior to authorizing the export of such parts and components.

Article 5

General Implementation

1. Each State Party shall implement this Treaty in a consistent, objective and non-discriminatory manner, bearing in mind the principles referred to in this Treaty.

2. Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system, including a national control list, in order to implement the provisions of this Treaty.

3. Each State Party is encouraged to apply the provisions of this Treaty to the broadest range of conventional arms. National definitions of any of the categories covered under Article 2 (1) (a)-(g) shall not cover less than the descriptions used in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms at the time of entry into force of this Treaty. For the category covered under Article 2 (1) (h), national definitions shall not cover less than the descriptions used in relevant United Nations instruments at the time of entry into force of this Treaty.

4. Each State Party, pursuant to its national laws, shall provide its national control list to the Secretariat, which shall make it available to other States Parties.  States Parties are encouraged to make their control lists publicly available.

5. Each State Party shall take measures necessary to implement the provisions of this Treaty and shall designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) and of items covered under Article 3 and Article 4.

6. Each State Party shall designate one or more national points of contact to exchange information on matters related to the implementation of this Treaty. Each State Party shall notify the Secretariat, established under Article 18, of its national point(s) of contact and keep the information updated.

Article 6


1. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, if the transfer would violate its obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes.

2. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, if the transfer would violate its relevant international obligations under international agreements to which it is a Party, in particular those relating to the transfer of, or illicit trafficking in, conventional arms.

3. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, if it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.

Article 7

Export and Export Assessment

1. If the export is not prohibited under Article 6, each exporting State Party, prior to authorization of the export of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, under its jurisdiction and pursuant to its national control system, shall, in an objective and non-discriminatory manner, taking into account relevant factors, including information provided by the importing State in accordance with Article 8 (1), assess the potential that the conventional arms or items:

(a) would contribute to or undermine peace and security;

(b) could be used to:

(i) commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law;

(ii) commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law;

(iii) commit or facilitate an act constituting an offence under international conventions or protocols relating to terrorism to which the exporting State is a Party; or

(iv) commit or facilitate an act constituting an offence under international conventions or protocols relating to transnational organized crime to which the exporting State is a Party.

2. The exporting State Party shall also consider whether there are measures that could be undertaken to mitigate risks identified in (a) or (b) in paragraph 1, such as confidence-building measures or jointly developed and agreed programmes by the exporting and importing States.

3. If, after conducting this assessment and considering available mitigating measures, the exporting State Party determines that there is an overriding risk of any of the negative consequences in paragraph 1, the exporting State Party shall not authorize the export.

4. The exporting State Party, in making this assessment, shall take into account the risk of the conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of the items covered under Article 3 or Article 4 being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.

5. Each exporting State Party shall take measures to ensure that all authorizations for the export of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4 are detailed and issued prior to the export.

6. Each exporting State Party shall make available appropriate information about the authorization in question, upon request, to the importing State Party and to the transit or trans-shipment States Parties, subject to its national laws, practices or policies.

7. If, after an authorization has been granted, an exporting State Party becomes aware of new relevant information, it is encouraged to reassess the authorization after consultations, if appropriate, with the importing State.

Article 8


1. Each importing State Party shall take measures to ensure that appropriate and relevant information is provided, upon request, pursuant to its national laws, to the exporting State Party, to assist the exporting State Party in conducting its national export assessment under Article 7. Such measures may include end use or end user documentation.

2. Each importing State Party shall take measures that will allow it to regulate, where necessary, imports under its jurisdiction of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1). Such measures may include import systems.

3. Each importing State Party may request information from the exporting State Party concerning any pending or actual export authorizations where the importing State Party is the country of final destination.

Article 9

Transit or trans-shipment

Each State Party shall take appropriate measures to regulate, where necessary and feasible, the transit or trans-shipment under its jurisdiction of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) through its territory in accordance with relevant international law.

Article 10


Each State Party shall take measures, pursuant to its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1). Such measures may include requiring brokers to register or obtain written authorization before engaging in brokering.

Article 11


1. Each State Party involved in the transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) shall take measures to prevent their diversion.

2. The exporting State Party shall seek to prevent the diversion of the transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) through its national control system, established in accordance with Article 5 (2), by assessing the risk of diversion of the export and considering the establishment of mitigation measures such as confidence-building measures or jointly developed and agreed programmes by the exporting and importing States. Other prevention measures may include, where appropriate: examining parties involved in the export, requiring additional documentation, certificates, assurances, not authorizing the export or other appropriate measures.

3. Importing, transit, trans-shipment and exporting States Parties shall cooperate and exchange information, pursuant to their national laws, where appropriate and feasible, in order to mitigate the risk of diversion of the transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).

4. If a State Party detects a diversion of transferred conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), the State Party shall take appropriate measures, pursuant to its national laws and in accordance with international law, to address such diversion. Such measures may include alerting potentially affected States Parties, examining diverted shipments of such conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), and taking follow-up measures through investigation and law enforcement.

5. In order to better comprehend and prevent the diversion of transferred conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), States Parties are encouraged to share relevant information with one another on effective measures to address diversion. Such information may include information on illicit activities including corruption, international trafficking routes, illicit brokers, sources of illicit supply, methods of concealment, common points of dispatch, or destinations used by organized groups engaged in diversion.

6. States Parties are encouraged to report to other States Parties, through the Secretariat, on measures taken in addressing the diversion of transferred conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).

Article 12

Record keeping

1. Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).

2. Each State Party is encouraged to maintain records of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) that are transferred to its territory as the final destination or that are authorized to transit or trans-ship territory under its jurisdiction.

3. Each State Party is encouraged to include in those records: the quantity, value, model/type, authorized international transfers of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), conventional arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), importing State(s), transit and trans-shipment State(s), and end users, as appropriate.

4. Records shall be kept for a minimum of ten years.

Article 13


1. Each State Party shall, within the first year after entry into force of this Treaty for that State Party, in accordance with Article 22, provide an initial report to the Secretariat of measures undertaken in order to implement this Treaty, including national laws, national control lists and other regulations and administrative measures. Each State Party shall report to the Secretariat on any new measures undertaken in order to implement this Treaty, when appropriate. Reports shall be made available, and distributed to States Parties by the Secretariat.

2. States Parties are encouraged to report to other States Parties, through the Secretariat, information on measures taken that have been proven effective in addressing the diversion of transferred conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).

3. Each State Party shall submit annually to the Secretariat by 31 May a report for the preceding calendar year concerning authorized or actual exports and imports of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1). Reports shall be made available, and distributed to States Parties by the Secretariat. The report submitted to the Secretariat may contain the same information submitted by the State Party to relevant United Nations frameworks, including the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. Reports may exclude commercially sensitive or national security information.

Article 14


Each State Party shall take appropriate measures to enforce national laws and regulations that implement the provisions of this Treaty.

Article 15

International Cooperation

1. States Parties shall cooperate with each other, consistent with their respective security interests and national laws, to effectively implement this Treaty.

2. States Parties are encouraged to facilitate international cooperation, including exchanging information on matters of mutual interest regarding the implementation and application of this Treaty pursuant to their respective security interests and national laws.

3. States Parties are encouraged to consult on matters of mutual interest and to share information, as appropriate, to support the implementation of this Treaty.

4. States Parties are encouraged to cooperate, pursuant to their national laws, in order to assist national implementation of the provisions of this Treaty, including through sharing information regarding illicit activities and actors and in order to prevent and eradicate diversion of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).

5. States Parties shall, where jointly agreed and consistent with their national laws, afford one another the widest measure of assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings in relation to violations of national measures established pursuant to this Treaty.

6. States Parties are encouraged to take national measures and to cooperate with each other to prevent the transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) becoming subject to corrupt practices.

7. States Parties are encouraged to exchange experience and information on lessons learned in relation to any aspect of this Treaty.

Article 16

International Assistance

1. In implementing this Treaty, each State Party may seek assistance including legal or legislative assistance, institutional capacity-building, and technical, material or financial assistance. Such assistance may include stockpile management, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, model legislation, and effective practices for implementation. Each State Party in a position to do so shall provide such assistance, upon request.

2. Each State Party may request, offer or receive assistance through, inter alia, the United Nations, international, regional, subregional or national organizations, non-governmental organizations, or on a bilateral basis.

3. A voluntary trust fund shall be established by States Parties to assist requesting States Parties requiring international assistance to implement this Treaty. Each State Party is encouraged to contribute resources to the fund.

Article 17

Conference of States Parties

1. A Conference of States Parties shall be convened by the provisional Secretariat, established under Article 18, no later than one year following the entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter at such other times as may be decided by the Conference of States Parties.

2. The Conference of States Parties shall adopt by consensus its rules of procedure at its first session.

3. The Conference of States Parties shall adopt financial rules for itself as well as governing the funding of any subsidiary bodies it may establish as well as financial provisions governing the functioning of the Secretariat. At each ordinary session, it shall adopt a budget for the financial period until the next ordinary session.

4. The Conference of States Parties shall:

(a) Review the implementation of this Treaty, including developments in the field of conventional arms;

(b) Consider and adopt recommendations regarding the implementation and operation of this Treaty, in particular the promotion of its universality;

(c) Consider amendments to this Treaty in accordance with Article 20;

(d) Consider issues arising from the interpretation of this Treaty;

(e) Consider and decide the tasks and budget of the Secretariat;

(f) Consider the establishment of any subsidiary bodies as may be necessary to improve the functioning of this Treaty; and

(g) Perform any other function consistent with this Treaty.

5. Extraordinary meetings of the Conference of States Parties shall be held at such other times as may be deemed necessary by the Conference of States Parties, or at the written request of any State Party provided that this request is supported by at least two-thirds of the States Parties.

Article 18


1. This Treaty hereby establishes a Secretariat to assist States Parties in the effective implementation of this Treaty. Pending the first meeting of the Conference of States Parties, a provisional Secretariat will be responsible for the administrative functions covered under this Treaty.

2. The Secretariat shall be adequately staffed. Staff shall have the necessary expertise to ensure that the Secretariat can effectively undertake the responsibilities described in paragraph 3.

3. The Secretariat shall be responsible to States Parties. Within a minimized structure, the Secretariat shall undertake the following responsibilities:

(a) Receive, make available and distribute the reports as mandated by this Treaty;

(b) Maintain and make available to States Parties the list of national points of contact;

(c) Facilitate the matching of offers of and requests for assistance for Treaty implementation and promote international cooperation as requested;

(d) Facilitate the work of the Conference of States Parties, including making arrangements and providing the necessary services for meetings under this Treaty; and

(e) Perform other duties as decided by the Conferences of States Parties.

Article 19

Dispute Settlement

1. States Parties shall consult and, by mutual consent, cooperate to pursue settlement of any dispute that may arise between them with regard to the interpretation or application of this Treaty including through negotiations, mediation, conciliation, judicial settlement or other peaceful means.

2. States Parties may pursue, by mutual consent, arbitration to settle any dispute between them, regarding issues concerning the interpretation or application of this Treaty.

Article 20


1. Six years after the entry into force of this Treaty, any State Party may propose an amendment to this Treaty. Thereafter, proposed amendments may only be considered by the Conference of States Parties every three years.

2. Any proposal to amend this Treaty shall be submitted in writing to the Secretariat, which shall circulate the proposal to all States Parties, not less than 180 days before the next meeting of the Conference of States Parties at which amendments may be considered pursuant to paragraph 1. The amendment shall be considered at the next Conference of States Parties at which amendments may be considered pursuant to paragraph 1 if, no later than 120 days after its circulation by the Secretariat, a majority of States Parties notify the Secretariat that they support consideration of the proposal.

3. The States Parties shall make every effort to achieve consensus on each amendment. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall, as a last resort, be adopted by a three-quarters majority vote of the States Parties present and voting at the meeting of the Conference of States Parties. For the purposes of this Article, States Parties present and voting means States Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote. The Depositary shall communicate any adopted amendment to all States Parties.

4. An amendment adopted in accordance with paragraph 3 shall enter into force for each State Party that has deposited its instrument of acceptance for that amendment, ninety days following the date of deposit with the Depositary of the instruments of acceptance by a majority of the number of States Parties at the time of the adoption of the amendment. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any remaining State Party ninety days following the date of deposit of its instrument of acceptance for that amendment.

Article 21

Signature, Ratification, Acceptance, Approval or Accession

1. This Treaty shall be open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York by all States from 3 June 2013 until its entry into force.

2. This Treaty is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by each signatory State.

3. Following its entry into force, this Treaty shall be open for accession by any State that has not signed the Treaty.

4. The instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession shall be deposited with the Depositary.

Article 22

Entry into Force

1. This Treaty shall enter into force ninety days following the date of the deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval with the Depositary.

2. For any State that deposits its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession subsequent to the entry into force of this Treaty, this Treaty shall enter into force for that State ninety days following the date of deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 23

Provisional Application

Any State may at the time of signature or the deposit of instrument of its of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, declare that it will apply provisionally Article 6 and Article 7 pending the entry into force of this Treaty for that State.

Article 24

Duration and Withdrawal

1. This Treaty shall be of unlimited duration.

2. Each State Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty. It shall give notification of such withdrawal to the Depositary, which shall notify all other States Parties. The notification of withdrawal may include an explanation of the reasons for its withdrawal. The notice of withdrawal shall take effect ninety days after the receipt of the notification of withdrawal by the Depositary, unless the notification of withdrawal specifies a later date.

3. A State shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Treaty while it was a Party to this Treaty, including any financial obligations that it may have accrued.

Article 25


1. At the time of signature, ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, each State may formulate reservations, unless the reservations are incompatible with the object and purpose of this Treaty.

2. A State Party may withdraw its reservation at any time by notification to this effect addressed to the Depositary.

Article 26

Relationship with other international agreements

1. The implementation of this Treaty shall not prejudice obligations undertaken by States Parties with regard to existing or future international agreements, to which they are parties, where those obligations are consistent with this Treaty.

2. This Treaty shall not be cited as grounds for voiding defence cooperation agreements concluded between States Parties to this Treaty.

Article 27


The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall be the Depositary of this Treaty.

Article 28

Authentic Texts

The original text of this Treaty, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

DONE AT NEW YORK, this twenty-eighth day of March, two thousand and thirteen.

Voyager One: Earth’s First Interstellar Spacecraft

•September 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Voyager One: Earth’s First Interstellar Spacecraft

At the time, they thought maybe the ship had “officially” left the solar system.  It would take a while to decide because it is one of those things where hindsight is 20×20.  You can’t know where you are until you know where you’ve been.  That doesn’t mean that it has left the sphere of the sun’s gravity influence.  The Oort Cloud, the distant region of left-over material from which comets derive, still orbits the sun and stretches a very great distance between the stars.  Voyager won’t even enter the Oort cloud for roughly another thirteen hundred years.  But for purposes of studying what interstellar is, Voyager has entered it and will study it for the remainder of its life.

I learned today that the probe is on its way to a rendezvous with a star with the geeky name of AC +79 3888 40,000 years from now.  Now I couldn’t find this star on my favorite cosmology lookup site, solstation.com, so I wikied it.  Wiki said that it has a better name, Gliese 445, also not listed on SolStation.  Reading in Wikipedia I learned that even though this red dwarf star is currently 17.6 light years away, it is moving very rapidly towards us, such that it will be only 3.45 light years away from our sun when Voyager zooms reaches it.  I don’t know if you think this is useful information, but I do because I’m a space geek.  Especially since Voyager is carrying a time capsule of our species and planet.

Now Voyager will be dead long before it gets there.  Will it gather interstellar ice and become a comet?  It’ll miss the star by about a light year and a half, but wouldn’t it be cool if it actually entered orbit with Gliese 445 as a comet?  Then the ice melts off and Voyager is reborn in orbit around a distant star.  If someone else did long ago and such a probe from a long-dead civilization orbited our star, would we know it was there?  Wouldn’t be cool if we found such a thing?  Maybe an advanced Interstellar species sends these things out for people like us to find once we’ve advanced to a certain level.  Maybe the probes carry the secrets to FTL flight or Interstellar communications or something.

I feel the scifi writer in me waking up…gotta go!


Voyager 1 Infographic from Space.com

Infamous Day #September11

•September 11, 2013 • 1 Comment
English: United Airlines Flight 175 crashes in...

English: United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City during the September 11 attacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I listened to the radio a lot in my long commute to work every morning.  Sometimes, I chose a music station, sometimes talk radio.  On September 11th, 2001 it didn’t matter.

I made it to work in Murray, Utah but sat in the car for a while, waiting for a break in the coverage so that I could have time to login to my computer and stream the news once I got to my desk.  AM/FM radios didn’t work well in our office space.  At the time I still hadn’t figured out what had happened, only that a tragic airliner accident had occurred in New York and that it was probably a terrorist attack.

I read later that Walmart did record sales on 9-11 on rabbit-ear antennae, because folks working in office buildings across the country wanted to access coverage on their training video setups in conference rooms.  We were one of those offices.  I arrived upstairs to find everyone gathered around the TV, like in that newsroom on the movie Independence Day.  It was then that I watched the second jetliner hit the second World Trade Center tower and knew of a surety that this was no accident…that people had done it on purpose to kill other people.

That’s when the shock and the horror turned into anger and tears.

Very little work got done at my workplace, mostly discussion and research into the available facts surrounding the event.  I don’t think I have any friends or relatives directly linked to the relatives of the victims, and my politics are far removed from those of the people of New York by and large.  But I love people and hate to see anyone hurt.  I love my country, for all of its flaws, and I grieved deeply for the loss of those brothers and sisters and their families who I would never meet.

I read about people hanging flags from overpasses, and saw one on my commute home.  I knew of an overpass where a remote country road crossed the freeway in Peterson, a town near the house in Morgan where I lived.  I took the cheap flag that we set out on holidays out of the closet and went there.  I stood over each oncoming lane of traffic in turn and waved it in the wind, high over my head, as the horns of the vehicles passing underneath me on I-84 sounded in reply, until I couldn’t lift the flag anymore.  I waved the flag for them, they honked for me, and together we mourned.

Middle-east terrorism became personal that day, for myself and most of the people of my country.  The nation was even one for a while, before everyone started pointing fingers.  Before January of the next year all of the old rivalries and disagreements had returned, but all of us still share the legacy of the event in our hearts.  A terrible tragedy, intended to destroy a culture, now binds us together on at least one issue.  Before 9-11 I watched a documentary advising people to acquiesce if they are ever taken hostage by terrorists.  After those towers, and the Pentagon, and that plane lying in a field, I think it firmed everyone’s resolve in such a way that nothing like that will ever be tolerated again by travelers in this country.  All civilized people still have an animal, with its instinct for self-preservation and species protection, sleeping inside them.  There exists a hidden courage in the hearts of all men and women that ignites whenever they can clearly see and end result that they know they won’t like.  Experts tell us now to introduce ourselves to those sitting next to us on flights, to put our fellow passenger at ease so that they have nothing to fear from us.  Now I always do that, and even though I usually travel alone, now I always travel with a new friend.

Frustrated at the antiseptic approach that the media took in its war coverage, I wrote Another Man’s Terrorist.  When I couldn’t get it published in Jim Baen‘s Universe, Roy Dudgeon invited me to include it in his upcoming anthology Satirica.  The story wasn’t a perfect fit for that book, and exceeded the size requirements, but Roy let me publish it there anyway.  I started this blog to promote Another Man’s Terrorist, so that my earliest posts talk of it, terrorism, child soldiers, etc.  The same publisher that took Satirica for Roy also took my book, Into the Dark: Escape of the Nomad

The land in which I live has been a land of peace for every day of my life except for September 11th, 2001.  Yet, that day changed me like non other.  Nothing will ever bring me back to the person I was before the towers fell.  It is my second birthday.  Into the Dark isn’t written on that theme of course, I moved on, as did this blog, but I can never forget that event.  It has indelibly stitched itself into my history, my published works, my very soul.

911 We Will Never Forget  the Victims, their F...

911 We Will Never Forget the Victims, their Families and Heroes of September 11th 2001 (Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna)

Comic Con Day 3

•September 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment


So that is what 80,000 people look like.
The largest first Comic Con on record.
Maybe the third largest ever.
Salt Lake City’s first Comic Con is walking off into memory.  I know I’ll never forget it.  This is what I thought Worldcon would be like the first time I went to one, in Reno.  After Reno I set my expectations down a bit on numbers of people, crazy costumes, and dramatic displays.
To my left in this photo is my daughter Alicia.  To my right is my kid sister Cristina.  I seem to have been the best Abraham Lincoln (I only saw one other, and he didn’t have the skilled makeup artist that I did).  Several folks told me that mine was the best costume, but I do not agree.  I looked good (the lighting in this shot doesn’t do me justice), but there were so many excellent versions of so many film and gaming characters that I doubt anyone could name a definitive ‘best’.
Alicia came the last day as Aurra Sing from Star Wars, and in doing so she may have scarred her new Dr. Who cosplay friends from the previous two days for life.  She said hello, they recognised her voice and looked up, their eyes went wide, and then they ran stumbling away.  It was phenomenal!  Her and her husband were photographed, both together and separately, hundreds of times.
I had already nearly lost my voice from the first day, so spending some time just walking around having my picture taken a couple dozen times was somewhat restful.  Each time I sent them off to our booth to talk to Tom about The Pinkertons and our kick starters.
Great fun was had by all and I’m glad I went.  I’m equally happy to be home from it.

Comic Con Day Two

•September 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment


That was a crazy day.
I tried, and failed, to repair my car yesterday morning.  So we ended up just leaving it and heading to the con.
Roger and I met lots of great folks and sold more books.
Alicia got a film makeup job that’s shooting in a couple of weeks.  Her resume is an ugly gash that she installed on my sister’s face.
We expect all 60,000 people who signed up to attend will be out walking around.  Yesterday, it was already difficult to get around.  My son in law had an even more difficult time in his superb Boba Fett costume because people kept stopping him for photos.  Little kids yelling, “Boba Fett!  Boba Fett!  It was like he was Santa Claus or something.

Today, she will transform me in Abe Lincoln.
Come and see.


Comic Con Day One

•September 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Booth setup issues. 
Trips to WALMART to resolve them.
My friend Michael Tanner calls Soft Open because it doesn’t start until around mid-afternoon
One thing that I liked was the The Hobbit display.



These were life-sized.  Azog really is rather large.
My daughter Alicia demonstrated her makeup skills, inflicting injuries on several passersby.  I told them they should go to the The Hobbit display and take some pictures that look like Azog the Defiler got them.  I just noticed that this photo is blurry though.  I’ll have to get one from new victim tomorrow.


I sold some books, as did Roger White who partnered with us on our booth, and Tom Carr sold a kickstarter donation for The Pinkertons. 


That was all with a light crowd…though one can’t really call a Comic Con crowd light, even on a Thursday.  I was told that 66,000 people purchased tickets for the event as of sometime Thursday morning.  Even any kind of weekday subset of that is still huge.
On the way to Alicia’s house to spend the night, my car died so I didn’t get to bed until around 1:30.
Tomorrow will be a longer day, with less asleep.  It’ll be fun!  That’s what conventions are all about right?

The Pinkertons at Comicon

•September 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment


See that fellow in the tall hat?  Look familiar?
My media industry friend, Tom Carr (the fellow in the bowler hat), with his interest in U.S. History, decided to produce a series of historical fiction short films about the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  When he asked around for someone to play President Abraham Lincoln, one of my favorite people in history, I jumped at the chance. 
I have a little acting experience, and Lincoln is an example of leadership that I have always tried to follow with interest.
Allen Pinkerton served as Lincoln’s body guard through the troubled and dangerous times of the U.S. Civil War and his agency became the mold from which the Secret Service was formed.
Excited?  Interested?
We are filming the first episode, A Secret Mission, this summer, entirely funded by Tom.  He has chosen several talented actors to partner with in this effort.  My highly skilled daughter, Alicia, does my makeup.
Would you like to be a part of it too?  Well, we have put together a way for you to do that through a type on kickstarter system.  You can help us put together episodes 1 and 2 and get some cool stuff back for your help.
I will be attending Comicon, at booth number 101, and ready to tell about it.  I might even have Alicia transform me into Lincoln.  If you don’t yet have a copy of Into the Dark I’ll have those there too.
If you don’t show up to see me, then show up to see Richard Hatch, dirk Benedict, William Shatner or one of the other attending stars that’ll be signing stuff.
Gazillions of people will be there!  It’ll be a zoo! 
I’ll look for you there.

Author Incognito

•September 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Yes…I’ve been hiding.  When strugglings writers stop self promotion, they effectively fade into the background noise like an alligator sinking into the swamp.
I even went to Worldcon without telling anyone.  I didn’t talk about it here, or on Facebook or Twitter.  I didn’t participate on any panels either.     I arrived two days late, conducted a little business, sat on the Enterprise bridge, attended the Hugo’s, and went home.
Well, I have a project that I’m working on that in combination with my other personal challenges on my time has kept all of my free time booked up.  Some of you already know a little about this project.  I wrote a little for it, but mostly it develops a different talent that I struggle with.
I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, and where/when you can see some of it.
If you already know, don’t spoil it.  If you don’t already know then trust me, you’ll never guess.

A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

•September 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment
United States Capitol Building

United States Capitol Building (Photo credit: Jack’s LOST FILM)

I realize that there is no easy road in Syria.  However, the United States Constitution makes the President the Commander in Chief of the military, not Congress…for good reason.  Because war by committee is a recipe for disaster.  If he thinks that talk is the solution, then he might as well just take the military option back off of the table.

Or just let the U.N. handle it.  Their good at talk.

By his own admission, the President has established that what is being considered is a limited military action, not a declaration of war.  That should not involve Congress.

He should decide what he is going to do and then do it and Congress should shut up.

All this talk, debate and disclosure does is reveal intelligence ways and means and limit the effectiveness of whatever action he does do, military or otherwise.

Hurricane Bill Housley

•August 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Sign me up!  Please!


Global Warming activists want to name hurricanes after global warming deniers.

I herby throw my name (and this blog address with it) into the hat for consideration to name a hurricane.

As part of my submission, I provide this link to my blog article poking fun at both extreme ends of the global warming issue as evidence of my rebellion.

Now granted, the issue has evolved somewhat since my whining three years ago, and many of the more closed-minded proponents and detractors seem to have found more common ground and left the lunatic fringe.

However, I’m hope that there are still enough kooks out there that I can annoy enough to get a majority vote for a storm name.  My name starts with a “B” so I’d even get an early season storm!  I even already have a Twitter feed @bhousley that I’ll use for talking like a storm.

@bhousley: I don’t know why you folks down there are complaining, the #weather up here is beautiful!

@bhousley: I’m gonna getcha!  I’m gonna getcha!

@bhousley: AGGGHHH!!!!  There’s a #hurricane hunter aircraft in my eye!

No I’m not making light of the damage done by these terrible and dangerous storms.  I dislike hurricanes, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows.  I am making fun of closed-minded people, of which I also can sometimes be.  So I’m ridiculing myself as much as anyone…

…and looking for some free publicity.  ;-)

Revamped American Flag Shows Up in D.C.

•August 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I wrote about this flag modification back in 2009, and spoke strong words against it at the time.  I doubted that this could really happen though.  I also implied that it was so ridiculous that it could just as easily be some sarcastic Conservative making fun of the President or trying to frighten folks.

I was mistaken.  This flag is real.  Folks sell copies of it and other folks who are enthusiastic about President Obama are flying and waving it.  I consider doing so to be tanamount to treason.

Now it would be a huge mistake to assign blame to Democrats or Liberals in general, or to President Obama, for this desicration.  I do not beleive that any person, the President included, who understands what this country stands for would condone the placement of any individual’s image on the flag in this way.


We should all support the President, whether we criticize his policies or not.  We are one nation under God and should act that way.  I don’t think that this flag supports the President…I think it denigrades him and the office of the Presidency.  He is not a dictator, but this flag makes him look like one and sends the wrong message to the world.  Flying this flag does President Obama no favors and does nothing to support his policies.  It gives up important political high-ground to his critics which makes it harder for him to do his job.  Like him or not, a dishonored President does harm to our country and this flag dishonors him.  Displaying this flag uses the President’s face in an illegal, unpatriotic and very scary way that groups him with murderers and tyrants like Fidel Castro and Mao Zedong which I (one of his critics) think is disgusting.

All responsible citizens of the U.S., regardless of their political alignment, should deplore this misuse of the flag and the Presidential office in the strongest terms.

I call on people all over the U.S. to rise up and condemn this.  I call on the President to publicly repudiate it.


•August 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Missing–August 2nd.

•August 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment


This 16 year old teen went missing from American Fork, Utah, since the morning of August 2nd (if I have understood the timing of the original post correctly).
My guess, considering the source and the circumstances, is that she is not a runaway.  Maybe she is still somewhere local, maybe she is traveling.  Either way I feel very strongly about child exploitation and would consider it a personal favor if everyone within reach of this blog kept a eye out for her within the possible radius from the time she went missing.

Update: Kelsey was found 30 hours after she went missing. I don’t know any details.

Any released information can be found here:


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