Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Budget, New Direction, New Day

Here are the notes I took from Charlie Bolden's conference call announcing the new NASA budget:

Full budget:


*Constellation gets the axe, including Ares 1, Ares 5, and Orion.
*Shuttle retired by the end of the year or first quarter of 2011.
*Commercial launch will be used to resupply and re-crew ISS. Focus on creating a commercial crew transport industry to and through LEO. New awards to be announced tomorrow. Existing and new launch vehicles will be used.
*ISS research capability will be fully utilized. ISS extended to 2020 and utilized as a commercial market for research and development.
*Move from focusing on destinations to a focus on building new capabilities via flagship missions and technologies.

Over the next 5 years
*7.8 billion towards large scale, new approaches to space flight including on-orbit refueling.
*3.1 billion for new heavy lift and propulsion research to go beyond LEO. This will be under the exploration directorate and will focus on next generation technologies, not apollo era launch technologies. This begins in 2011 as opposed to Constellation's investment in heavy lift beginning in 2016.
*4.9 billion for broad technology investment programs for game changing technologies using prizes and innovative funding mechanisms.
*3 billion for robotic precursor missions.
*2 billion dollars for new earth science missions.
*70 million for new aeronautics programs.

You can listen to a recording of the above conference (you really should). Call:
866-431-2903 or 203-369-0952


You can find out more about some of the new "game changing technologies" funding from the notes on the Commercial Spaceflight Federation's conference call over at this post on hobbyspace.

To be frank:

I welcome the new budget. NASA was badly in need of reform, constellation was behind, we wasted 9 billion on Ares 1 when we already have a Delta 4 capable of putting up slightly less, and an Atlas 5 capable of putting up slightly more than the same vehicle. Now we're finding out that we may be able to man rate these vehicles for as little as 6.7 million (not billion, million) as opposed to the estimated 15 BILLION required to get Constellation back on track. We will finally have commercial crew transfer to LEO, and I view that as being more valuable than more massively over budget NASA pork that was eventually going to get the axe anyways and leave us right back where we started. We had the opportunity to go for maximum return on investment, and the administration went for it.

As for losing the HLV, so what? It was unlikely to ever be commercially available anyways. In fact, it was unlikely to ever be built at all. Not only did NASA specify different sized solid rocket boosters, but they specified a different diameter tank that throws shuttle hardware heritage right out the window. All of that tooling we had for the space shuttle external tank that was supposed to keep costs down became worthless in a single blow. It was a program begging to be canceled and was unlikely to survive this president or the next. That part makes me sad, but I had already given it up for dead. I think of it as a concept drawing designed to carry maximum cargo directly into the garbage.

Now we have these commercial companies with vehicles more likely to put "people" into space than NASA rockets. By people I mean you, me, businessmen, academics, even my daughter. My daughter now has the chance to get "out there" that she would never receive under yet another NASA program designed to put a select cadre of astronauts into space. She actually has something to dream for that is far more inspiring than anything NASA has offered me in all of my time on this earth. There is finally the opportunity for growing commercial activity in LEO and (with the infrastructure proposed in this budget) beyond.

I've heard plenty of arguments over the past couple of days regarding NASA. The opposing arguments can be summed up in the following categories:

My retort: The problem with NASA is that it is TREATED AS A JOBS PROGRAM. You don't get a good program by creating make-work. You get it by producing maximum capability for minimum cost. It's called efficiency. If you're putting jobs above progress as a space fairing civilization, then you're hanging out in the wrong crowd. The two are not mutually inclusive. If you want to create jobs then I suggest finding another economic sector where you can pay people to stand around in a circle and yank their poles. There are plenty of others that are far less likely to be cut than our floundering space agency.

*The end of human spaceflight at NASA.
I only need to point out that this is an outright lie.

*The end of US leadership in space.
Being a geopolitical playboy is not making progress towards becoming a space fairing civilization or towards the development of the moon. This is called Flags and Footprints. You plant your flags, you leave your footprints, then your program gets canceled because it was never designed to have any real world applications outside of an international pissing contest. The Russians required that their vehicles have a useful purpose beyond prestige that would justify the cost. Those vehicles are still flying FORTY FOUR years later. If your definition of "leadership" amounts to pizazz and flare, then we'll be losing it. If your definition of leadership means sustainability, justifiable budgets, maximum capability for minimum cost, and actual usefulness then we lost our leadership forty four years ago and are finally moving towards taking it back.

*General outrage and crushed dreams.
My retort: If you can't articulate a proper argument, you end up looking foolish. I saw one guy talk about moving to China, and the next day he was contemplating suicide. For god's sake people, get a grip. If you hedge your dreams on anything funded by congress you are asking to get the rug pulled out from under you.

Take a moment to look at the Purpose section on

"The objectives of this Society shall be, but are not limited to:

* The creation of a space-faring civilization which will establish communities on the Moon; promotion of large-scale industrialization and private enterprise on the Moon;"

Very first bullet. It was not, nor was it ever, the job of NASA to advance us towards a space fairing civilization, establish communities on the moon, industrialization on the moon, or private enterprise on the moon. NASA is a geopolitical tool. Remember that. Only now is that tool being used in a way that might actually open up space development and make such a civilization possible. We're looking at a return to the days of NACA, and this has been long, long overdue.

Apparently the blogosphere is alive with this topic. I should check it more often.
Rand Simberg has some good commentary with a variety of links to other analysis.
Al Globus comments on Obama's space policy with far more tact than I can muster.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Looking for Moon images

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If you happen to have a telescope and are fond of photographing the moon, I need your help! is undergoing a redesign and I need a truly stunning picture of the moon (full or near full) to be the center piece of the site.

We currently have a Public Domain NASA image being used on our site/as part of our logo, but it is nowhere near the resolution and contrast possible with modern amateur astronomy equipment. Please contact me if you have suitable images and would be willing to let us use one of them.

Pass it on


A bit about us:

The Moon Society is a non-profit 501(c)3 educational and scientific organization formed to further the creation of communities on the Moon involving large-scale industrialization and private enterprise. We consist of about 150 engineers, scientists and advocates from a variety of professions. Our chapters work to raise awareness about space issues and developments as well as sponsor activities for young people (such as rocket derbies and space-agriculture experiments) which increase interest in space, science, and engineering.

We're operating on volunteer labor and shoestring budgets. I can't pay you, and you would need to grant rights to The Moon Society to use the photo freely on the website and possibly as part of our logo if its accepted. All I have to offer in return is our eternal thanks and a special thanks/attribution within the new website. Use as a general society logo is not guaranteed but may take place in the future.

Update: 02/08/09

A suitable image has been located and a final version of the website concept has been decided on. Use will go ahead pending prototyping and final approval. Thanks go to many including Tony Rogers, Bryce Johnson, Michail Laine, Alex Bonnici, and Leonard Mercer. If I didn't list you (and I know there are several of you) please accept my thanks. I've only been awake for about ten minutes after a hard night of coding, and my caffeine injectors are still warming up. :D

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wow... Just Wow...

Obama freezes salaries of some White House aides

"President Barack Obama's first public act in office Wednesday was to institute new limits on lobbyists in his White House and to freeze the salaries of high-paid aides, in a nod to the country's economic turmoil."

"In an attempt to deliver on pledges of a transparent government, Obama said he would change the way the federal government interprets the Freedom of Information Act. He said he was directing agencies that vet requests for information to err on the side of making information public — not to look for reasons to legally withhold it — an alteration to the traditional standard of evaluation."

"He said the orders he was issuing Wednesday will not "make government as honest and transparent as it needs to be" nor go as far as he would like.

"But these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country," Obama said. "And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people, in the days and weeks, months and years to come.""


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tweaks and changes

I've started playing around with the Blog Template, so you may notice some changes. Wanted to make it a bit more user friendly. I also shut off the autoplay on that damned google video. The thing was driving me bonkers.

Oh, did you listen to the inauguration speech? "We will restore science to it's rightful place..." YES!!!! Bout damned time too.

Here's a vid:

That's one change that I really can believe in. Haha

Nanotubes to the Future?

How many companies have attempted to break through into the nanotube market, I wonder.

One problem is ramping up the nanotube production while bringing down the impurities and reducing defects. Another problem that needs to be addressed is creating defectless nanotubes of sufficient length that they can be woven together. Thus far, none of the centennial challenges teams have been able to overcome those two core issues. If they can pull that off, the near term applications are far more exciting to me personally than the idea of a space elevator.

The military and commercial applications of super strong fibers are extensive (to put it mildly). This new weaving method Cambridge has come up with looks promising. I could obviously poke a number of holes into this reporter's assumptions about space, but those aren't my focus. Toss everything he says about space in the garbage, because most of it is inaccurate, and skip to the second page about the nanotubes. That's where the good stuff happens.

Could this be the breakthrough that we've been waiting for?

Update: Brian Wang over at the Lifeboat Foundation is also covering this in his blog.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NASA is merging with the Air Force

I keep getting asked about the NASA merger with the Air Force. It just doesn't stop. I'm tired of explaining it, and it's pissing me off having to repeat myself when I keep getting asked the same questions by the same people saying:

"Oh, but the news says..."

"But it's practically a done deal once Obama gets in office..."

Etc Etc. Don't believe everything you see on TV, ESPECIALLY if it's the "news." With this in mind, I now have a blanket response. Hide your children in 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1..

Lets clarify a couple of things (again, this time in technicolor):

Air Force Space Command HAS NO ROCKETS in that class. EELVs are NOT military rockets. Not, Not, Not, Not, Never have been, Never will be, military rockets. Development was subsidized with air force money, but they are ****COMMERCIAL**** vehicles. Anybody can buy them. I could walk in to ULA and buy one myself if I had the money, and shoot my sperm into space, fling my feces at Mars, or do whatever the hell I wanted with it. Nasa already buys these vehicles. There IS NO AIR FORCE FLEET OF ROCKETS. They buy them, use them, they’re gone. It’s like KY jelly. You don’t keep a fleet of KY laying around. You only buy it when you need it and you sure as hell don’t make it yourself (I hope).

There is no merger. Never has been, never will be. Just because you buy the same car as your friend does not mean you’re getting married in Massachusetts and making out under the five color rainbow. Just because you buy your beer at the same store as the Air Force guy down the road doesn’t mean your joining the Air Force and beating each other with soap-in-a-sock. This idea is NONSENSE that was thought up by some complete retard at Bloomberg news who had no idea what he was talking about. Being an extremely juicy pile of complete bullshit, it was quickly picked up by Fox News and a variety of overseas outlets known for publishing absolutely juicy complete bullshit, like The Register and Sky News.

Holy Shit...

That's exactly what I said. Oh, and there was an "Oh my fucking God!" in there somewhere as well. Is it blasphemy for a Pastafarian to take *another* deity's name in vain?