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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Wouldn't you like to be at this meeting?

Man I would like to be a fly on the wall (or a note taker) for this meeting on April 20th.
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Thanks to Clark Lindsey and Michael Huang for this photo.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Heavy Lift vs Multiple Lift : Why I write this blog

Okay, I have been behind lately and there a lot of ideas I have on the back burner but this the Heavy Lift vs Multiple Lift debate is poking its head a lot lately. This is exactly the kind of thing I started this blog for.

Rather than filling this post with a lot of quotes (which are really not the point) from the debate, I am going to speak my mind and provide links at the bottom.

For those in my target audience who have, thankfully, been spared the details of this almost religious debate, here is the gist of it. A heavy lift rocket (or vehicle) is a big rocket, such as the Saturn V, which can carry around 118 metric tons to LEO (about 260,000 lbs). A medium lift rocket is along the lines of the Boeing Delta IV medium lift rockets, which can carry about 12 metric tons or 26,000 lbs to LEO.

I am sure your first reaction is well the big one got us to the Moon last time. That is true. In order to for medium lift rockets to carry us to the moon, there will have to be multiple launches of pieces which link up in orbit and then go on to the Moon or Mars or wherever.

Those of you with well thought out and long held opinions, please forgive me for this oversimplification. I don't have the time or the stomach for all the statistics and IMHO minor points.

The argument can be broken down to this. Heavy lift gets you few launches, and therefore fewer chances for failure. Also, as I am sure propionate would be sure to point out, no (or at least fewer) difficult "hook ups" in orbit. Launch and go straight to the Moon.

Multiple launchers will give the same fact, but the interpretation is different. More launches gives you more redundancy, so while there is more chance for a single failure, there is less chance of a mission failure. The launches are cheaper and frankly when we get to "beyond" no heavy lift vehicle is going to big enough for a direct trip. "Hook ups" are going to have to happen eventually. Plus we already have medium lift vehicles. No development cost for the rockets.

I have read both arguments and you know what. Your both right. It's called a trade-off. Pick one. You know what the fastest way to the Moon is? By building and launches some rockets. There is a term in Software Engineering (stolen from the Navy I think) "paralysis by Analysis." If you continually analyze the options, hopping one will prove a the perfect choice, you will be studying it for years. Follow the Agile Methods for software Engineering. Just build something. If it works, great, if not, build something else.

Work is always more productive than debate, in the long run.

If we build a heavy lift vehicle, I believe we will get to the Moon. If we don't , I believe we will get to the Moon. If we don't choose and get behind our choice, we will go nowhere.

Links for information: (These are all people I respect)

Rand Simberg's Views
Clark Lindsey's Views
Bob Zubrin's Views
Mike Griffins Views
Jon Berndt's Views (of the AIAA)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Griffin is Official

Mike Griffin is official.

Michael Griffin, a physicist who has worked in space programs both private and public, was confirmed Wednesday by the Senate as the 11th administrator of NASA. - AP
Now let's see what we can do...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

NASA acting like a consumer?

Who would have thunk it? But NASA has award XCOR a (be still my beating heart) a fixed price contract. According to Alan Bolye at MSNBC Cosmic Log Space marketplace expands

XCOR, which is based just down the street from SpaceShipOne's hangar in Mojave, Calif., will receive $1 million for NASA during the first year of the fixed-price contract, with the aim of developing a demonstration tank. [emphasis mine]
This could be the start of something great. NASA buying stuff just like we do. Instead of providing oversite and design help and cost+(plus plus) contracts to aerospace companies, they just tell everyone what they want and buy it from somebody. Heck they could even use E-bay.

Now I know, a fixed price contract is far from buying off the shelf, but it is a start. It is a start that makes me happy. It is akin to DOD's Open Architecture initiative a decade ago. I know, I was trained on it. You buy COTS products whenever it fits the need. Of course, I don't know how much the military used it past batteries for Bradley tanks, but it is a good idea.

Space Policy -- Think out of the Box People

Dan Vergano's article in USA Today is the kind of thinking that dries me nuts. This is the kind of thinking that makes Joe Public think that he has to choose.

Note to Joe Public: You don't. You can have it all, just expect more from your Space Program.

This article proposes that there are three mutually exclusive visions of NASA in the coming years.

[Dan] presents three other sharply divergent themes for the agency advocated by different players in the space arena: [emphasis mine]
Okay, I will grant the third idea that "the era of the astronaut is over" is a little hard to mesh with an overriding goal of colonizing the solar system, but the first two fit together fine with W's Vision.

Some space policy analysts want NASA and other space agencies to be more active in defending the planet from threats both external and internal. That means doing such things as deflecting an approaching asteroid or monitoring climate change and resource losses.

Me too. Sounds good, lets put a few hundred million dollars into tracking these things (as Mike Griffin said last year). That leaves us with 16.2 billion or so to explore. Doesn't seem "sharply divergent" to me.

Buoyed by the success of Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne rocket-plane, which won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize last year, some space entrepreneurs would like NASA to encourage the commercialization of space activities.
NASA hopes to boost its $250,000 "Centennial Challenges" prizes, for achievements such as creating improved space tethers, to ones worth up to $40 million for private efforts to land a robot on the moon, operate a solar sail or pull off a manned orbital flight.
If I remember correctly, the "Centennial challenges" prizes were part of the Aldridge commission's report to the President. Heck, lets say $100 million for prizes. That leaves us with 16.1 billion for exploration. I still don't see the "sharply divergent" ideas.

Speaking of commercialization, why is it that people (especially reporters) seem to think the only way to get commercial space is if NASA encourages or even subsidizes it. Burt Rutan did it in spite of NASA. Don't wait for permission, if you think you have an idea to make money in space, go do it (and send me a note...) Launch services are not the only commercial venture that supports space exploration. Are car manufacturers the only companies that make money off of cars? Think out of the box.

Great Minds Think Alike

Check out Michael Huang's article on The top three reasons for humans in space in Monday's The Space Review

The old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, advises that valuable things should be kept in separate places, in case something bad happens at one of the places....

The same principle applies to the big picture. The most valuable part of the universe is life: not only because life is important, but because life appears to be extremely rare. Life and humankind are presently confined to the Earth (although we have built habitats in Earth orbit and ventured as far as the moon). If we were throughout the solar system, at multiple locations, a disaster at one location would not end everything.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Not that I didn't try....

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why we need to get off this rock

You know, you hear a lot about why we need to go to space. President Bush mentions the human need for exploration in his Vision for Exploration speech, in January 2004. Others talk about utilizing the resources of other bodies such as Sam Dinkin's article about beaming power from the Moon in this weeks Space Review. Of course there is just the shear coolness of it that all space "geeks" understand.

These are all good reasons to explore space, but there is a much more important and pressing need to get people off this sphere of rock we call Earth. Odds.

In an article by Guy Gugliotta in today's Washington Post, asteroid "2004 MN4" is discussed at some length. You may remember ol' 2004 MN4 as the big scare last December with a 1 in 38 chance of crashing into our beloved homeworld in 2029. Then, after some more extensive tracking it was found that it would miss us. By a whopping 15,000 to 25,000 miles. Wait, that seems like a lot but is it really? That is 1/10th the distance to the moon.

"You don't know what the gravitational effect of the Earth will be," said Brian G. Marsden, who oversees the hunt for near-Earth objects as director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
"In 2029, the [close encounter with] Earth will increase the size of the orbit, and the object could get into a resonance with the Earth," he added. "You could get orbit matchups every five years or nine years, or something in between." In fact, 2004 MN4 could come close again in 2034, 2035, 2036, 2037, 2038 or later.
I don't know about you, but this makes me a little uneasy.

An it isn't just this asteroid, although it certainly puts a face and a name to our rocky enemy. Any one of many disasters could send us back to the stone age, if not to oblivion. A super nova just a bit too close, comets, even environmental problems of our own making (or not) could cause our Eden to become a living hell.

The solution? Spread out. Chickens, baskets, everyone get my drift? I highly recommend reading the Kardashvev Scale. (the original paper is translated into English here) Dr. Kardashvev was a Russian science who in 1964 proposed a scale of civilization based on power usage. It has implications on survival as well. See the exert from Wikipedia below:

A common speculation suggests that the transition from Type 0 to Type I might carry a strong risk of self-destruction since there would no longer be room for further expansion on the civilization's home planet.
So, what is the best reason to get off this rock? To keep humanity going.

Friday, April 08, 2005

NASA Prime Time

During the 21st National Space Symposium, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson asked Deputy Rear Admiral Craig Steidle, USN, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems why NASA wasn't in prime time. A video, designed to sum up the Vision for Exploration in 30 seconds, was shown during the panel on said Vision. It was a good video. So again we ask, why isn't it being shown during American Idol?

It is a bigger question than it seems on the surface. Why is NASA content to let others define what they are doing. As my wife has said more than once, they should hire the ad firm that got Pepsi going a number of years ago. You must appeal to John Q. Public if you want to survive. So get those stodgy science hats off and lets get funky on radio, TV, and the internet. Why not put some of those videos on on television.

For the love of God, do something.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Military in Space

This who "Peace in Space" crap just irritates me beyond belief. UPI has a story today about the military wanting to (gasp!) use space. Uhhh da' horror. I love this quote by Ms. Hitchens:

"They will go there if we go there," says Theresa Hitchens of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "If somebody else did go first, we could go second very quickly and probably better."

Hello? Wish we had thought of that in the 60s! Could have saved a lot of time getting to the Moon. Just let somebody else do it first and then go up after them. Brilliant!

Why do some people feel the need to make space a special, peaceful place? Space is (and should be) no different from any frontier. It is beautiful and open and dangerous. Not just from space junk flying around, but from space nuts with bombs. We need to protect our interests in space, both present and future.

So bring along your covered wagons and join me on our journey. Don't forget your gun...

Hello Word

I love space. I am not, however, a great practitioner of prose (as is evidenced by me need to spell check each of these posts in Open Office before releasing them on the world). My goal is to make space fanatics world-wide realize that bringing along the public is the only way we are ever going to get to space. Talking amongst ourselves about how great it is going to be is not going to get the job done. Ole' W only has 4 more years. Come together... Space Power!