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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.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Outer Space Treaty implodes on Itself

Okay, let me say up front, I am not a lawyer. But I find this interesting. As far as I can ascertain, two articles in the Outerspace treaty render it rather silly.

Article II
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

So, If I move to the moon, I am not, at that point, a citizen of the US/Russia/China/UN whatever. Or at least I am living in not place that any Earth based government has any legal right to regulate. This includes any country that signed said treaty.

Article VI

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.
Now, from article II we know that no government has any jurisdictional power over any "celestial body" and therefore none over any person on that celestial body. So no government has the ability to assure any actions of a person on said body.

Basically what I am saying is that any group of people who go to the Moon, for instance, are immediately exempt from this treaty because no government on Earth has the legal right to enforce the treaty on the Moon.

So a group of citizens can go to the Moon, and assemble all the WMDs they want, and there isn't a damn thing the US, UN, or any other country who cares can do about it (except withdraw from the treaty and attack the moon).

So, am I full of it? Or have I found a loophole?

Update 9:38pm: I forgot to mention I got the text of the treaty from

Will Make Oxygen from Regolith for Food

NASA released it's next centennial challenge today. $250,000 to the group/company/guy in his garage who can "pull at least 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of breathable oxygen from a volcanic ash-derived lunar soil substitute called JSC-1 ... in 8 hours" -- -Tariq Malik

Now this is more interesting to me than the last two (for demonstrating power beaming and the strongest tether). This is directly applicable to living on the moon. If we are staying on the moon, we are going to have to get Oxygen locally.

Not to upset the Space Elevator people. Frankly, I hope that in a few years there will be many ways to get out of LEO. Tethers? Great. Rockets? Great. Whatever works and is affordable. But my goal is not to get out of LEO, but to get to a moon colony. However we get there, this prize helps us stay there.

Good going NASA. This was a good idea.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Planet Space orbital in 2008?

God I hope so. But I am not holding my breath. Also, I not sure what is meant by orbital in this context (1 loop perhaps?). Planet Space Chairman Chiranjeev Kathuria told (India) Times News Network:

And a year after commencing the commercial flights, Planetspace promises to take people for a 45-minute orbital flight that would mean tourists would complete a full point-to-point circle of the globe, and get a bird's eye view of the Blue Planet at the same fare of Rs 1.12 crore. (djs - ~$250,000). -- Plan your visit to space
Is this a intermediate orbital flight? I don't know if that is fast enough to get to the ISS, but it sounds good to me. I can't find any reference to it anywhere else, so if anybody else does, sent me a line.

Monday, May 16, 2005

SpaceDev made money

Oh my gosh! A type company made money. According to SpaceDev's 10QSB report (quarterly income) They made a whopping $101,223 in profit on sales of ~$1.8 million. Now I admit that is like $.00000004 EPS, but they lost $3 million last year. It's still good news.

Here is the comparison to last year, same quarter (emphasis mine):

FOR THE THREE-MONTHS ENDING. . . . . .  MARCH 31, 2005    March 31, 2004

(UNAUDITED) (Unaudited)

-------------------------------------- ---------------- ----------------

NET INCOME (LOSS). . . . . . . . . . . $ 101,223 $ (442,549)
-------------------------------------- ---------------- ----------------

Interest Income. . . . . . . . . . . . (7,960) -

Interest Expense . . . . . . . . . . . 1,222 19,788

Non-Cash Interest exp. (Debt Discount) - -

Gain on Building Sale. . . . . . . . . (29,318) (29,318)

Loan Fee - Equity Conversion. . . . . - 464,000

Provision for income taxes . . . . . . 400 -

Depreciation and Amortization. . . . . 29,061 15,954

-------------------------------------- ---------------- ----------------

EBITDA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 94,628 $ 27,875

-------------------------------------- ---------------- ----------------

James Cameron has the right idea

NASA should enlist the media and Hollywood to make the space program more visually dramatic, Cameron told me in the hall. The Mars rovers ought to be on TV. We've seen what the rovers see, but not the rovers themselves. Imagine "Titanic" through Leonardo DiCaprio's eyes without seeing DiCaprio.

I said it sounds as though he wants the space program to be more like a movie.

"Okay. Yes! And they should embrace that." - Washington Post "To Infinity and Beyond"

Yeah, that's what I been saying!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Oh My Goodness, NASA is going to Nuke Space!

This just irritates me so bad, my brain hurts.
From's Astronotes dated May 11, 2005:

A Member of Congress is expressing grave concerns over NASA's Project Prometheus nuclear rocket program.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, representing the 4th District of Georgia, is spearheading an effort to find like-minded lawmakers to question the building and deployment of a nuclear propulsion rocket and to protect the public from the potential of a catastrophic nuclear accident posed by the Prometheus Project.

And here is the (really) irritating part:
In a Dear Colleague letter dated May 5 to other members of Congress, Representative McKinney is seeking the support of Members of Congress for shifting Federal funding from the development of nuclear propulsion systems to research and development for solar and other alternative energy systems that can support our space program.

What? Solar power? What does she think NASA uses, unleaded? I think somebody needs to point out to Congresswoman McKinney the farther away from the Sun you get, the less solar energy you have. Solar power requires a star fairly close by. In this case, nuclear is an alternative energy source.

This is not a validation of the Prometheus project, which has many problems, but rather support of new propulsion technologies. Just because somebody says the word "nuclear", we can't jerk back and make the sign of the cross. Nuclear energy is not inherently bad. Who knows what energy source we are going to settle on when we (finally) get to space. We shouldn't limit the options now.


We are at the dawn of a new colonial age. The growing space competition between nations is in many ways very reminiscent of the 19th century competition between the European powers to colonize Africa and the South Pacific. In the 1800s, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom aggressively competed to carve up the undeveloped world. The result was foreign-run colonies controlling most of the Third World, for both good and ill, for almost a century. -- Robert Zimmerman at UPI's Space Watch (Thanks to
God I hope so. My wife did make the observation when the VSE started that it has less to do with a directionless NASA and more to do with China launching men into space. All I can say is, if it gets us off our butts, go China.

It makes me wonder, though. The US is talking about "[extending] a human presence across our solar system" and Japan is talking about "a base on the moon." And China's three phased moon plan ends in a sample return mission.

Nobody has been willing to say the "C" word. Well I will. We need to colonize the solar system where ever possible. It is an important word. As Bill White said in a comment on

Personally, I believe the s-word (settlement) or the less PC c-word (colony) would fire up public support for space exploration. I also believe anything LESS than settlement/colony will continue to leave the public yawning with the space-nuts facing annual cliff-hanger battles to pass skimpy NASA budgets.

If only President Bush had said "settlement" (as Griffin has in the past) rather than "presence" (which is ambiguous).

On that same thread, Greg Kuperberg, said

When you folks here suggest things like engineering and colonization as alternatives to science, you're onto something. If Bush or Griffin removed the Potemkin science from the VSE and made the missions -- not just the "goals" -- something else like colonization, then at least it wouldn't be a problem for scientists.

Columbus's second voyage was specifically for the "subjugation of the Taíno and the colonization of the region." Spain, and perhaps Europe as a whole, recognized the need for colonization, whatever their motives. The first colony in the "New World" was in Hispaniola, an island east of Cuba, founded in 1493. Spain began settling the New World one year after they first sailed there.

I understand it is not a perfect comparison. The America's did not have to be adapted to support human life. There were natives already there. He was not even the first European to get to the Americas. But, it was the first time most of Europe was aware of the existence of the continents in the western hemisphere.

Now I am not saying that we should have had a colony on the Moon in 1970, even though that would have been great. I am saying it has been 36 years since man stepped on the Moon, and we don't even have the begginings of a base.

Colonization is not a bad word. We are not supplementing Native Americans or island tribes. No one is out there. We need to be. I may be biased, but I would like the future civilizations of the solar system would be based on the values of freedom and enterprise.

Say the word. Be proud of it. Colonization!

Monday, May 09, 2005

If NASA Won't do it.... (PR Again)

Believe it not, I haven't heard back from Mr. Griffin. So I was thinking, maybe it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. I am seriously thinking about starting up a Non-profit group to promote space in the mainstream media. If people have heat-burn with NASA spending our money, let me do it.

All of the things that are available now are "pull" advertising. New articles and editorials on,, or wait on the extremely interested party to come out and find them. I am looking to turn on the sort-of interested individual.

Heck I have always been interested, but other than the main couple, I didn't know this loosely nit group of space advocate news and commentary existed until SpaceShipOne happened.

At any rate I am looking for ideas, help, whatever. If you know of a group that already does this, let me know (I must be missing their time slots). If nothing else we could come up with a comprehensive list of ideas to propose to NASA (or the Mars Society, Planetary society, NSS).

Saturday, May 07, 2005

NASA Public Affairs Office

If you read Space Pragmatism a lot, you know I am very interested in Public Relations for Space. It occurred to me that before I should judge NASA's PR department, I should do some more research. Here is what I found out.

The Public Affairs department, under HQ, links to the NASA News site. It is headed by the acting director Dean Acosta (Acting). No bio was listed. It has news releases, launch schedules, speeches, and some lovely downloads for your desktop wallpaper (4 for Humans in space, almost all Apollo).

What bugs me is what is missing. Where is the PR strategy. It is neither listed formally, nor is it obvious to me what it is from the content. The Reach video I saw at the 21st National Space Symposium, which I also downloaded from a difficult to access site at NASA, is not listed nor even hinted at. NASA TV is not mentioned. Is that not a PR channel, already paid for and waiting? What are they doing to implement the Aldridge Report's recommendation 8.2:

The Commission recommends that industry, professional organizations, and the media engage the public in understanding why space exploration is vital to our scientific, economic, and security.
And I don't yet see any implementation Roger G. Gilbertson's comment from the Audience to that commission on April 16, 2004:

And so my One Urgent Request...Give Us More! Distill the Spirit and Energy of everything you've heard of what is Possible to its Quintessence! Make an MTV Video ­ An X-Box Game! Show us a human and a robot doing a "High Five" on Mars! ... Give us your Results in a form powerful enough to keep a nation of nine-year olds Awake All Night!
Amen. Tell me who to contact, Mr Griffin. I have a number of ideas myself. I would be happy to help.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Space Station Discontinuance

I find it ironic that News Analyst James Oberg says:

The international space station has flown for years with only an unofficial name, "Alpha." Now rarely used, and based on an obscure rationale, that name might at last have a worthy replacement, replete with honor and expressing what the 100-ton orbital outpost has truly exhibited: "Endurance."
Endurance. A worthy name for a basically worthless waste of time, talent, and money. A station that the United State may no longer support after 2010 (depending on both the design of the CEV and the politics at that time). I am not sure if this is his cockamamie name, or if NASA is actually considering changing the name.

That is like calling DEC's last version of the VAX, VAX Infinity.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Nasa's Change to the CEV Plan

(from Spaceref)
As per Mike Griffin's request, NASA is setting up a Exploration Systems Architecture Study to speed up the development of the CEV so that there is no gap between the last shuttle launch and CEV LEO capability. The study should be done in mid-July.

I don't have any issues with that. However, I thought this was interesting.

To facilitate minimizing the gap, up to two contracts are expected to be awarded prior to completion of the Exploration Systems Architecture Study. Following these awards a "Call for Improvements" (CFI) based on the results of the Exploration Systems Architecture Study will be issued to the selected contractor(s). CFI proposals will be evaluated for a final down-select decision to a single contractor expected in early 2006.
So they are giving the two contracts out sooner than originally planed. It was originally September. NASA selects two contractors based on plan that they is going to change, and then tell those two contractors to adapt their plan to the new requirements. The problem is, how do you know the two contractors you select would still be the best choice after the new study is done? Perhaps one of the other companies would do a better job.

I hired a contractor to build a farm house in the country, knowing I was going to change my mind. Then tell them one month later, I wanted a town house in mid-town, that would be a bad move. Maybe another contractor would be better for an urban development.

I guess they don't think the study is going to make that drastic of a change...

In unrelated news, does anyone know what happened to It seems to have been taken over by adware this evening...

Space Community Infighting revisited

I would like to back up a little and state my views on space access. Based on the comments I got on my Heavy Lift vs multiple Lift entry, I think I have not made myself clear.

In my ideal world, NASA would only build what no one has ever built before (and by NASA I mean Lockheed and Boeing as well). This would include the beginnings of a Moon base, perhaps a Mars space craft, a Mars base, and so on. Private industry would take over the stuff that has been done, such as launch to LEO, Lunar modules, communications, imaging, etc... As things became more common place, private interests would take people to the Moon and construct their own Lunar bases.

I am basically a supporter of the NASA -> Unexplored frontiers, Private->Open Frontiers. This doesn't mean waiting until something is easy before passing it if off to private companies, but until that we know it isn't impossible, just hard. Really it isn't a matter of "passing it on" so much as it is, understanding the problem well enough to convince investors you can do it. So whenever private industry can do that, they should go for it, NASA or no. So all you guys, give me a break. I am on your side.

That being said, as my profile suggests, I am not stuck on the idea. If NASA goes to the Moon, against my good advise :), with it's own heavy lifter (shuttle-C or whatever), then I am not going to pout and stay home in protest when my shot comes up.

Now when I discussed "paralysis by analysis" previously, I did not make it clear, I am not talking about private industry. Of course space companies are going to fight over design ideas? That's the beginnings of competition. Go! Debate! Attack each others ideas? That is what this country was founded on. But I bet none of you (the good ones anyway) would expect your company to sit around writing a business plan for 2 or 3 years because you couldn't come to an agreement on what architecture you business will run under.

I am assuming (based on everything I have read) that NASA is going to build their own rocket (wasteful as that may be) and they are going to spend $1 or $2 billion on spinning their wheels over how to do it. The mentality that I hear outside of NASA, I fear, mirrors the debate inside of NASA. It is comments like this that bother me (No offense meant to any of the follow people. I love you guys - djs)

...there is no better way to kill the VSE program than to start it off with a costly expendable rocket program. - Clark Lindsey

Some people within the aerospace establishment understand that the development of a heavy lift vehicle is essential for a successful Lunar program,... - Robert Zubrin

The consensus is that the Vision for Space Exploration requires a new heavy-lift launch vehicle - Taylor Dinerman

The idea that if you pick the wrong one, the entire program is doomed to failure is what creates "religious wars." I believe multiple launches (preferably purchase from somebody like SpaceX) is the way to go. Do I think we will get there with a Shuttle derived HLV? Yeah. Will it cost more? Most likely. Will it be less scalable? Yeah. But NASA stays in conference rooms arguing this until 2020, it will cost a lot more and may not happen at all. People can be very finicky when they aren't seeing any progress.

Well there you go. Feel free to pick my argument apart now...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


In the same speech by Mike Griffin (at, Mike speaks about public relations, a subject I have wrestled with here and in my mind. When asked about PR:

With regard to how the aerospace community can reach out to the public to get them to support the vision for space exploration, Griffin said: "I don't know - public affairs- and how to do all that is not my specialty. I know we need to do better."
Now I have a few ideas about that. I don't think NASA is a special case. You don't get people to listen to your ideas by forcing them out of their comfort zone and preaching to them. Sad as it may be, society currently thrives on entertainment. If a PR package doesn't grab peoples attention and give them some at least some entertainment value, I believe it won't be effective.

NASA does have one advantage, though.
But then they start telling me as they have been for 20 years with such as "what are doing with this space station?' We should be on the moon. We should be going back to the moon. We should be going to Mars. We should be out there doing things. I mean, I get this from people who drive trucks for a living. I get this from plumbers."
People, I believe, approve of the VSE. Most people want us to explore. The want to go to space. So rather than have to convince people, I believe, NASA only have to remind people that they are here.

Now, I would like to here your comments on what NASA can do for PR. I have proposed standard advertising, which I know some people are against. Fine, give me some ideas? Lets brainstorm.

If you wish to remain anonymous, you can email me at dschrimpsher@adt-it dot com (replace the dot with a '.') and I will post your comments without naming you.

Pragmatism at NASA

In reading the report on Mike Griffin's speech at the Women in Aerospace breakfast (in Spaceref), I found a passage which I think shows Mike and I are on the same page.

He continued: "On the NASA side we have the obligation to come forward to the leadership with our view of the launch architecture as well - and our requirements. Now our requirements are going to be in the range of several tens of metric tons for the new Crew Exploration Vehicle and notionally 100 metric tons for heavy life requirements for return to the Moon. Those are the requirements. I personally don't care how they get met. NASA needs to be more than just about getting up the first hundred miles. We've spent far too long trying to overcome that problem. So, as NASA Administrator today, I already own a heavy lifter. That heavy lifter is the Space Shuttle stack - it currently carries the Orbiter. So every time I launch, I launch 100 metric tons into low orbit which, of course, is what we need for returning to the moon. So as I have said often, tongue in cheek, from the point of view of the cargo, the shuttle is a payload shroud - a rather heavy one. But the intrinsic capability of the stack is quite impressive. It's not quite up to where Saturn V was - but it's close - and it's there. So, I will not give that up lightly and, in fact, can't responsibly do so because, it seems to me, any other solution for getting a hundred metric tons to orbit is going to be more expensive than utilizing efficiently what we, NASA, already own." (emphasis mine)
I don't know if a shuttle stack heavy lifter is the best idea or not, but this is pragmatic thinking. Adapt, reuse, one might even say agile development of rockets. Just get to space.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I have gone over the edge...

I saw this headline this morning in the New York Times online edition:
Words and Deeds Are Catching Up With the Rockets

An I assumed they were talking about the Space Access Conference. Silly me, they were referring to the NBA team in Houston. I have got to get more sleep.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Lockheed's CEV

Popular Mechanics just posted an (intro?) to an article on Lockheed's CEV team and their design. Pretty sparse, but I guess they want you to buy the magazine (June issue). (From Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings)

Image hosted by
(courtesy of Popular Mechanics)

Looks a lot like an X33/X34 to me. But it doesn't glide, it drops into the ocean like the Apollo missions did. Not that I blame them, that is a much easier (i.e. cheaper) way to design a crewed capsule.

Other than that, pretty standard. It has to launch and land on one vehicle (med-heavy to heavy lift you would assume), it has to perform orbital hook-ups with (presumably) another vehicle to get it to wherever it is going, and it looks really good as a drawing.

The only new thing I notice is the use of carbon-carbon rather than tiles, like the shuttle. Not a big shock, as the tiles are not real popular lately.

Can't wait to hear more....

ISDC 2005 Paper

Hey I got a mention in Bill White's ISDC 2005 Paper, A media strategy to induce robust marketing of the VSE (PDF)

Mr White is discussing how NASA could use pop-culture media to lobby the Vision for Space Exploration. It is pretty good, so take a look. He linked my post on NASA in Prime Time, so if you didn't get a chance, take a look.

As my humble work was included, I am making a point to review some of the papers at the ISDC 2005 conference. I will post reviews of anything interesting tomorrow.

Whole Bag o' Stuff

Okay, I have been really busy with our first build, so I haven't posted much last week. So here is a summary of a bunch of stuff I have been thinking about.

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate Elon Musk and all the crew at SpaceX for the Responsive Small Spacelift (RSS) launch services contract from the Air Force. I like the idea of fast, quick, and cheap launches. I guess DOD did too. Wonder where NASA is......

The Space Access Conference was last week in phoenix. I didn't go, as my very young children are tired of traveling after moving 3 times in 4 years. But Rand Simberg has a running commentary on the event. Clark Lindsey also has a nice wrap up. Sounds like reality is starting to hit the private space community (I frankly can't stand the name It sounds to much like or alt.Ilivewithmymom). Most of the talks were related to politics and money, which honestly is what matters when you actually have a product.

This scares the crap out of me. Apparently Lockheed and Boeing are merging their launch units into the United Launch Alliance. (From How I am going to tell them apart now? Wait I couldn't before. Okay maybe it isn't that bad. Maybe they think if they keep slamming Aerospace companies together, they will create fusion and some useful energy will come out. (That was a joke, people).

More tomorrow.