Posted by: spacewritinguy | August 14, 2009

Bad Vibes

It’s been awhile since I’ve ranted here, but I think I’ve had enough. Nearly everything that I mistrust or dislike about a government-run space program has been coming to pass in the last three months. We’ve got bureaucracy. We’ve got shifting priorities. We’ve got the annual budget battle. We’ve got “expert,” outside panels providing cover for the president as yet another shift in policy is planned. All this is to say that watching the space news, especially if you’re a fan of space in general, is bad for the soul.

The agency can’t fight back; they operate at the whim of the president. And the president hasn’t made up his mind yet. He’s waiting for the Augustine group to reduce the number of decisions for him. And there are other doubts: would the agency even fly Ares I-X if it continues to be delayed and the Augustine panel recommends include killing Ares I? And there’s little to no guarantee that anyone else can be depended upon to get human beings into space and beyond Earth orbit.

The Russians? To Earth orbit, maybe; but as soon as NASA has officially closed the Space Shuttle program’s doors and pulled up its stakes, their price for a Soyuz or Progress flight will double. If Obama doesn’t know it, he soon will, and there won’t be a damn thing he can do about it. The Euros? They’ve got an Automated Transfer Vehicle for cargo, but nothing for humans. The Chinese? Right. Because we get along with them so well. The Japanese? They’re in the same boat as the Europeans: cargo yes; people no. The Indians? Maybe, but not for awhile yet.

That leaves the American private sector, which I love so dearly. Funded as it is right now by Big Aero or entrepreneurial ego money, no one operating today could place Orion on one of their rockets and fly it. SpaceX wants to build their Dragon spacecraft, but they need to fly a couple of successful Falcon 9 flights first, yes? I don’t know anyone else who’s even close.

So I’m irritated and depressed by the whole situation. Bad enough the government is trying to “stimulate” the economy by printing a trillion dollars we don’t have. They want to level or cut NASA’s budget.

What the hell. At least I’ve got my health.

Posted by: spacewritinguy | May 3, 2009

A Diplomat in the Space Culture War

Twenty years ago, I left the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and set off on my own “spiritual quest” because I didn’t like what my pastor was saying about space exploration and science fiction. He was saying, more or less, that it was humanist and anti-God and that we should be concentrating on fixing life on this world rather than heading off to other ones. Hot button for me, obviously, as I’d been a space geek for nearly as long as I’d been going to church.

Over the intervening 20 years, life happened, and my spiritual quest led me through agnosticism to syncretism to outright atheism (a la Ayn Rand) and then, eventually, back to the Lutheran Church. I’m in the Wisconsin Synod this time, and I’ve been reasonably comfortable with it. However, this return does not come without some difficulties. For one thing, I occasionally find myself on the same side of the pastor who angered me so 20 years ago. Science fiction does have atheists and flat-out anti-Christians in its ranks. So does the space business. In any case, I occasionally encounter blatant hostility toward my positions, and that makes my pro-space stance more than a little challenging on occasion.

I am not anti-technology, as I’ve posted elsewhere, but I am pro-caution. I am also anti-elitist and anti-technocracy. I don’t believe that just because certain people in the country have better knowledge of science or technology that they are any more suited for leadership than someone who has superior knowledge of scripture. People are people, and people are flawed and–dare I say it?–fallen, sinful.

Then comes the argument between Evolutionism vs. Creationism, which is about as fun as listening to a long argument about abortion or liberation for pick-your-persecuted-group. I’ve been in a couple arguments like that, and it took a couple of days to settle down enough to speak civilly to other people afterward. I consider both points of view philosophical stance and claim, absolutely, agnosticism on God’s method of creating the universe. I like the idea one of my fellow church members had: rather than moving Creationism into the science department, move both Evolution and Creationism into the philosophy department and let the arguments occur there.

The thing that disturbs me most, perhaps, is that because I am a Christian, there’s an assumption that I do not have the RIGHT to speak about scientific matters if I’m going to insert my religion into the discussion. Leaving aside origin-focused science for the moment, I would not attempt to “impose my religion” on the practice of science. Science and technology POLICY? That’s another matter. When the practice of science–or technology–results in harming other people, committing blatant sins against God’s Creation, or violating the free expression of religion, then I absolutely have a right to express myself, and will do so.

As to how this affects my attitudes toward space, I do have my moments of doubt. The rest of this solar system is hostile to human life. Can we really live on other worlds, or in free space? Is travel to other stars possible in the lifetime of individual human beings? Is it desirable, or should we learn to love one another and tend our own garden here on Earth? Occasionally, even space adovcates can have a crisis of faith, and when we do, it is wise that we consider what answers we will give ourselves before standing firm in discussions with others. Philosophy matters, no matter what we do.

Posted by: spacewritinguy | April 28, 2009

The Flapper System

I was scolded again for not running a particular product through The Big Boss’s Official Filter this morning. It brought to mind this bit from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land:

In Laput, according to Lemuel Gulliver, no person of importance listened to or spoke without the help of a “climenole”—or “flapper” in English translation, as such servant’s duty was to flap the mouth and ears of his master with a bladder whenever, in the opinion of the servant, it was desirable for his master to speak or listen. Without the consent of his flapper it was impossible to converse with any Laputian of the master class.

You feelin’ me?

Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 23, 2009

Some Juvenile Humor at NASA’s Expense

Read this, insert childish remark, then watch this:

Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 18, 2009

If This Had Been Bush…

Barack Obama, TelePrompTer addict extraordinaire, has an awkward moment with someone else’s speech. If this had been the “misunderestimated” George W. Bush, it would be the top headline and top joke on every major network in the U.S.

However, this happened to Obama. Therefore, you have to go to Britain’s news media to find out about it.

Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 15, 2009

Going John Galt in the 21st Century

Let’s just accept, for the purposes of this blog, that Ayn Rand’s philosophical SF book, Atlas Shrugged, is being played out today. Government is growing ever more intrusive and socialist, while the achievers in the fields of business and technology have knuckled under or become silent. If they really wanted to, could America’s achievers go “on strike?” Where would they go to escape the current environment? A hidden enclave? Another country? If so, which one? Nations that are right-leaning, libertarian, or at least pro-capitalist are not in large supply, nor do they stay that way for long periods. New Zealand voted in a center-right government, as have Israel and France.

And the next question I’ve heard in response to a Rand-like “strike of the achievers” is, “Isn’t that cowardly? Shouldn’t stay here and fight for the country you love?” Well, sure. This is still my favorite place on Earth, and the nation of ideals that formed my childhood. But what if those ideals have been blatantly subverted, and the situation hasn’t risen to the level of armed conflict? We’re not in a civil war here, merely the transformation of governments from one ideology to another, and the winning ideology is taking rapid and drastic steps to ensure that its victory holds firm. Nothing particularly new there–but. If the party of the loyal opposition cannot find it within itself to offer alternatives to President Obama’s bad policies and third parties don’t have a chance to turn the tide, what’s the damned alternative?

The capitalist system is being dismantled throughout the West, and the end result is goverrnment takeover of businesses, punishment of achievers, mass redistribution of wealth, and a long-term climate of disincentives to achieve unless it’s in the service of the State. Speaking as a middle-aged capitalist, I’d like to continue to practice my craft and be richer in the future, but how do I do so with some assurance of private property? What are the options? How do we stop this? Fixing it is easy, once Obama is out of office (assuming he allows that to happen–some liberal friends tried to convince me that Bush would ensure that he stayed in power, too). The problem is what to do while Obama and his left-leaning party are dragging the stock market down and the country in their direction.


Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 13, 2009

Where’s the Outrage? Continued

In case anyone’s bothered to check lately, the unemployment rate is up to 8.1%, banks and mortgages are failing, and people are suffering! Where, then, is the outrage over the fact that our president is continuing to host extravagant meals and state dinners?

You might recall the media’s indignation over the 2004 inauguration parties, and their tsk-tsk sounds as they felt Bush, et al., should tone down their celebrations in a new era (temporary discovery by liberals) of fiscal responsibility? The hypocrisy continues.

Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 2, 2009

Boeing Submits Altair Proposal

I wonder if this means no one else put in a bid, or if they’re merely the first. Admittedly, given the specialized nature of the project, NASA can’t very well expect the government-standard-minimum of at least three bidders, but I wonder what they’ll do if they only get one bid. The people who hate sole-source contracts for Halliburton will be out in force, no doubt; however, as in the case of Halliburton, if there’s only one company capable of doing the job, do you stick with the minimum-bid rule, or do you sole-source it?

Aren’t you glad you don’t have to make these decisions? And, if you do and you’re reading this, you have my sincere condolences. Good luck with that.

Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 2, 2009

Sauce for the Goose?

Check this out:

Given all the moral outrage that has occurred re: CEOs remodeling offices, going on junkets, and spending on lavish parties, shouldn’t Obama set an example to the rest of America’s leaders? After all, there is a recession on, and government spending needs to get under control. Also, if the government can tell businesses what they can do if they take bail-out money, certainly the voting public can tell Obama what to do with the government’s money.
Never mind…

Posted by: spacewritinguy | February 6, 2009

More Goodness from Russia, With Love

Ya know, my Cold Warrior habits die hard, as I keep harping on this topic, but dang–Russia’s Cold War habits die hard, too.

How will the Obama administration respond? The world wonders.

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