Friday, January 30, 2004

This Iraqi says that Allegations have consequenses. Didn't you know that?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

From Transterrestrial Musings Can we get to Mars on private funds? I believe you could find people that would make a one way trip (a significant cost reduction) assuming they had a land grant when they arrived. Many of these colonist might die, but still be willing to take the chance.

The more we ask for things we don't have, the more chance of failure a plan has. In my mind, the biggest flaw of the Mars Direct plan is that we dont have the heavy lift capability right now. The only modification of the plan that makes any sense to me is if we can use existing launch vehicles and assemble a modular vehicle in orbit. We could send modules up empty with separate launch of the needed supplies.

Zubrin's plan suggests 4 astronauts, but if we send habitat's to orbit separately for assembly, why limit it to one habitat? The more people we get to the Martian surface, the easier it will be for them to build shelters and farms.

How much does it cost and can we do it? Well, we know that $20 million will put a person in orbit (Russia has set the price.)

This article - A Rocket a Day Keeps the High Costs Away suggests to me $20 to $50 million ought to pay for everything, habitat, a years supplies (including seed and equipment) and ticket to ride.

The launch vehicle would be mass produced. The habitat's would be of a single basic design. The initial base would have a cluster of habitats, with colonists working along side explorers that would be returning to Earth after a few years.

The next set of astronauts would find themselves welcomed by earlier groups of colonists as well as bringing gifts the earlier group would have learned the need for.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I thought of you ever day my blog, but haven't been willing to commit an idea... and can not promise that I will soon... but I do not believe we have seen the last of this blog!

I'd like to fix up the place too, but I haven't had time (first to learn, then to do.)

I need to find my groove.

Friday, January 09, 2004

NASA: Helper or Hinderer?

I'm going to comment on some of the comments from this article by Rand Simberg.

Is NASA a money pit that takes away attention and funding while destroying private investment in space activities? Was Apollo a mistake that we are about to repeat again?

Miles at January 8, 2004 10:30 PM says:
"The first Space Race was to one-up the Russians. This one, apparently, is to one-up the Chinese."

To which Rand replies:
"The Chinese are barely on the radar screen. This policy replanning is a result of the loss of Columbia."

He does that a lot, which is drink from the brew that is true... I kind of prefer the flagon with the dragon. So although I thoroughly agree with Rand that the policy is derived from the shuttle situation, things may unfold in such a way that the public does perceive things a race (especially since I see a Chinese menace closely behind the current terrorist threats.)

Michael Mealling at January 8, 2004 08:47 PM has this to say:
"...Transorbital is currently putting together a lunar mission with a few science instruments and some really good optics on a shoe string budget and that will show profitability assuming execution as planned. Given the stated return to the moon by the US government using a purely NASA run mission: is there any hope that Transorbital is going to be able to find investors given the fact that, for just about any mission profile they come up with, their major competition will be a non-profit, tax subsidized government agency?

As stated, the administration's plan puts Transorbital out of business with extreme prejudice..."

To which billg at January 8, 2004 09:44 PM responded:
"Michael, if Transorbital has figured out how to sell a private sector moon mission, how would a NASA return to the moon spell doom for their product? Presumably, NASA won't be selling the same thing. If Transorbital has customers, why wouldn't they retain those customers?..."

Which is sort of a core issue. Private means profit and loss. NASA has driven a stake through the heart of private firms in the past and surely will in the future. A hint of something I am seeing in the new proposal is that NASA will be restricted from some areas where private enterprise will have an opportunity to fill in some gaps. The manned missions to Mars and the Moon are not currently or in the near future lucrative ventures for private industry. So the possibility exists that a NASA program, properly restricted to a defined goal, could provide many tangential opportunities for private enterprise to take advantage of.

Some other comments I'd like to comment upon...

"If they were really waiting to see if the current mission was successful, wouldn't it have been a good idea to make sure the second lander actually survives the landing - or that the rover can actually drive over these air bags?"

Posted by paul at January 8, 2004 08:26 PM

Wouldn't that be a kicker if it took them a month to get the rover untangle from the airbags... just in time to do the same thing with the second rover?

I also question the reason the plan calls for a manned Mars expeditions to attempt to orbit the red planet but apparently without a landing attempt... actually phrased as "in advance of landings" but the intent to circle and go home seems to be the plan.

Hefty at January 8, 2004 07:43 PM points out that:
"Well in the early Apollo days it was not really known if humans could survive long stays in space beyond the Earths Magnetosphere. Apollo 8 & 10 weren't so much as used to learn how to land on the Moon, except up to the orbital insertion part, as they were to learn if the people we sent could make the trip or not. Same thing I would imagine the first Mars mission would be to see if humans could go all that distance successfully and make a successful orbital insertion and then fly back. So those journeys won't be so much to learn how to land on Mars, as Mars will be considered a conveniently place mass in space that can be used to gravitationaly propel the astronauts quickly back to Earth. Then I'm sure a whole army of scientists and doctors will be chomping at the bit to check the health of those astronauts. A lander mission would most likely mean that astronauts would stay on the surface for several months maybe up to a year I've read on some mission plans. For many that would be just to long a delay to completely study the physiological effects of deep space travel. I definently don't buy the primary purpose of sending those early orbital missions would be to take pictures. I mean don't we have two probes there already that have already taken thousands and could take thousands more pictures till the next decade of where to land?..."

I think we are already beyond the need for this type of flight. The whole point of an orbital mission without landing is to limit risk. Landing adds risk to a mission, no question, but wouldn't the two year delay in the schedule be a waste of time? An unmanned orbital flight would make more sense if the hardware and orbital mechanics are something we need to test... but I think we've been doing these tests since the 1970's. If human physical endurance is the question, of course there is more we need to know, but not landing isn't going to lead to any better understanding.

Alex at January 8, 2004 08:24 PM says:
"The FIRST step in all of this will be the rapid development and deployment of a Space Elevator."

Uh..., no.

Feed the Children
A woman, amazed by the technology of her fax machine, called the Lars Larson talk show tonight to say we should go to the Moon and Mars; but only after we've fed the starving children here on Earth. This is a woman with a huge heart... and only enough brain cells to keep it pumping.

In her mind the universe is static and simple... if there are 100 million starving children (pulled that number out of the air, but wouldn't be surprised to see someone reference it ;) ) then all we have to do is transfer a sufficient amount of food to their locale and the problem would be solved... Then we could go to the Moon. That would be our second priority, no doubt about it!

Why wouldn't that work? Seems simple enough, we would just have to get everybody, or enough people, to go along with the idea right? Well? Uh... no. It would not do a thing about starving children even presuming we could pull it off. Why is that you ask?

The first question that needs to be asked is: Where do starving children come from? Root causes and all, that's the ticket. Solve the root cause and we solve the starvation, right?

Premise number one... It's not the children's fault that they are starving. It is the fault of:

Parents, that breed children they can't feed.
Governments, that purposefully starve segments of their own populations for political purposes.
Economics, that change over time faster than a population can adjust.
Wars and natural disasters that people are often afflicted with.

It's a bad thing that children starve and we should do all we can to fix the situation. Why don't we start by holding those responsible for the starving children... uh, responsible. Perhaps we should focus on those hedonistic people that have children when they don't have the means of feading them? Can't do that you say (insert reason here) well, then you're not serious about feeding the starving children. Does not matter how much you protest, you've just lost all your credibility.

Governments that starve their own populations would need to be changed. Perhaps a letter writing campaign to these petty dictators would change their hearts? That nutcase in North Korea would surely work to fix his economy and stop making nukes if he read enough letters... but we'd have to be really heartfelt about it... a really determined campaign is what we need here... and while he's making up his psychotic mind about the welfare of his own population, we could be bombing the country with french bread and french fries and perhaps a few French politicians.

Seems like we went right past economics to war and disaster, didn't we? Well then, we can hold off talking about economics for a moment. What about all this war mongering we have going on here? Wouldn't the $180 billion or so we are spending in Iraq have fed a lot of starving children? No doubt about it, we should should have left that murderous dictator alone to continue torturiing and killing his people along with his two sadistic sons and all the ba'ath cronies. That money could have fed a lot of starving children. Well, except where the local politician is starving his own population for whatever reason those bastards do. No amount of money or food would make a dent in that problem. Those children are just going to have to starve... at least until those guys in charge are removed... Oh, but that sounds like war mongering again. We had better just move on to economics.

To save the starving children through economics means jobs, or rather, the abundant opportunity for parents (the people that should be actually and directly feeding those starving children) to get jobs. So the economy has to grow as much or more than the population. We have to ignore for now the fact that the world has plenty of food, and that it's the local politician that prevent it from getting to the starving children. Let's just assume that we've solved the benevolent dictator problem and are left with just the economic problem... which means we'd also have to assume that population growth is about to exceed the economic means (otherwise, we'd have to assume that if all other causes are resolved then the children would not now be starving.)

So the solution to starving children means growing the economy as fast or faster than population growth. Something that historically, has always been the case (on average, it's not the economy that keeps those children starving.) Why is that? Because there has always been people willing to take chances that lead to economic growth. Lars mentioned Queen Isabella and Stewards folly, but the examples are inexhaustible. So, if economics is the problem, space is the solution.

Serious space efforts (colonization) will lead to the greatest economic growth this world has ever seen.

But we should spend that money on feeding the starving children, repeats the chorus... like I said, only enough brain cells to keep the heart pumping.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me...
Yes, I am feeling exceedingly depressed today... Two days ago we had a storm and my boss had the idea that I work from home... and all was well... the following day, the storm had left dangerous driving conditions (the police were turning people back all day on the road I would have used) and I caught hell for it. Now the owners want to talk to me and I hear they want me to sign a piece of paper saying that I'll be a good boy... What???!!!

I write code for a living... I can do that from anyplace on the planet as long as I've got an internet connection... The fact is I could go back to California, live with my wife (what a concept) and still be able to fully perform my job. But for my employers this is not an option... well not for me anyway, they have one employee in Colorado, another in Arizona, they had two more in California... wait, maybe that's it, they fired the two in California. Maybe it's some sick cultish thing?

No, what it is actually is that control thing... they don't feel in control, and don't want to lose control... fundamentally, they give me money and I give them code... this would be a very straight forward arrangement if they didn't also want to be my friend... They all tell me, my boss, the owners, all of them that they care for me... Which is why they tell me that all my troubles are of my own making and that if I'd only listen and do everything they say my life would be a utopian dream...

I'm not just depressed, I'm also pissed. My decisions are my own and I'm willing to live with them, so please... I can't bring myself to swear, but my thoughts would definitely turn your ears red. If I choose not to drive 90 minutes on icy roads where trucks are jack knifing, well then they can fire me...

But through it all I do my job as well as I can and suffer the indignities...

Monday, January 05, 2004

Why 90 days?
CNN.com - NASA rover finds Earth in Martian sky - Jan. 5, 2004

This Mars rover is supposed to operate for 90 days according to earlier articles I've read; now this one says 180 days. My question is why the limit? What prevents it from operating until some meteor hits it? If it goes out of range around the sun, will it not come back into range later? Did they include rechargable batteries this time as they did not with the earlier Sojourner?

Anyhow, congratulations to the team for the accomplishments so far.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The user interface of this blogging tool is less than ideal. I have some nerve looking a gift horse in the mouth, don't I? Still, I don't know how to use it fully to do some things and find it frustrating.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

How alone we are
I want to lose my fear of expressing my personal thoughts. I don't really intend for anything I write here to be read by anybody. At the same time, I'm a social person, I really like people. I want to be around people and share thoughts back and forth; probably as much as I like being alone at times.

Yesterday I called my wife and she was crying. She is so alone in the world, she tells me. She has told me this before along with the tears. Her parents and sister live in a time zone ten hours ahead of ours and it was almost the new year there. After we talked for a little bit I told her to wash her face, then call her parents. She did. I called her afterward and she was feeling much better. She was driving up the mountain to work, taking along our son. She has a masters degree in engineering and works as a waitress. Our son, Sasha, helps as a dishwasher. He now has several hundred dollars saved in a bank account which he has recorded in a book I gave him. I gave him the book along with a talk about the time value of money and compound interest, but it was his mother that gave him the incentive to save. She told him that if he saved enough money by the time he is sixteen, she will let him pay off the balance of her car and it will be his. He expects to save about $8000 in the next three years to do the job. I'm thinking of ways to get him to think beyond just buying the car.

My wife is a city girl. Any place with less than a few million people she considers to be living in the forest (picture caves and foraging for berries.) Her preferred places to live are Moscow and San Francisco. I'm too poor for either. I'm too poor even to keep my family in one place, but I'm working on that.

I've got some tough decisions ahead. My life definitely has not even the illusion that I am in control. I have a respectable job and even another offered, which is much better than other times in my life, but my life still is in pieces. I want to make it whole (or a reasonable facsimile.)

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