Monday, March 29, 2010

Want To Work For Russia?

The Russian Space Agency is hiring. Not just anybody, they're after NASA personnel who have been working on returning to the Moon to use its resources.

Clearly, history is repeating. After World War II, America grabbed the cream of the crop of German rocket scientists who had developed the V2 rocket which killed thousands of Britons during the war. They were brought to America and succeeded in getting Americans on the Moon within 25 years.

Now that Obama is ending American manned spaceflight, it's clear that Russia knows what is at stake on the Moon. "We will bury you," Krushchev said. It's a race between the Russians and the Chinese to bury America now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Congress Members Question Changes to NASA’s Exploration Program

(Washington, DC) –The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing today to discuss the Administration’s proposed changes to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) exploration program. Key proposed changes that were discussed included the cancellation of the Constellation Program, investment in a new “commercial crew” space transport industry, and a variety of implications resulting from the Administration’s proposals.
“I have called this hearing today because we have a serious issue to address—the future of America’s human space flight program—and we need to get it right,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
Members were particularly concerned by questions left unanswered by NASA’s FY 2011 budget request. While NASA has provided its overall rationale for moving in another direction, the proposed change in the agency’s exploration program has not been accompanied by many specifics. Members and witnesses discussed issues of safety, workforce impacts, and the impact of the proposed changes on the future of the Nation’s human space flight program. 
Additionally in the budget request, the Administration has called for the Constellation program’s termination and the initiation of closeout activities.  Constellation is the human space flight development program established to deliver Americans to the International Space Station and later to the Moon and other destinations in the solar system following the retirement of the Space Shuttle.
“In cancelling this program, we would write off $14 billion in taxpayer dollars that have been spent, with no apparent plan to make any significant use of the results of that investment.  We would make this country dependent on yet-to-be developed “commercial crew” services of unknown cost and safety, with no government-backup system available; we would very likely be forced to rely on other nations to access low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for the foreseeable future.  We would be left without a concrete plan, destination, or timetable for exploration missions beyond LEO.  Additionally, this cancellation would negatively impact the nation’s defense industrial base and would eliminate the program that would ease the transition for the Space Shuttle workforce and help retain key human space flight skills and industrial capabilities needed for the future,” stated Giffords.
Members and witnesses also discussed issues associated with the proposal to rely solely on as yet to be developed commercial crew services. Members sought answers on the cost of such an approach, the risks that it would entail, and what recourse the government will have if the providers are unable to meet cost commitments or safety concerns.
“I want to see a plan that includes human exploration beyond low Earth orbit by the end of this decade.  Nothing in this budget gives any indication that this would occur, and I find that unacceptable.  We have the technology.  Let’s make it happen,” stated Giffords.
For more information on the Committee’s work on NASA and Space, visit the Committee’s website.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Congress rips NASA plans as 'reckless'

Congress is standing firm on the primary importance of the Vision for Space Exploration and its first step, returning to the Moon to utilize its vast resources in moving into the rest of the solar system.

The Huntsville Times reports that:

The Obama administration's plan to cancel the Constellation space program received heavy criticism Tuesday after a congressional subcommittee hearing.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, came away dissatisfied with answers provided by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who took questions posed by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

"The president's decision to end the Constellation program is reckless and could cripple U.S. human spaceflight for an unknown number of years," Aderholt said in a post-hearing statement.

"(Bolden's) testimony and answers did not calm my fears that our nation's space program will not remain a leading science program."

Subcommittee members questioned Bolden about the future of human spaceflight and various costs surrounding the Constellation program.

Under examination from Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Calif., Bolden apologized for a statement he made earlier in the hearing and paused several seconds to compose himself.

"When I responded to your question on China and the moon, it does make a difference to me who's first," Bolden said. "I think in my exuberance, I said something I didn't mean.

"It's important that we be first all the time. I am extremely competitive. So I apologize for making to you what was a flip statement."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moon Race

The recent discovery of what could possibly turn out to be trillions of metric tonnes of water on the Moon may be creating the next big "rush" to grab that valuable resource.

On Earth, we take for granted the abundance of water. But, in space, water is the most valuable resource of all and, so far, all of the water we've used in space has had to be transported from the Earth at an enormous expense. That's why all water is recycled on the Space Station---it's more valuable than Gold by far.

If you didn't know, water can be broken down into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen, and used to fuel rockets. Having an accessible source of rocket fuel in space means that access to all the other resources in the solar system is made considerably easier.

For instance, whomever builds a facility on the Moon which can transform the water resources there into rocket fuel will mean that a lunar lander can refuel on the surface of the Moon. Rockets which need to go to Mars or other destinations in the solar system will be able to be refueled at this lunar "filling station", making it much cheaper than hauling all that rocket fuel up from Earth's gravity well.

Of more immediate importance, we have a very valuable set of satellites in orbit around the Earth. Currently, servicing those satellites is far too expensive because of the energy it takes to lift equipment and personnel out of Earth's powerful gravity "well". Our economy, however, has become dependent upon these satellite resources and would be severely damaged were those resources to be threatened. Moreover, there is evidence that the Chinese have developed a network of space-based anti-satellite weapons which threaten our satellite resources. With our military forces heavily-dependent upon its network of military satellites, that becomes our Achilles Heel. A Moon-based "service center" could both service our current inventory of satellites as well as to provide our military with the ability to quickly launch replacements to restore service should a space war break out which damages our existing network. Thus, a Moon base provides the ability to recover quickly from a hostile strike against our military and economy.

And, in the long run, having a manned position on the high ground of the Moon means that any nation wishing to attack us from the Moon will have a very hard time establishing that position and defending it should they launch an attack. If we abandon the idea of having a manned presence on the Moon, we are leaving ourselves open to that kind of attack, which would be impossible to defend ourselves from. It would be very difficult to launch a defensive strike against an enemy base located on the lunar surface from the surface of the Earth, while a manned lunar base would have a much better location from which to launch such a counterattack.

This discovery of massive water resources on the Moon, which has been made only in the last year, means that the cancellation of the return to the Moon mission by NASA was a very big mistake on the part of President Obama. If the US doesn't go back to the Moon to establish a permanent base, it's certain that other nations will recognize the strategic advantage of the Moon and will proceed to be the first to "take" the Moon. China, India, Russia and Japan are not likely to sit idly by and will take control of what is likely to be the most valuable franchise of the 21st century---the Waters of the Moon.

The next time you're outside, look up at the Moon. How would you feel knowing that we have a manned base on the Moon, strengthening our security right here on Earth? And, then, imagine how you would feel if it were China who had established that permanent manned base on the Moon instead?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Making Do With Mediocrity

This "recovery" is being felt in stock prices, but little else. Just why is that?

The truth is that the government is keeping interest rates at zero and forcing investors to chase dividends and yield instead of new technology which would create new jobs and a solid recovery. Yet, the government officials seem to believe that low interest rates will cure what ails the economy! Are they truly that stupid? The answer has to be "yes" because the alternatives are unthinkable.

In the Great Depression, they built Hoover Dam ("Boulder Dam", originally). That not only put a lot of workers to work, it created a massive amount of electricity which sparked new industry. What are we building today? Software companies who promise endless hours of twittering? Where is the sense (or jobs) in that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why 'saving' energy raises the demand for more energy

Gerard Jackson, Brookesnews' economics editor, raises an interesting point in Why 'saving' energy raises the demand for more energy. Jackson points out:

For years greens have been wailing that the public is wasting energy and by doing so endangering the planet and squandering resources. Their solution, as always, consists of governments, meaning ignorant politicians, mandating so-called conservation measures. This view overlooks two basic facts. First it ignores the little detail that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. All that we can do is convert energy from one form into another that will do useful work for us, whether it be running a factory or keeping us cool in summer.

We can therefore have all the energy we need at any time for as long as we want so long as we have sufficient means to turn it into useful work*. Those means are called capital goods and it is capital and not energy that is scarce and needs to be maintained. It follows that it is the availability of capital that puts a fundamental limit on energy consumption

The second fact is that economic efficiency means getting more for less. In other words, reducing the unit costs of production. One does not need to be a trained economist to see that any improvements that greatly reduced the use of a vital input are reducing the cost of that input per unit of output. This is the equivalent of reducing its price. As we all know, reducing the price of a good raises the demand for its services.

Let us assume, for example, that it requires x dollars of energy to produce one unit of P. Someone now develops a new technique that reduces energy costs to one-third of x then this will raise the demand for P which in turn will raise the demand for more energy. (The market does indeed work in mysterious ways its wonder to perform.)

The steam engine is an excellent example of this process. Before Watt's innovations the steam engine was horrendously wasteful. The introduction of his separate condenser reduced coal consumption per unit of output by about 66 per cent. This not only increased the demand for coal but also for more steam engines which in turn led to more innovations which in turn.... This very early example of 'energy conservation' was brought about by market forces, not meddling politicians or ignorant 'journalists', and its reverberations were quickly felt throughout the British economy — and beyond — by stimulating economic growth and raising the demand for labour.

Jackson concludes with:

We have seemingly reached the absurd situation that someone who has spent four years at university studying economics can leave with a first class honours without having acquired the ability to apply sound economic reasoning when called for, despite having learnt a whole array of fancy statistical techniques. Making it worse are a bunch of politicians, activists and so-called journalists who in turn cannot tell the difference between a hot cross bun and set of supply and demand curves. No wonder the public is becoming increasingly suspicious of economics.