Archive for December, 2008


Commercial Space Vehicles – Moving Ahead Quietly

December 27, 2008
SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle

SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle

There has been a lot of talk (even in Aviation Week) about somehow extending the life of the shuttles until Orion is ready, or pushing the Russians into better contract terms. Maybe the Obama administration will go for the big expense of shuttle refurbishment  and talk the congresscritters into it, maybe not. With much less fanfare, NASA awarded two contracts last week – one to Orbital Sciences Corporation, and one to SpaceX. They will provide cargo delivery to the ISS starting in 2010.

2010? You mean, like, a year from now? The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster hasn’t flown yet (although the first flight article is in Florida, waiting to be assembled in January), and I can’t tell from the SpaceX site if the Dragon is even out of boilerplate. Orbital’s hardware seems either further out. Their Taurus II launch vehicle is listed as being in the “early stages of development.”

It is a gutsy move by NASA, or desperation? I hope it’s gutsy, or at least that they know a lot more about the status of the projects by each of these companies than they are publishing for the general public. That could easily be the case, I suppose.

I’ve been a supporter of SpaceX since the beginning. I argued that the government was making it too difficult for them to break into the commercial space business by requiring them to test launch the Falcon 1 from the South Pacific – delivery of LOX alone was a major problem and it most likely doubled the time in their test schedule so far. Now maybe something has changed…like the Russians playing games in their part of the world, or the Orion program has a few more development problems.


“Merry Christmas to All, all of you on the Good Earth.”

December 23, 2008
Earthrise from Apollo 8

That’s the way I remember it, anyway. I think it’s pretty close to what Jim Lovell said on his Christmas Eve transmission from the Moon on December 24, 1968.

I remember sitting in our family room watching TV, and being surprised when he, Frank Borman and Bill Anders read from the Book of Genesis while showing us the Earth from space. It was a brilliant idea and deeply moving. At the time, it was the most-watched TV broadcast in history. I can imagine that they might have caught a little flak from the NASA administration when they got home. Anyway, it was forty years ago, and it was the first time anyone sent a human being’s live radio message from the Moon. It may have had more impact on me than Apollo 11’s landing did seven months later.

I know Jim Lovell is still somewhat active, and Bill Anders and Frank Borman are both still alive as well. Bill Anders apparently gave up religion after his flight to the Moon and the Biblical reading.

Some of our astronauts have had an uneasy relationship with religion. Dr. Ed Mitchell, last man to walk on the Moon, believes in alien visitation and has taken the US government to task for not telling the public. Charlie Duke, another moonwalker, became a devout Christian after his return and believes there can be no life anywhere else in the universe because it is not revealed in Scripture. James Irwin was also involved in Christian pursuits until his death in 1991. What about Neil Armstrong? No word. Armstrong is absolutely the most reclusive of the astronauts, almost never appearing in public or granting interviews.

It’s safe to say that walking on another world changes you. We’ll need a much larger statistical sample before we really know what it will be like for people to live somewhere other than on “the Good Earth.” I sure would like to see that statistical sample on the Moon and Mars in my lifetime, but I’m not holding my breath.

Until then, Merry Christmas to All, all of you on the Good Earth. I hope the celebration of the birth of the Son of God brings peace, love, and hope into your lives, as it has in mine.



“If Illinois isn’t the most corrupt state in the U.S., it’s a strong competitor.”

December 9, 2008

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who also said that the allegations against Governor Rod Blagojevich would make “Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

Welcome to Illinois. Ever since Obama’s campaign the last few months, the words “Chicago policial machine” have been making a comeback on national media.

And you thought we just had the Cubs…oh, wait, they’re for sale.


“Print is dead.” – Egon Spengler

December 9, 2008
Dr. Egon Spengler

Dr. Egon Spengler

The Tribune Company is the latest traditional media company to file for bankruptcy protection. It’s getting harder to get slanted, opinionated news and drivel from newspapers anymore – I guess I’ll just have to get it from the internet, like everybody else.


What’s going on? + Obscure Penn Joke

December 3, 2008


Comedy Legend Penn Jillette

First, where have I been/ Well, doin’ stuff, important stuff, just not writin’ a blog read by…maybe…several. If I’m lucky. I read in the textbook for my current e-commerce class that the average number of readers per blog is just over 1…and I don’t expect this is very different from all those others.

My e-commerce class takes some time, my stupid cold/sinus infection takes some time, playin’ with the grandkids takes some time, you know. Plus my wife got me this really sweet tool chest, actually for Christmas, but it came in boxes with a really nice full-color picture of the chest on the side, therefore spoiling the surprise just a bit. Therefore, Debbie said I should open it and start putting stuff away in it to keep tools away from Brisco the Destructo Cat. So I did. It’s really beautiful, well-made, real oak, no particleboard in it. Just gorgeous. I will be very sad the first time I spill a bit of paint on it.

Now for the obscure joke: On “Numbers” a few weeks ago (we were watching it on the PVR) Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller made a guest appearance as himself. He and Charlie Epps, the math genius, had just met and were having a little mutual admiration society thing goin’ on. Finally Penn says that some day he would like to sit down with Charlie and discuss one of Charlie’s math papers, the blah blah blah blah whatever it was. Charlie replies that he didn’t write that paper. Straight face, Penn says, “White tigers.”


spoiler space for those who really need to know what the joke is about and didn’t get it…

more space…

Remember Siegfried and Roy? The Las Vegas act that ran for years and years, with the white tigers in it? We saw the tigers at the Mirage when we were there some years ago. Apparently Penn & Teller get mistaken for Siegfried and Roy, even though one of them (Siegfried? Roy? I don’t remember. Okay, I looked it up. It was Roy.) was maimed by a tiger a few years ago and they don’t do the act any more.

Anyway, it was a clever, Penn-like throwaway line. It was probably improvised. I’m still chuckling, even after having to explain it.

Incidentally, offstage Teller is the funny one. So says the Renhed, my daughter, who got to work with them once when she was in college. And she knows funny…she also worked with (and appeared on stage with) Bill Cosby and even with Gallagher, who bills himself as “Comedy Legend Gallagher” on his web site. Bill Cosby, who is a comedy legend, doesn’t have to say so.

That tells ya somethin’ don’t it?