Bits of stuff…

March 21, 2012

Okay, I’m not a very football-oriented guy…what’s the deal with Peyton Manning being hired by the Denver Broncos? Wasn’t there some kid named Tebow playing there?

This morning (Tuesday) the weather guy from “Good Morning America” was on WLS radio. He said that meteorologists don’t know what’s going on with the unusually warm weather and can’t predict what’s going to happen next. How is this different from their usual long-range predictions? He said they are very confident about short-term – 3 or 4 days out – but farther than that? I never really thought they could do very well with long-term anyway. Too chaotic a system. About the only things I can think of that might be predictors are solar output and cosmic rays. But that’s really long-term, like years, not six months.

Looks like Mitt Romney has won the Illinois primary. That’s the last time Illinois will have any effect on Republicans at the national level for years and years, I’m afraid. I expect the state to go to Obama in the general no matter what we do here. It was only important this time because neither Gingrich nor Santorum would drop out. I went to vote and couldn’t find “none of the above.” Too bad. I had to choose another one.

Still convinced the recent flap about Rush Limbaugh was just regular folks who had had enough? This local advertiser in New York went on Fox Business to tell the truth. Yes, it just fuels the conspiracy-theory fires. But sometimes it’s not paranoia, it’s somebody really out to get you. (Careful! The link takes you to – ooooh noooo!!! – a page on the Rush Limbaugh site.)

I haven’t seen Episode 7 of “Smash” yet, so I’ll have to post on that another day.

I didn’t watch it, but apparently Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Bankroller of SpaceX, was interviewed on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last Sunday and took exception to statements previously made by Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan. They seem to believe that commercial space is not the direction to go; and Musk presented himself as not only an entrepreneur but also as a full-bore space exploration enthusiast who believes we need to explore space and is willing to put his considerable fortune where his mouth is.

(Let it be known that Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon – but he’s a bit touchy about that – is very pro-commercial space, and has been promoting it for decades.)

Now, I’m going to make a distinction here: remember, the Federal Government doesn’t create anything but red tape. When they need something, from bombers to buckets, they have to buy them from a regular commercial company. So, we can say that NASA built the moon rockets in the Apollo program, but while they did have designers and researchers, the hardware was designed and built by good old USA corporations. Some of you may remember my rant about how the Saturn V was built by Chrysler.)

SpaceX has a significant number of satellite customers already lined up for Falcon 9 launches once testing is complete. These are not generally government entities. They also have a development contract with NASA called COTS in which they receive some funding to help spur development of the Dragon capsule that will supply the ISS, and the manned version that will ultimately take crew there and eliminate our need for buying seats on Russian 1960s-technology hardware. Several companies are participating in COTS and are competing for the ISS and other manned space work.

If Armstrong and Cernan want to, they could promote Boeing’s manned space capsule, which seems to have an inside track with NASA because of the previous association the company has had with the agency, or NASA’s own Orion project, being built by Lockheed Martin. These companies are still corporations, not arms of the government, even though their connections with the government – defense, especially – are very strong.

SpaceX is a little upstart company that is basically funded by Musk’s own personal fortune, much as Virgin Galactic is being funded by Richard Branson. While they are receiving government funds, they primarily are going to live or die on building a successful booster and getting satellites into orbit for clients. How is this a bad thing? Let’s say they can’t get a manned vehicle to fly successfully by, say 2020. They will most likely go out of business or just drop back into the satellite-only market, which, frankly, is a bit saturated at the moment globally. No harm, no foul, and not nearly as many taxpayer dollars are wasted as would be if the development of the vehicle was completely funded by NASA.

So I don’t understand the reluctance of Armstrong and Cernan to embrace such endeavors. It seems like a win-win for America’s space exploration efforts, and minimal expense by the taxpayer for maximum reward. I’m much more concerned about the relationship between NASA and LockMart and Boeing, to be honest. I really get the feeling that “the fix is in” for those companies to be successful in getting more of NASA’s business not because they have superior hardware, but because of their track record with the Federal Government.

We’ll see. I read Musk’s remarks and I tend to agree with him.


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