“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Space Shuttle is History - Don't Blame Obama

On Apr 01, 2005, US President George W. Bush declared that he had signed a rare Presidential Decree canceling any further expenditure of Federal funds on the US Space Shuttle program. "We cannot find any justification to continue the deficit funding of a program that has no application other that proving that with enough money America can do anything," said Bush.

"The whole world knows that already, so why keep spending money on it," he added.

The announcement was made during an even rarer press conference with the Whitehouse press corps, at which the President started proceedings by handing out Easter Eggs, quipping, "it might be politically incorrect to hand these out, but don't worry we got them on discount at a Wal-Mart sale so they aren't really religious items anymore."

With the press left looking like stunned bunnies, the President took to the podium before dropping today's bombshell that Congressional supporter's of the Space Shuttle have told SpaceDaily, "will cost thousands of jobs, and leave school children confused as to what America can actually do in space anymore."

During the press conference Bush told reporters, "I don't want to see another NASA administrator - appointed on my watch - left to justify a program to Congress based on lies, dis-information, half-truths and sexed up reports."

During a brief two-minute period provided for questions from the press, the first reporter asked if this meant the Space Station was also being shut down. To which the President answered, "we plan to either hold an auction on Ebay or give it away to "our international partners."
Space Daily


A half century of manned space exploration

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most important events in human history: the day when a human being left the confines of Earth and entered space.
On this date, April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first such person. He would not be the last.
Last year on this date I posted my thoughts on this. Reading it again this morning, I found most of my thinking is still the same, so I have reposted the essay below. However, one or two things have changed a little since it originally went up, and I have edited it lightly to reflect them. The original still exists at the link above.

40 years later, failure is still not an option
This week marks three related anniversaries.
April 12, 1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space. That was 49 years ago today.
April 14, 1970: An oxygen tank disrupts on Apollo 13, causing a series of catastrophic malfunctions that nearly leads to the deaths of the three astronauts. That was 40 years ago this week.
April 12, 1981: The first Space Shuttle, Columbia, launches into space. That was 29 years ago today.
I wasn’t yet born when Gagarin flew, and I was still too young to appreciate what was happening on board Apollo as it flew helplessly around the Moon instead of landing on it. But I do remember breathlessly awaiting the Shuttle launch, and I remember thinking it would be the next phase in our exploration of space. I was still pretty young, and hadn’t thought it through, but I’m sure had you asked me I’d have said that this would lead to cheap, easy, and fast access to space, and by the time the 21st century rolled around we’d have space stations, more missions to the Moon, and maybe even to Mars.
Yeah, I hadn’t thought it through. Of all these anniversaries, that one is the least of the three we should celebrate.

Don’t get me wrong; the Shuttle is a magnificent machine. But it’s also a symbol of a political disaster for NASA. It was claimed that it would be cheap way to get payloads to space, and could launch every couple of weeks. Instead, it became frightfully expensive and couldn’t launch more than a few times a year.
This was a political problem. Once it became clear that NASA was building the Shuttle Transport System, it became a feeding trough. It never had a chance to be the lean space machine it should’ve been, and instead became bloated, weighted down with administrative bureaucracy and red tape.
More than that, though, to me it symbolizes a radical shift in the vision of NASA. We had gone to the Moon six times — seven, if you include Apollo 13 — and even before the launch of Apollo 17 that grand adventure had been canceled by Congress, with NASA being forced to look to the Shuttle. Ever since then, since December 1972, we’ve gone around in circles.
Now, there’s a lot to be said for low Earth orbit. It is a fantastic resource for science, and I strongly think we should be exploiting it even more. But it’s not the goal. It’s like walking halfway up a staircase, standing on your tiptoes, and admiring the view of the top landing.
We need to keep walking up those stairs. In 1961, the effects of space travel were largely unknown, but Yuri Gagarin took that chance. He was followed by many others in rapid succession. Extrapolating from his travels, by now there should be a business making money selling tours of the mountain chains around Oceanus Procellarum by now. Of the three anniversaries, looking at it now, Gagarin’s is bittersweet.
In 1970 Apollo 13 became our nation’s "successful failure". A simple error had led to a near tragedy, saved only by the experience, training, guts, and clever thinking on their feet of a few dozen engineers. They turned catastrophe into triumph, and now, four decades later, we can’t repeat what they did. Think on this: when the disaster struck their ship, the crew of Apollo 13 were over 300,000 kilometers from Earth. Apollo 13 may have been a successful failure, but it’s a failure we can’t even repeat today if we tried.
I’ve written quite a bit about NASA’s future, including my support of Obama’s decision to cancel Constellation, the program that includes the next series of big rockets to take people into space. That may seem contradictory on its surface, but I support the decision because, in my opinion, Constellation was over budget, behind schedule, and had no clear purpose — and private space companies are positioned to do it better, cheaper, and faster. The idea of going back to the Moon is one I very much strongly support, but I get the impression that the plan itself is not well-thought out by NASA. The engineering, sure, but not the political side of it. And it’s the politics that will always and forever be NASA’s burden.
It was a political decision to cancel Apollo. It was a political decision to turn the Shuttle from a space plane to the top-heavy system it is. It was a political decision to cancel the Shuttle with no replacement planned at all (that was done before Obama took office, I’ll note). It was a political decision that turned the space station from a scientific lab capable of teaching us how to live and explore space into the hugely expensive and bloated construction it is now.
NASA needs a clear vision, and it needs one that is sturdy enough to resist the changing gusts of political winds. I’m hoping that Obama’s plan will streamline NASA, giving away the expensive and "routine" duties it needs not do so that private industry can pick them up. The added money to go to science, again in my hopes, will spur more innovation in engineering.
And NASA needs a goal. It needs to put its foot down and say "This is our next giant step." And this has to be done hand in hand with the politics. I understand that is almost impossible given today’s political climate, where statesmanship and compromise has turned into small-minded meanness and childish name-calling on the Congress floor. Not to mention plans for drastic and in many cases crippling budget cuts across the board by Congress.
But I’m old enough to remember when NASA could do the impossible. That was practically their motto. Beating the Soviets was impossible. Landing on the Moon was impossible. Getting Apollo 13 back safely was impossible.
Of the three anniversaries, Apollo 13 is the one we should be celebrating. I’ll gently correct what Gene Kranz said that day:
Failure is always an option. But it is not an acceptable one.
Right now, at this very moment, those feats are all impossible once again. But for a time, they were not only possible, we made them happen.
It’s time to do the impossible once a


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Just the first of many extravagances that will be facing the chopping block. We just have to face the fact that just because something can be done, it should be, is no longer the state of play, for US.

    This ugly truth will soon raise its head in the Medicare Program, when procedures that could save a senior are not going to be subsidized by the taxpayer.

    Whether administrated by "Death Panels" or some other bureaucratic system. The open ticket is about to be canceled.

    One way or another.

    The expenditures on space travel, something that need not be subsidize by the taxpayer any further.

    Richard Branson and Burt Rutan prove that civilian space flight is possible without Federal subsidy.


  3. House GOP budget retains Democratic Medicare cuts

    The Associated Press

  4. Dear Abby

    I had a very disturbing dream last night. I can't remember all the details, but I do remember the faces. I also remember, for the 4th time in the last two weeks, it being about water. The first being about my daughter lost in a mass body of water and a friend using her surf board to go find her. After that it's all a blur.

    All I know is I tossed and turned all night despite the incredible long over due relaxing evening I had with a friend.

    While I didn't get a well rested sleep, I'm wondering if my eyes are deceiving when I read, "Don't blame Obama."

    : /

    Sleepless in….

  5. The space shuttle was a dead end from the gitgo. I'm old enough to remember when we going places. Like the Moon. After that we put all our bets on a glorified Vomit Comet and just went around and around the Earth til the birds got dizzy, studying the sex lives of newts in zero gravity, and losing 14 astronauts in the process.
    "Obama to call for higher taxes" is about as shocking as "Pope to call for more prayer."

  6. Computerworld - As NASA celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch, the agency is also looking ahead to the next chapter in space exploration.

    Officials at NASA also say they're eager to find out what innovative technology will emerge from its effort to build a next generation of spacecraft designed to fly humans to the moon, to asteroids and on to Mars.

    "Just as exciting as looking back [at the shuttle history] is looking into the future [to see] what will replace the shuttle," said Dan Lockney, a program specialist with NASA.

    "We're investing heavily in the game changing technologies that will lead to the next generation of NASA's space missions," he said. "With the retirement of the shuttle we'll develop technologies that will get us even further into space than the space shuttles ever [could]. It'll be interesting to see what innovations that will bring."

    NASA is still spending money that the US does not have, if they are "investing heavily".

    There should be a 50% reduction in NASA staffers, now. This reduction should be supported by anyone that wants to reduce the Federal deficit.

    NASA is as obsolete as the Space Shuttle.

  7. There should be a 50% reduction in NASA staffers, now. This reduction should be supported by anyone that wants to reduce the Federal deficit.

    Amen, it's a relic of the Cold War, we didn't want the whole universe to be "Red". Space is big business, think communication satellites, next big thing is solar power satellites beaming the juice down with microwaves. But it's finished as a showcase for national pride.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Bloomberg - ‎
    Sales at US retailers rose in March for a ninth consecutive month.

  10. Interesting EIA Report, today.

    7 Million Barrel Drawdown in Gasoline.

    Whoop. Tha's a lot.

  11. Dear Sleepless -

    What you are expressing is crystal clear to me.

    You are expressing your inner desire to let it all hang out and go fly fishing with a friend and get the hell out of the city.

    I have read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, thank you very much, so I know what I say.

    I always recomment the Royal Coachman. It is very fit for a variety of stream conditions.


  12. The first being about my daughter lost in a mass body of water and a friend using her surf board to go find her. After that it's all a blur.

    You see, this is often what happens, your anxiety of something new is bringing up a blockage.

    Gargle with salt water, go to the Doctor as I did yesterday, to be told the scaring on my tongue is not from the broken tooth, as I supposed, but I may have oral cancer. This is the second Big C scare in three months, but it's put my mind to working on my pome about my death, have really worked hard on this, it is good, but no one to share it with. Bummer.

    The basis is a hike up some Nevada mountain, a man alone, and I've incorporated more than seven references to the poets I love.

    Alas, though very good, I have no one to send it to, my wife not liking poetry, less it praises her self.


  13. I tossed and turned all night despite the incredible long over due relaxing evening

    That's so obvious it hardly warrants mentioning.

    That's the action of a Royal Coachman, from Missoula, Montana.

    They have wonderfull fish shops there.