Thursday, August 28, 2014

Goldman’s Tripe

Warning: Simplified (and smarter) spelling ahed!

In my time I hav heard a lot of silliness from Lincoln apologists over the years but David Goldman’s tripe pretty well toppt them all. He said:

If Lincoln had not fought the Civil War in 1861, the French invasion of Mexico in 1862 would have established a link with the Confederacy and prevented a Northern blockade.

I had no idea that Lincoln was a soothsayer who could foresee, a year before it happt, that France would take over Mexico in 1862 … Therefore, he HAD to invade the South to stop the spred of slavery thruout Central America. Pardon me while I wrap duct tape about my head to stop this dumbness from bursting my skull.

Mr. Goldman, even if there were som grand European conspiracy to expand work with the South to spred slavery thruout Central America, there has never even been a hint that Lincoln knew of it. Otherwise he would hav touted it. His silence on the subject is thunderous.

Furthermore Mr. Goldman, let me giv you a few fast lessons in geography and international strategy that you seem to be overlooking by buying into this conspiracy theory.

1. The “imperial powers” of Europe had no need of the South if they wisht to spred slavery thruout Central America (CA). Indeed, slavery was still legal in British Honduras (Belize). They had their own foothold in CA. They could hav brought up slaves from Brazil. They didn't need the South.

2. Texas borders Mexico. Had there been any great conspiracy with France, then it would hav been an eath thing to ship arms and munitions to the South overland thru Texas (and cotton the other way). As of 1862, Yankee troops had not yet split the South along the Mississippi.

3. The political reality is that Britain and France could hav acknowledgd the Confederacy and openly allied with it or at least escorted their own ships thru the Yankee blockade. Had the British and French navies done so, it would hav afforded much needed funds, arms, and munitions to the South.

4. It is well known that Lincoln did not invade the South to free the slaves. The end of slavery was an outcome of the war, not its goal.

Anent the they-got-what-they-deservd hit piece by Spengler that you fawn'd over, I felt like I needed to put even more duct tape about my head to keep the dumbness of that writ from making it burst.

Nonetheless, there is no market for Hollywood epics about Sherman’s March to the sea, arguably the most brilliant military campaign in the history of American arms, …

Oh yea … Sherman cutting a swath of theft and destruction* thru Georgia mainly against old men, young boys, and women stands right there with Jackson’s beating off the British at New Orleans; Patton’s march thru Europe against the Nazis; the drive athwart the Pacific against the Japanese; MacArthur’s stunning drive that drove the commies back over the 38th … NOT! And Goldman wunders why we still haven’t come to terms over Lincon’s unlawful war and the following oppressiv 12-year occupation …

Spengler goes on to write:

… the number of rapes and murders committed by his [Sherman’s] soldiers can be counted on one’s fingers.

Yea, and I reckon that Spengler believs the official Japanese rape and murder stats from Nanking as well. Let us not forget that any such stats would hav likely only been upper class white women. Black, slave women women were open game for Yankees. Besides, he was going thru pretty fast. I don't think that a woman rape'd by the tail-end units would hav rac'd to catch up to Sherman to report it.

Sherman like'd picking on the weak and non-combatants so much that he repeated the same tactics against the American Indians. But I reckon that Spengler believs that rapes and murders done by American soldiers against the American Indians didn’t happen either.

Somhow Goldman brings this all to the riots in Ferguson, Mo. … Missouri might hav been a slave state but it didn’t secede so I’m not sure how it is suppose to fall into Mr. Goldman’s outlook that we’re all still suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

As loath as Goldman is to admit it, Judg Andrew Napolitano was dead right when he said Lincoln had done a terribl thing by invading the South and yes, surely, Lincoln could hav found a better way. Goldman seems to think that slavery would not hav ever ended** and that the end justified the means. But then he believs in som world conspiracy theory too. 

He and Spengler believ that we should rejoice at Lincoln trashing the Constitution. I remind you that the US was only one of two lands that ended slavery thru war … the other being Haiti … and that US was not the last land where slavery was legal. I think that belongs to Brazil whereto more than a few Confederates went after the war. For true, a Brazilian friend of mine who is of mixt race background is proud of her confederado heritage. Yes, slavery ended peacefully in Brazil which wasn’t a problem for the Confederate colony there since out of the thousands that went, only four households own'd a grand total of 66 slaves. (Alcides Gussi, State University of Campinas).

I’ll wrap this up with qwote by Lysander Spooner (lawyer, abolitionist, entrepreneur):

The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.  No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle --- but only in degree --- between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man's ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure. (Emphasis mine.)

And that, Mr. Goldman, is why America cannot come to terms with Lincoln’s War. In the end, it has enslav'd us all.


*Sherman apologists often tout that his havocking of Georgia hasten'd the end of the war and/or that it broke the will of the South to fight. Neither is true. His plundering, burning, and widespred havoc no more broke the will the South than did the Blitz break the will of Great Britain. If anything, it would hav stiffen the doggedness to fight back.

The truth was that the South was forspent. Sherman was a hard, competent fighter but no tactical genius. It had been Jefferson Davis' blunder of relieving Johnston and putting Hood in command that led to the sudden downfall of Atlanta (and likely Lincoln’s re-election); the following march to Savannah not any great strategic handiwork by Sherman. Notwithstanding the havocking by Sherman, had Lee slippt away from Grant, the war would hav gone on. It’s as simple as that. Many wanted to keep fighting anyway … guerrilla warfare if they had to. It was Lee’s call for an end that qwell'd that line of thought, not Sherman’s wanton war on civilians.

**Worldwide slavery was on its way out. Indeed, not only were there Suthern abolitionists, but the slaveowners were a small minority.

We alreddy saw hints of it before the War of Northern Aggression. Slaveowners would hire Irish immigrants to do dangerous work that could cripple or kill a man if somthing when wrong. Why? For that the slaveowner had too much invested in a slave to risk the slave being crippl'd or kill'd. If an Irishman died, the could eathly hire another. Far from being free labor, a slave was deep investment and an ongoing cost. A slave had to be hous'd, cloth'd, fed, and even given medical care until they died—tanstaafl! Thus was cheaper for a slaveowner to hire an Irish immigrant than risk a worthful slave.

The Confederate colony in Brazil saw this. They prosper'd by hiring the local nativs to work the fields even tho slavery was still legal in Brazil. In the end, even in Brazil, the small minority that held slaves could not hold out against the majority.

The same would hav happen'd in the South. Not only is there is no reason to believ that slavery would be ongoing today had not Lincoln invaded the South, it is more likely, as in Brazil, that race relations would hav been much better in an orderly shift than in the kaotic downfall and oppressiv occupation following Lincoln’s War of Northern Aggression. It is the backlash from the vengeful Yankee 12-year, harsh, ruthless, carpetbagging, they-deserv-it-and-worse downtroddenness that sour'd race relations for the next hundred years. This likely would not hav happt had there been a frithful, that is peaceful, shift away from slavery.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dived agin Dove

In the week gone by, I've bumped into the dived agin dove controversy more than once. While it is funny to see pedants get all worked up about it, it is time to put this to bed. 

In English there are two basic types of verbs: strong and weak. A strong verb is one that as a stem vowel change in the past tense or past participle: dive → dove. A weak verb is one that adds 'd' or 'ed': dive → dived. Some verbs, like dive, have both forms and thus the controversy.

How we came to this point only highlights a fundamental problem. That problem is how English has been treated since the Norman-French Takeover of England in 1066. I touch on this mindset in this writ. While Latin is taught and encouraged in our schools, Anglo-Saxon (Old English) is ignored below the university level and even then only taken by those who wish to read old texts in their Anglo-Saxon/Old English form. In the meantime, we lose more Anglo-root words to their Latinate counterparts and we have fundamental gaps in the knowledge of English that lead to controversies like this one.

The common mythos is that Americans made up dove as a past tense based on the drive → drove model. This myth is so strong that one sees it in wordbooks and even in academic papers. While, as an American, I'd like to take credit for that, the onefold truth is that isn't so. Dove has been about a lot longer than that. 

That has happened with many words and a lot of usage. The US, not always, but often keeps the older words, the older forms, and the older usage. So which form is the correct one?

In Old English the verb dive had two forms, altho strongly akin they had slightly sunder uses: the strong, class II form dufan had a past participle of dofen (OE didn't have the letter 'v' so here, f=v ... doven). The strong form was intransitive which is how the verb is mainly used today. From dufan we get dive, dove, doven.

The weak form, dyfan, was transitive (meaning to dip something). Thus dufan/dyfan were like lie/lay, rise/raise, sit/set, and fall/fell. The 'y' in OE was pronounced as ΓΌ so you can see the alikeness in pronunciation. From the weak form dyfan we get dive, dived, dived.

In the UK the weak form survived, but with an intransitive meaning, however, American English also keeps the strong form.

Nowadays, dove is also listed as a past participle instead of doven. But to say, "I had dove" requires, to me, an unnatural stop, it just begs for an ending. I have trouble saying, "I had dove" without saying either "doved" or "doven". We know that doved is wrong so I use doven which not only fits the wove, woven pattern but is historically correct from dufan.

We also see this form in other related words. For byspel, from the past participle of the archaic bedive (immerse, submerge, drown) there is also the word bedoven, meaning drenched or drowned. He was bedoven in sweat.

So there it is. Dive is a result of the blending of the usages of dufan and dyfan. For those pedants whose brains must put everything in its own little box, then if you use dive as an intransitive verb then use dive, dove, doven. But for the rest of us, it doesn't matter so much. We can accept that there are two legitimate forms for the past tense.

So use dive, dived, dived or dive, dove, doven without angst!

If you want to have fun ... check out glide. It not only has a weak and a strong form, it has two strong forms! And they're all correct! It would be hard to go wrong with the past tense of glide but yet, even tho it has three past tense forms, it doesn't seem to be controversial.

Snuck is another post ...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do We Need a Space Program?

First my friends, I must apologize for the lapse in time. Even tho I never intended for this to be a daily blog, neither I didn't intend to let nearly year or so elapse. Shortly after my last entry I had a hard drive crash on my laptop. Then the laptop was stolen. Such is life. I went for several months before purchasing another laptop. But now I'm back in the game. So let’s get on with it. 

Warning: Simplified spelling ahed ... They're not typos!

The question arises every so often, “Why do we hav a Space program?” Usually it is followed by another phrase like, “That money could be better spent for ....”

To Space Advocates, having a space program requires no justification other than it exists. Space Advocates dream of the day that interplanetary travel or even interstellar travel is routine. Whether they are a Star Trek utopian or a Browncoat libertarian, they see a space program as the necessary and natural course of events.

International Space Station
But to other folks, they look at the billions of dollars spent on the Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) as a waste of money. They see the United States spending billions of dollars so that an elite few can float about in the ISS and they ask, “Why don't we spend that money here on Earth to help the veterans, the elderly, and the homeless?”

Advocates come back with the standard litany of spinoffs, prestige, national pride, inspiration for the children, asf. But the truth is that all the technologies likely would hav come to light sooner or later without NASA. And besides, they’v happened. They’re past tense and there is no guarantee of future development.

NASA has enjoyed a good reputation that has kept it from being cut to pieces tho not shielded it altogether from cuts. However, we’v never faced a budget crisis like we do now. The new “Age of Austerity” will soon be welling higher premiums for Granny’s Medicare. How do we justify to Granny that she must pay higher Medicare premiums while we spend billions so that an elite few can float about in Space?

I know what you’re going to say ... NASA’s budget is less than 1% of the total amount spent by the U.S. government. Cutting NASA won’t stop the premium increase. True but irrelevant. Granny doesn’t give a hoot about some esoteric science project to measure global warming, telescopes in Space, or dark matter. Unless she works at a chicken farm, she doesn’t care that a vaccine for salmonella came out of the research on the Space Station. Granny likely knows that we went to the Moon many years ago but can’t even do that now so she wonders just what the heck are we spending those billions on when it could be going to her Medicare instead?

In the Age of Austerity, exploration of Space needs to pass the Granny test. How will the money spent in Space help her? It needs to be something that she can easily relate to and something that straightforwardly begoes her. Only a personal purpose will drive Granny to back a major human space mission.

Lately I’v been pondering this. I was reading thru some of the usual Space-related websites when the answer flashed before my eyes like a meteor streaking across the night sky (Hint!). Over the last few years there has been a growing chatter about the need to develop a way to deflect asteroids away from Earth. In his book, Reopening the Space Frontier, John Hickman writes about establishing a lunar base as part of a worldwide shield against a rogue asteroid. To be truthful, this was a thread that I had waved away. After all, a space program robust enuff to get us back to the Moon likely could handle an asteroid errand. Wellll ... things changed last year when Obama killed the thought of going back to the Moon. Soon we’ll even retire the Shuttle and then even Bruce Willis won’t be able to save us from Armageddon.

Is this even an serious threat? Even tho NASA believes that it has located 90% of the asteroids, that 10% is still a huge number of unknowns swirling around out there.

In January, 2010, international experts met in Mexico City to discuss “the best way to establish a global detection and warning network to monitor potential asteroid threats to all life on Earth.”

In June, 2010, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R – CA) introduced H.R. 5587, titled: "To establish a United States Commission on Planetary Defense and for other purposes."

In August, 2010, some scientists foreset ATLAS, short for the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, which calls for two telescopes to serve as an early warning system against incoming asteroids. The scientists “hope such a system could provide many hours or days notice of an impending Earth impact.” Days or hours? That won’t giv anyone much time to do anything but run.

UPDATE 20 Aug 2011: There is a Planetary Defense website.

The Russians are being a little more aggressiv. Russia is considering a plan to launch a spacecraft capable of moving the mikel asteroid Apophis in a bid to shield Earth from an impact. Luckily, it’s not due for about 20 years and may not be a threat. But at least the Russians are on the right track. They know that we need to start working on the technology now.

OK, so it does seem that there is a might-be of an asteroid hitting Earth and causing significant harm. Does this pass the Granny test? I think so. If you tell Granny that there are some big, honking asteroids buzzing about that could crash down on her house in her lifetime, she might be willing to look elsewhere for her premium money. If she still isn't convinced, then breakout the trusty old laptop and show her some pretty amazing videos of tiny asteroids that put on a fiery show.


Here are a few:

Police dash cam of meteor over Edmonton Nov, 2008

Edmonton meteor Nov 2008

Meteor lights up sky in S. Africa 21 Nov 2009

Fireball lights up Midwest sky 14 Apr 2010

In the past I haven’t been an internationalist in the sense that I think international cooperation was a firstship of a space program. I didn’t feel the need to go out and find an international partner for projects. Many of us thought that Neil Armstrong's one small step would be the beginning of a new age of exploration ... of American exploration ... keeping our great tradition of settling a new frontier. But alas, it turned out to be a high water mark as short-sighted politicians began asking one variation or another of the same ol' frain, "Do we need to spend billions on a space program when we have so many problems to solve on earth?"

Eathseen, I think the answer is yes, we do need to spend the gelt. But this time it is a little otherly. Everyone on the planet has a stake in this. But that doesn’t mean that every country needs to be involved. I’m thinking that a moot, gemoot, consortium, league, federation, or confederation (but not Alliance as that has a negativ connotation among the Browncoats) ... pick your name ... of the current spacefaring nations should oversee this project. They’re the ones with the technology and the money.
How do we lessen the politics and focus on the project? I put forth that the Consortium or Gemoot form an organization and call it, for a lack of a better name, the Space Patrol. It will work in a like manner to the U.S. Coast Guard. The members of the Space Patrol, at least at first, will come from the countries of the Consortium but not on loan from their militaries. The members of the Space Patrol should not have divided loyalties. They shouldn’t be worried about their earthside careers or what their next aufgaben will be. The Patrol is their career until they resign or quit.

Nor do they all need to be PhDs and engineers. We have well-trained Sailors that handle the nuclear engines just fine on their ships, this would be no otherwise. And like our Navy, the members of the Patrol must be willing to thole long tours of duty except there will be no ports of call in Space ... at least not at first.

Further, the Patrol headquarters itself should be in Space. Mayhap on a space station in low earth orbit (LEO) or at Lagrange Point 5 (L5) or on the Moon. It may begin with a small station in LEO and later move. This will get rid of any debate among the members of the Consortium as to which country or countries will host the headquarters and burocracy of the Space Patrol. It will also lessen the tendency of an earthside Space Patrol burocracy that becomes more interested in its own comfort than the mission and it will help to keep the focus on Space.

The errand, that is mission, of the Space Patrol will be to find and turn away any asteroids that pose a threat to Earth. It can have secondary errands of clearing out debris in LEO and rescue missions.

So how does this help us in the "Age of Austerity"? I see the Consortium being set up by a treaty among its members and thus would require, in the US, strong bipartisan support to get it yeasaid in the Senate. In order to get that bipartisan support, you'll need not only to convince Granny but the senators as well. Could we get away with just "agreements" and "contracts"? Maybe, but then you'd risk the future support as they would be easier to pull out of or ignore.

As part of the Consortium Treaty (still not going to call it the Alliance!), the members would pledge not only technology but a set amount for X years that could be raised by agreement of the membership. Let's say that the US pledges $20 billion/yr for 10 years ... I know, that's more than NASA's current budget but it is a pittance of spending. Remember, this is not some esoteric science project like most of NASA's projects are. But rather, this is an ongoing errand to literally save the world. If China is on board, they could likely easily match that amount. The Russians, the Europeans, the Japanese ... Pretty soon we'd have some real money to actually get this done. If all pledge $20 billion/yr then just from those five that would be $100 billion/yr for 10 years for a total of $1 Trillion. With that amount of money plus technology and other backing from the Consortium nations, we could get this set up and running within 10 years.

But, you say, they'll just take it from NASA. Maybe. However, remember, that technology and other support is part of the pledge. NASA, as would the ESA and the space agencies of the other countries, would still have a role to play in funding kenseek, that is research, for needful technology and they have other scientific research to do as well.

What about exploration?
Recall that I said before that any program robust enuff to go to the Moon would be robust enuff to handle an asteroid? Well, not only is the reverse true but even more so. A program robust enuff to hav a Space Patrol and the technology to rendezvous with an asteroid would need a Moonbase for raw materials. It would simply be too wasteful and costly to make and haul all the needed materials, fuel, food, and water up to Space from Earth. It would make more sense to use the raw materials available on the Moon. So private enterprise would be going to the Moon along with the Space Patrol. The Space Patrol would not get bogged down in like NASA has in non-Patrol activities. The U.S. Coast Guard doesn't buy raw materials and build their ships. They contract with a ship builder. The Patrol would do the same. If the contract is big enuff, the builders will find a way to get the raw materials on the Moon to lower their costs.

A program that is robust enuff to rendezvous with an asteroid and deflect it would also be robust enuff to exploit it. So gathering raw materials from asteroids might not be too far off in the years to come. Again, this is not a job or purpose of the Space Patrol but there is no reason that private enterprise couldn't buy or build the the same kind of ship and adapt it for its own needs.

What about Mars? Getting to the surface of Mars would not be a priority of the Space Patrol but I could easily see the final shakedown cruise of a ship with either a nuclear-powered Pratt & Whitney TRITON engine or a 200 MW VASIMR engine going to the moons of Mars to practice rendezvousing with an asteroid since the creator of the VASIMR claims he could get to Mars in 39-45 days or maybe a slower 12 MW engine in four months.

Obviously I can't put forth all the details in one short blog. Tho I do hav thoughts as to how things should go if we move forward.

The danger is that we won't go forward. We are on the edge of entering a Dark Time for human space flight beyond LEO. NASA's budget is not only be frozen as a budget saving measure but short-sighted congressmen are already lopping off $298 million for local, non-federal pet projects (see Update 3 below $2 billion slashed). Expect this to happen again and again. Without a clear errand for being in Space, we will, at best, keep on the same flexible path to nowhere that we'v been on for 40 years. The technology will keep coming out as it has for the past 40 years, but the will and funding to actually go beyond LEO will be lacking.

Yes, commercial interests will eventually push beyond LEO, but I'd like to see something happen before my 100th birthday! And there is still the threat of a rogue asteroid appearing out of the Dark!

A World Asteroid Shield (WAS) against a rogue asteroid would give mankind a definit, recognizable, and defendable purpose for being in Space and, at the same time, it could breath new life into moving humanity beyond LEO in an ongoing and maintainable way in the near years ahead.

UPDATE 1, Thursday, 03 Mar 2011: I need to clarify a point or two as a few folks who have written me seem to have missed the point entirely and somehow twisted this foreset to be pro-government, anti-private enterprise. Nothing could be further from the truth. Private enterprise in Space would have to grow to upstay the Space Patrol. The SP would not be a kenseek and upbuild organization!

Further, the existence of the Space Patrol would not hinder the development of private enterprise in Space such as space tourism or mining operations.

This foreset, if done the way I see it, would speed up and enhance private enterprise in Space. For byspel, let's say the budding space tourism grows to include a cruise that goes umbe the Moon ... something like that would be quite spectacular. If the Space Patrol has a base in orbit (or on the Moon itself) and is available for rescue errands (a secondary errand to the worldwide shield), then it takes a huge burden off the firm to always have a second, standby ship crewed and ready to go. Which would mean actually having three ships as one would be in upkeep, one on standby, and one actually earning money. That alone could be so expensiv as to kill the thought before it got started. But having a Space Patrol available for rescue errands would push the thought along. After all, a Patrol vessel capable of rendezvousing with an asteroid should hav no problem tracking a crippled vessel and meeting up with it.

I hope that helps clear things up a bit.

UPDATE 2, Thursday, 30 Jun 2011: Scientists reveal asteroid hit list. Among the countries which face devastation to infrastructure are Canada, the US, China, Japan, and Sweden.

UPDATE 3, Thursday, 07 Jul 2011: CJS subcommittee slashes nearly $2 billion from NASA's budget.

UPDATE 4,  Thusday, 11 Apr 2013: "... a meteor streaked across the sky and blew up, injuring 1,100 people ..." USA Today, 15 Feb 2013. Hat tip to Glen Reynolds for the link in his writ: Combating the Asteroid Threat.

Monday, March 01, 2010

An Open Letter to Charles Krauthammer, RE: Closing the New Frontier

Dear Mr. Krauthammer,

Please pardon this long piece, but after reading your editorial, Closing the New Frontier, many times, I decided that it demanded a rather detailed answer. While I agree with your endsay, that is conclusion, that Obama just shut the door to human exploration of Space beyond LEO (low earth orbit), I strongly disagree with how you got there. To be truthful, I expected better from you. The writ has a partisan taste to it owing to the inaccuracies contained therein.

Inaccuracies addressed

You begin by claiming that it is the first time that we've had no access to Space since John Glenn. This simply isn't right. When the Shuttle was grounded after the Columbia accident, we had to send people up via the Russians. True it was self-imposed but so is this one. We could keep flying the Shuttle until there is another system but we have chosen not to do so. We can debate as to whether that is a wise decision or not, but it is the current decision. 

You go on by claiming that there is no prospect of having another system in place for the the foreseeable future. Again this is inaccurate. As I type this, SpaceX is assembling the Falcon 9 at the Cape for a test launch tentatively set for 22 Mar 12 April 2010. SpaceX also has the Dragon capsule which will not only carry cargo but is capable of carrying seven humans which, I might add, is more than the Orion capsule is designed for. The truth is that there will soon be a private sector alternative to NASA's bloated and over-budgeted Ares I. Not only can the private sector do it, it is doing it and it will be online well before the Ares I would have been.

Which brings me to your next point. I'm surprised that, as a conservative, you think that a government agency such as NASA can launch humans into Space better and safer than can private enterprise. Too risky? Too experimental? We've known how to do it for 50 years! In the early years, NASA was willing to take risks and was on the cutting edge which is where it should be. That was what being an astronaut was all about. They were former test pilots who liv'd for the adrenaline rush ... but no longer. NASA has gone from a slim, trim agency that was focus'd on a goal to a bloated, risk averse burocracy with no vision. What little vision it did have, was taken by Obama.

As for your assertion that going to Mars is nonsense and just too far away, well ... that's nonsense! Bob Zubrin of the Mars Society has already laid out a workable plan called Mars Direct. It doesn't call for any radical new technology but it does call for an HLV (heavy lift vehicle). Since we don't have one (tho SpaceX has a design for Falcon 9 Heavy), Grant Bonin argues that not only can we use the MLVs (medium lift vehicle) that we currently have but it is also more economical to do so.

Whether we use HLVs or MLVs, the Mars Direct keeps to what I call the "good enuff" policy. "Better" is the enemy of "good enuff". Would it be better to have nuclear propulsion? Yea, you bet it would, but the chemical rockets are "good enuff" to get boots on the ground now. "Better" is what drug down and kill'd Constellation. Dusting off and modernizing the plans for Saturn and Apollo or using MLVs would have been "good enuff" to get boots on the Moon and thus would have ensured human exploration beyond LEO. But NASA chose to start over from scratch. The delays and costs killed any prospect of making it to the Moon in the next twenty years via NASA all because the burocracy wasn't interested in "good enuff".

UPDATE 15 Apr 13: Well, maybe I haven't been the lone wolf howling at the Moon after all, see: How NASA brought the monstrous F-1 “moon rocket” engine back to life / The story of young engineers who resurrected an engine nearly twice their age. — ArsTechnica, 14 Apr 13 here and New F-1B rocket engine upgrades Apollo-era design with 1.8M lbs of thrust — ArsTechnica, 14 Apr 13 here

But let's keep on with your objections. The long-term weightlessness is also addressed in the Mars Direct program with the use of a counterweight to induce a spin for artificial gravity. The problem also could be solved by reducing the trip time with a nuclear propulsion system which I'll come back to shortly.  

As for radiation, the whole thing about the radiation exposure is way out of line. News reports in the past have misrepresented the risk, stating that it might prevent human missions to Mars. However, it could be easily managed with current technology and is within tolerable limits. An astronaut in a six-month faring to Mars, the time required with conventional propulsion, would be exposed to about 0.3 sieverts, or 0.6 on a round-trip. Eighteen months on the surface (if it takes so long to get there, you might as well stay awhile!) would bring another 0.4 sieverts, for a total exposure of 1 sievert. Limits set by NASA vary with age and gender but range from 1 to 3 sieverts.

The danger lies in an unexpected intense solar flare but there are "good enuff" ways to add in the shielding needed. One way to add shielding for spacefarers aboard a Mars transport ship might be to surround them with the water they'd need for their trip or  the hydrogen for fuel. The hydrogen in water, scientists have learn'd, is one of the best absorbers of particle radiation. And, of course, the "better" way to lower the dose gotten would with shielding technology such as a simple magnetic plasma bubble that NASA has been testing for years. This alone would shield the astronauts from most radiation on their trip to Mars. Add a radiation compartment completely surrounded by water or hydrogen as mention above to stop the fast and slow solar neutrons then you would have a truly safe trip.

You can't plan for every contingency. But that is part of the risks! That is what being on the cutting edge is all about. If you designed the perfectly safe airplane, it'd never get off the ground. The astronauts who volunteer know the risks. Would you turn down a trip to Mars just because you couldn't get triple redundancy on every component? I wouldn't.

Mars isn't a bait and switch as you put forth. Mars was always the goal. The Moon was only supposed to be stepping-stone that many argued was unneeded in the first place. In that sense, Obama isn't trying to pull a fast one. However, I, like you, doubt his sincerity.


Human space flight has always been strongly opposed by two groups. There are those who think that the funds could be better spent on social programs despite the fact that Health and Human Services would eat NASA's budget in about a week with no lasting effect. Then there are those inside of NASA who think that human exploration is a waste of money ... more could be done with robots. What the second group fails to realize is that the first group will turn on them if human exploration is ever eliminated. I would guess that Obama definitely falls into the first group. According to Rand Simberg, "Obama’s first space policy position appeared on the “Education” section of his campaign website; it bizarrely put forth that Constellation be postponed for five years in order to fund new educational programs." He may also fall into the other group as well ... or at least his science advisors fall into the other group. The combination of both has led Obama to effectively end human exploration beyond LEO.

What could change my mine about Obama's sincerity? I hold a glimmer of hope, since Obama has come out in support of nuclear energy, that this will translate to reviving nuclear propulsion. Nuclear propulsion would cut down the travel time to Mars to about 60 days which would give the astronauts 90 days on Mars before they had to return to earth which now would take another 75 days, so the round trip, including the time on surface, would be around 225 days drastically cutting down the astronauts exposure to radiation and weightlessness. It would also allow a greater payload. Nuclear propulsion technology is nothing new, NASA has been testing this type of advanced technology for 50 years. It just needs some emphasis but I have yet to see money flowing into reconstructing a nuclear engine prototype similar to NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application), the Pratt and Whitney TRITON, or even a nuclear power source for a VASIMR engine.

NASA needs to back away a little or maybe a lot from a process called failure mode effects analysis (FMEA). FMEA was designed by NASA as a way to think through a system's reliabilty to pin down possible ways it could break; then tests are designed to validate the system under those conditions. This sounds good in concept but it has led to unneedingly lengthening the research and development stages in an effort to make sure that it worked correctly and perfectly the first time. It would be fetching to find out how many patents NASA has been awarded in the last twenty years versus the previous years to see if this process has had any effect the actual amount of research being done.

If Obama is serious about research in lieu of exploration, it would be better to return the X-project mode of research which focuses on technological objectives. If you want to design a nuclear engine then design and test a nuclear engine, don't design the whole spacecraft to go with it. It should say something when a former astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, leaves NASA to pursue the VASIMR technology and now NASA is about to test it at the ISS (in 2013). Shouldn't it be the other way around with NASA passing the technology off to private enterprise?

Again, tho, I must emphasize that we have the technology to get to Mars now with "good enuff". Nuclear propulsion and VASIMR engines should be ready for the second or third generation of Earth-Mars transport vehicles.

Whither NASA?

Let's face it. In a few weeks, human explorers could have done all the research, and more, that was done by robots on Mars over the past several years. Once Apollo landed, scientists were salivating at the research possibilities but that was pulled out from under them. Has Obama just shut NASA out from sending humans to do scientific research on other planets?

Does retreating to do research end NASA's role in human exploration? Is it NASA's job to put a man on the Moon or to provide the research so that the National Geographic Society (NGS) could put a man on the Moon? The question that we should be asking Obama and Bolden to clarify is: Do you see human space exploration beyond LEO as part of the research effort by NASA?

I think you'll get different answers depending on whom you ask. Bolden will try to hedge a bit. NASA, as an institution, wants to be in the forefront of human exploration but does Obama want it there?

This is how I understand the situation.

1. Obama has killed Constellation. That in itself isn't a bad thing if the decision was reached because Constellation was bloated, over budget, and behind schedule. But Obama did the right thing for the wrong reason. He didn't do in an effort to get the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) back on track. He did it to end the VSE.

2. Obama turned transportation to LEO over to private enterprise. Again, the right thing for the wrong reason. Unless NASA intended to earn a profit from it in order to support other endeavors, it was time for NASA to get out of the way. Personally, I would have kept the Shuttle going until the Falcon/Dragon came online despite the cost but it wasn't my decision to make. However, I believe Obama did it in order to get NASA out of the rocket launching/design business all together.

3. Obama has order NASA to focus on earth sciences with emphasis on studying climate change. Is this really the purpose of the National AERONAUTICAL and SPACE Administration?

4. Obama has said that NASA is to do the research to allow private organizations like the NGS to go to the Moon. So what is the focus of this research? Will it design but not build a HLV? Will it test nuclear propulsion or just work on designs and turn them over to companies like SpaceX? Will there be a need for astronauts at NASA?


I applaud turning transportation to LEO over to private enterprise. It's time for NASA to step aside.

I'm even ok with killing Constellation simply because NASA was wasting money and, more importantly, time reinventing the wheel. In the time frame since the announcement of the VSE by President Bush, we should have already been on the Moon again testing equipment for Mars.

I'm not ok with withdrawing NASA from human exploration. This is where NASA should be. It should be out there on the edge. Astronauts are explorers and test pilots who want to be on the edge. This is where we, as a nation should be.

Ironically, for better or worse, this could lead to further militarization of Space. The military has a need to be in Space. Without NASA leading the way, the military will forge ahead with its own programs.

For now, the U.S. still has the technological edge in Space but we're about to loose it thru inaction. We must market to the American public that we, as a nation, are explorers ... It is what we have done from the moment the first colony sprang up in the New World. IT IS PART OF OUR DNA! Folks from all over the world migrated to the U.S. to take part in pushing the frontier. WE TAKE RISKS! It's what we do. Exploration is HOPE! If we turn out back on Space, we're giving up hope ...

It also helps to guarantee our Liberty. Is it a coincidence that every time the U.S. turns it back on exploration and begins to examine its own navel that we loose more freedoms and liberties? Those who found that "civilization" with it ever encroaching rules, regulations, and burocracy was too confining could head for the frontier to escape the burocrats. It was a relief valve. Now where is that frontier; where is that relief valve? It's either the ocean or Space, neither of which are open to the common person.

We need to move common folks to Space. Astronauts should be out pushing the technology ... and yes, this means some will die when it fails but like I said, we take risks! There should be a rotation of technicians who take care of the inner workings of the ISS. We should not be sending astronauts to fix the toilet!

The ISS should serve as a base station for the astronauts to sleep, eat, and relax when they're not out testing a prototype nuclear-powered OTV (orbital transfer vehicle). There should also be tech there to work on the OTV when it returns to dock at the ISS.

Sigh, we could turn the ISS into a truly fremful, that is useful and effective, platform and push our knowledge and engineering while at the same time capturing the imagination of those still on the ground ... but sadly, we won't.

Mr. Krauthammer, you reached the right conclusion but for the wrong reasons.

Obama did indeed just slam the door shut.

04 Mar 10 - Added links that I had forgotten and mentioned the Falcon 9 Heavy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ich bin ein Berliner/International Freedom Day

Monday, 09 Nov 09

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet one must search for anything other than a mention of it or a slideshow in the U.S. media. How sad. This should be International Freedom Day for the world to celebrate. It was the day that the bell tolled for the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, and communism in general. It was the day that showed the world that the Iron Curtain rested on a layer of clay. It was a day that brought tears to my eyes.

Allow me a moment to explain and to reminisce. In the mid-80s, I served as an American soldier in Berlin. These were turbulent years as the Cold War was drawing to conclusion tho we didn't know it at the time. The First World nations of the United States, NATO, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand and the Second World nations of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact still faced each other across the globe with the Third World nations, consisting of everyone else, were caught up in the turmoil. During my tour of duty the Pershing missile deployment to counter the Soviet SS-20 missile was still controversial, Major Nicholson was killed, Chernobyl melted down (I remember ducking out of the first rain after Chernobyl ... just in case), Solidarity in Poland was a thorn in the side of the bear, and there was the terrorist attack on La Belle's in Berlin which led to the bombing of Libya (I narrowly missed being there having just gotten off a late shift and declined to join some of my buddies who did go). While the Superpowers exchanged rhetoric, those of us in Berlin quietly kept watch. It was a rich environment for those serving in the intelligence field. There were five Soviet Armies in East Germany and more just across the border in Poland.

Berlin was a unique place at the time. As one walked down the Ku'damm to go to the Irish Pub for drink, it was easy to forget that the city was surrounded and virtually under constant siege. But no matter where you went, the Wall was in the back of your mind. It was about 100 miles of a double-row fence made of reinforced concrete with a no-man's strip in between. Any unauthorized person in this no-man's land could be shot without question. There were several escape attempts that never made the news. Our hearts always sank when the East Germans soldiers or Polizei capture one. We always joked that in case of war, the Soviets would simply put a sign on the wall and call it the West Berlin POW Camp since they already had the Wall and the guard towers built.

It was also unique politically. Few people know that in Berlin, WWII was still a reality. The four powers, the United State, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union each controlled a section of Berlin. Originally France wasn't included but Great Britain feared that the United States would pull out of Berlin and leave Great Britain alone, so a sector was carved out for France. What this meant tho, was that Berlin was still under military occupation. For my service in Berlin, I was awarded the WWII occupation medal instead of the overseas ribbon given to those stationed in the "Zone" (West Germany). I kidded my father that we were veterans of the same war. Indeed, I was eligible and did join the VFW. Under occupation rules the "Allies" had free access to each other's sector. Thus, I could, and did, make trips to the Soviet Sector also known as East Berlin. And since we were the occupying powers, the German guards were not allowed to search or detain us. Seeing East Berlin was educational. It was supposed to be the showcase of communism to counter the glitz of West Berlin. It never even came close.

Still, Berlin was a great place to be. It was ALIVE! It was if everyone knew it could end at any time and were determined to live life to its fullest. I usually rode my bicycle from Andrews Kaserne in Lichterfelde to the Teufelberg site in the Grunewald. I joined Germans and Americans as we met at our weekly Kontakt stammtisch for German-American friendship and it gave me a chance to practice speaking German among friends. Unlike in the Zone where there were often protests and demonstrations against American military bases, most Germans in Berlin were very grateful for our presence. I swam in the lakes and, yes, laid out at the nude beaches there. I met friends for a drink at the Irish Pub while the live band often played Beatles music. Life was on the edge.

However, the Wall, was there, ever present. I sometimes rode the S-bahn line that ducked under the Wall and no-man's land. There were closed stations there. Eerie reminders of times past and the constant tension of the Wall. The station signs that could be scene by the light of the train were printed in the old German letters used during WWII. Stations put out of commission by the Wall.

The sight of these ghostly stations and the Wall itself often brought back the words of President John F. Kennedy:

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the Free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

President Ronald Reagan visited our city 24 years later. He stated, "Es gibt nur ein Berlin" (There is only one Berlin) and challenged the Soviet General Secretary to "tear down this wall!" I remembered that he was ridiculed for that statement at time by those outside of Berlin. Those in Berlin cheered. Who would have guessed that just over two years later, it would start to fall and his statement would come true. There is only one Berlin.

I eventually returned to Memphis, enrolled in Memphis State University (as it was known then), and got on with life. I missed Berlin but had to move my life forward. While I was no longer connected to the intelligence community, I had learned how sift the news for kernels of truth. It was obvious to me and many others that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were in trouble and were faltering. I knew things had to come to a crossroads sooner rather than later. Would the hardliners loose the dogs of war?

The day that I watched, on TV, a young lady walk to the middle of no-man's land between the walls and give an East German soldier a flower, I cried and I cheered. Just two years earlier, maybe even a month earlier, she would have, at a minimum, been arrested or possibly even shot. I knew we were close. If the tanks didn't roll out soon, this might be it. As it turned out, the reformers kept the hardliners at bay until it was too late. The Wall began to crumble.

The Soviet Union itself disintegrated two years later. The Cold War was finally over.

Historians and political pundits will debate for years about the causes of the Great Collapse. I normally would offer my view from trenches but today is not the day for that. Today is an international day of freedom. Today is a day of celebration.

Noticed that earlier I wrote, "our city". In the tradition of John F. Kennedy, I consider myself to be a Berliner. I have been to Paris and to Athens. While they are great cities, if I have a "home" in Europe, it is Berlin. I haven't been back for years but I did visit after the Wall fell. Berlin has changed but it is still Berlin.

However, the world has changed but again, this is not the time or place to bemoan the ironic loss of liberty in the United States. It is a day of celebration of the freedom gained in the rest of the world.

If you have never read Kennedy's speech (or listened to it) I would suggest you do. It is one of the greatest speeches of history. Let me close with his words:

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."