Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
 

Recommended Photo Store
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading? Click here to find out.
 
Make your Amazon purchases though this banner to support this blog:
 
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Contributors:
  •   Please send any comments or suggestions about America 3.0 to:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Archive for the 'Space' Category

    John Quincy Adams on Gaza

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 18th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Our relations with Spain the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) remain nearly in the state in which they were at the close of the last session. The convention of 1802 Oslo Accords of 1991 and 1995, providing for the adjustment of a certain portion of the claims of our citizens for injuries sustained by spoliation, and so long suspended by the Spanish PA Government has at length been ratified by it, but no arrangement has yet been made for the payment of another portion of like claims, not less extensive or well founded, or for other classes of claims, or for the settlement of boundaries. These subjects have again been brought under consideration in both countries, but no agreement has been entered into respecting them.

    In the mean time events have occurred which clearly prove the ill effect of the policy which that Government has so long pursued on the friendly relations of the two countries, which it is presumed is at least of as much importance to Spain the PLA as to the United States Israel to maintain. A state of things has existed in the Floridas Gaza Strip the tendency of which has been obvious to all who have paid the slightest attention to the progress of affairs in that quarter. Throughout the whole of those Provinces to which the Spanish Palestinian title extends the Government of Spain the PLA has scarcely been felt. Its authority has been confined almost exclusively to the walls of Pensacola and St. Augustine the West Bank, within which only small garrisons have been maintained. Adventurers from every country, fugitives from justice, and absconding slaves have found an asylum there. Several tribes of Indians Islamists, strong in the number of their warriors terrorists, remarkable for their ferocity, and whose settlements extend to our limits, inhabit those Provinces.

    These different hordes of people, connected together, disregarding on the one side the authority of Spain the PA, and protected on the other by an imaginary line which separates Florida the Gaza Strip from the United States Israel, have violated our laws prohibiting the introduction of slaves, have practiced various frauds on our revenue, and committed every kind of outrage on our peaceable citizens which their proximity to us enabled them to perpetrate.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Israel, Law Enforcement, Markets and Trading, Space | 4 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed From a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 19th October 2013 (All posts by )

    (This is a rerun, with minor edits, of a post from 2012)

    This month marks the 51st anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Last year I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I’m still hoping to get around to reviewing one of these days.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    An Age of Decline?

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    In 2011, I reviewed a biography of General Bernard Schriever, who led missile development activities for the US Air Force. The bio noted that Schriever and his crew had been referred to as “tomorrow’s men” in a 1957 TIME cover story, to which I commented:

    In retrospect, this was true only if one defined “tomorrow” as the interval between the appearance of the article and, say, July 1969. Actually it could be argued that Schriever was a man of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the era of the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam and the Empire State Building. In our current era, the execution of such projects has become difficult almost to the point of impossibility. Schreiver faced down General LeMay and Secretary Talbott..would a modern-day Schriever be able to prevail against the lilliputian army of lawyers, “community activists,” and “public interest” nonprofits who obstruct every single project of any size?

    July 1969 was of course the month in which the American manned moon landing took place. A couple of months ago, Daniel Greenfield (aka Sultan Knish) marked to anniversary of the landing with one of the most depressing blog posts of the year.

    No one who was born after 1935 has walked on the moon. That period is swiftly becoming a historical relic. A thing that men did who lived long ago. A great work of other times like the building of dams and fleets, the winning of wars and the expansion of frontiers. Those are things that the men of back then did. Those are not things that we do anymore…

    In those long lost days, we did great things. The bureaucrats took their cut and the contractors chiseled and the lobbyists lobbied and the whole great vulture pack of government swarmed and screeched and still somehow, with a billion monkeys on our back, we moved forward, because we still had great goals. Now our goal is government. There is no longer a moon. Only a paper moon.

    The whole mess of bureaucrats, contractors, lobbyists, policy experts, consultants, congressmen, aides, crooks, creeps, thieves and agents is no longer a necessary evil that we put up with in order to accomplish great things. It is the great thing that we accomplish. There are no more moon landings, no more dams or tallest buildings in the world. The massive towering edifice of our own government is now our moon landing, our Hoover Dam, our Empire State Building…

    We have replaced confidence with attitude. And the difference between them is the same as the difference between a civilization and the savages outside. Confidence comes from competence. Attitude comes from rituals of pride uninformed by achievements.

    Please read the whole depressing thing. And then think about it. And discuss.

    Can we convince the Sultan that things are not really so bleak, that American can and will have a brilliant future?

    Or do we have to admit that things are really as dark as portrayed in the post?

     

    Posted in History, Society, Space, USA | 37 Comments »

    The Whole Universe on Your Screen

    Posted by David Foster on 13th March 2013 (All posts by )

    …from galactic clusters down to charm quarks and below.

    I linked The Scale of the Universe a while back…was reminded of it by a link on Don Sensing’s blog…the performance of the site seems to have been significantly improved since I saw it and is now much smoother.

    And via American Digest, here is Magnifying the Universe.

    Posted in Science, Space | 1 Comment »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed From a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 16th October 2012 (All posts by )

    This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    I’m currently reading Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok. A review of the whole thing will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a "somber, melancholy expression."

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Cuba, History, Russia, Space, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Return to Aerojet

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th October 2012 (All posts by )

    I initially posted about the Aerojet ruins after my first visit more than five years ago. I’ve been back a few times since, most recently in July. The site is mostly the same but continues to deteriorate due to neglect, vandalism, a harsh environment, and in some cases removal of equipment as salable scrap by some state agency or other. For example, the machinery visible along the inside wall of the rocket test shed in this 2008 panoramic photo had been pretty well stripped by this July:

    A 2008 panoramic view of the interior of the corrugated shed above the now-sealed pit where the Aerojet company tested the largest solid-fuel rocket motors ever made. Aerojet built the development and test facility in the 1960s in the Florida Everglades near Miami, in an unsuccessful bid to get NASA to adopt its motors for use in the US space program. The facility has been abandoned for many years and sits on land controlled by the South Florida Water Management District. (Jonathan Gewirtz)

    Here’s how the inside of the shed looks now, facing away from the wall with the machinery:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Personal Narrative, Photos, Space, Tech | 8 Comments »

    One bead for a rosary

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st June 2012 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- one bead from NASA for the glass bead game as rosary ]
    .


    photo credit: Norman Kuring, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
    .

    Consider her sacred, treat her with care.

    Posted in Photos, Religion, Space | 6 Comments »

    The Past of the Future

    Posted by David Foster on 10th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Predictions about the year 2000 made by Robert Heinlein in 1952.

    via Newmark’s Door

    Posted in History, Science, Society, Space, Tech | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day: John Robb

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th August 2011 (All posts by )

    Global transition points like this are so rare, it’s a great time to be alive.

    John Robb

    Right on. Yes. Yes.

    More of this type of thinking, please.

    If I could live at any time in history it would be now.

    (If you are not a regular reader of Mr. Robb’s Global Guerrillas, get that way.)

    (Also check out Mr. Robb’s way cool new Wiki MiiU, which is all about resilience. I eagerly await his book on resilient communities.)

    (Here is an xcellent John Robb talk about open source ventures, but full disclosure, a lot of it sailed over my head.)

    (And if you have not read his book, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, go get it.)

    Friends, please let me know in the comments, on a scale of 1 to 5, strongly disagree to strongly agree, how you respond to this quote. Put me down as a 5, obviously enough.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Business, China, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Education, Elections, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Health Care, History, International Affairs, Internet, Libertarianism, Management, Markets and Trading, Media, Medicine, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Finance, Political Philosophy, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Science, Society, Space, Taxes, Tea Party, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 21 Comments »

    The Tree of Life

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd July 2011 (All posts by )

    Warning: spoilers, I guess, though with a film like this it’s hard to give anything away so as to really detract from the experience. Maybe a few autobiographical spoilers of my own.

    Having only seen it once so far, I am aware of having gotten at most glimpses of its full intent. I cannot easily describe Terrence Malick’s oeuvre except in superficial ways: mostly out-of-doors, with nature as a significant element; spectacular cinematography; more or less nonlinear storyline; voice-over narrations. I have not seen Badlands but have seen everything from Days of Heaven on.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Christianity, Diversions, Film, History, Human Behavior, Judaism, Morality and Philosphy, Music, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Space, USA, Vietnam | 8 Comments »

    SpaceX and The Evil That Men Do

    Posted by James McCormick on 28th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the big leagues, rookie!

    Rand Simberg reports that the Russians have suddenly become concerned about the safety of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket when used as a supply vessel for the International Space Station … now that that rocket seriously threatens the near-term Russian monopoly in heavy lift transport of people and materiel.

    SpaceX’‘s story, for those who aren’t space enthusiasts, is a tale of new technology, dot-com money, and threatened “iron rice bowls” from one end of the high-technology world to the other.

    Started in 2002 by Elon Musk with money he acquired after co-founding PayPal, Musk’s vision was to develop a new American liquid-fueled rocket engine and use economies of production and scale to reduce per-pound launch costs to a fraction of current commercial rates. Rather than a game of giant consortia, he thought that a relatively small private company could launch commercial rockets safely and much more cheaply.

    In the early years, the Falcon 1 rocket, using a new Merlin engine designed and manufactured by SpaceX, was subject to several flight failures that insiders largely attributed to lack of company access to the vast body of engineering lore used in past rocket launches. Not enough engineers. Not enough expertise. Whether that was true or not, the Falcon 1 (single engine) rocket had its first successful launch-to-orbit in 2008. Six years from blank piece of paper to orbit. Nonetheless, Musk has often been dismissed by other commercial space launch organizations as a dilettante, wasting his own money on a venture that would never amount to much, and would certainly never deliver any service cheaper than the giant aerospace companies of Russia, China, the EU, and the United States.

    All that started to change when less than two years after the successful launch of the Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 (running 9 Merlin engines in tandem) was able to reach orbit. Suddenly SpaceX had a rocket big enough to deliver serious weight to space, and compete with the biggest commercial and state-sponsored launch services. Musk’s philosophy of rocket modularization (and cost reduction) had been proven out. A mere six months later, the company launched a second Falcon 9 to orbit with a pressurized “Dragon” capsule on top. SpaceX became the first private firm to launch and recover a crew-capable space capsule, with a splash-down off the Pacific coast of the US. To successfully launch a brand-new model of rocket, twice, with complete success, defies the laws of probability in the space launch industry. Maybe Musk really had stumbled onto a new way of designing, manufacturing, and operating rockets.

    The idea that a private firm could deliver cargo, let alone crews, to the International Space Station at a fraction of the cost of the Space Shuttle or Russian Soyuz capsules would have been inconceivable a decade ago. And yet here we are in 2011 with an American dot-com multi-millionaire announcing new rockets and successfully delivering them.

    Just recently, SpaceX announced plans to develop the “Falcon Heavy” which would run three Falcon 9s (3×9=27 engines) as a single first stage, delivering a proposed 117,000 pounds to Low Earth Orbit … more than the capacity of all other currently available commercial heavy-lift rockets. More, in fact, than has ever been lifted in single launches since the Saturn V carried the Apollo moon missions star-wards. First launch of the Falcon Heavy is scheduled for 2013, from Vandenburg Air Force Base. Characteristically, Musk isn’t shy about his dream for the Falcon Heavy. Hypothetical trips to the Moon, to Mars, to an asteroid, now fill his speeches.

    Musk’s earlier claims of “game-changer” technology and corporate process appear to be coming true. If he delivers on his recent promises with anything near the success rate of his earlier claims, almost every space-faring nation or corporation is going to be deeply affected.

    Let’s be clear, also. Musk has played the taxpayer-dollar game skillfully as he’s found initial technical success and grown his company’s staff and technical capacity. He’s received several multi-million dollar contracts from NASA for demonstration flights and future cargo delivery to the Space Station. He’s parked his corporate facilities in California (HQ and manufacturing), Texas (engine test-stand), and Florida (Cape Canaveral launch facilities) … covering his political bases by hedging good relations with US senators who already know what kind of money and jobs are created by space industry. The only senator not to dip his beak, as far as I can tell, was from Alabama (Huntsville). So Mr. Musk knows his domestic politics, or has learned its harsh anti-market lessons. And he’s successfully squared the circle of NASA bureaucracy, launching rockets on the one hand, and reassuring various government agencies that he should be allowed to.

    But the opening salvo by the Russians is a prelude to a new playing field that Musk will need to master. International politics.

    There are a lot of rocket engineers around the world who’ll be out of work if Elon Musk and his company can deliver cargo and people to space for half of what it costs the current aerospace giants. And even the Russians and Chinese, who can subsidize launch costs to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, still can’t afford to give away those launches indefinitely. Both nations operate in the market economy to the extent that they can, at the very least, estimate their per-launch losses trying to undercut SpaceX’s prices.

    As an amateur who’s thrilled by the appearance of a private space industry in the last ten years, I enthused about SpaceX’s successful December launch to an colleague (ex-military) who specializes in high-tech project management. His response was “now the sabotage begins.”

    And he may well be right. Whether Musk has been smart, or just plain lucky, the progress of SpaceX over the last decade has been (to my mind) dramatic. My sense is that it’s a matter of capital investment leveraging a backlog of knowledge (in technology and operational process). As long as he was a unproven minnow at the government trough, he could be ignored. Now however, SpaceX is getting big enough to put a dent in established companies’ profits and executive bonuses. There’s no reason why nations or large corporations could not have duplicated what Musk has done … but they either had no incentive or had organizational and social impediments. An “installed base.”

    At the moment, they don’t seem to be trying to beat him with comparable technology. And he doesn’t seem to want to be bought out. So what competitive strategy is left? Political impediments are cheapest. Intellectual property theft is likely but it still takes time to turn that into a competing product. And what if the technology is just a part of the equation. What if workforce optimization and “one rich, risk-taking, boss” are the essential components of SpaceX’s rapid success? Will sabotage of SpaceX rockets be the only route to slowing the company down? Fulfilling, conveniently, Russian “concerns.”

    Up until now, Musk has been calculating costs based on his technical requirements for design and manufacture (with a fudge factor for domestic political arbitrage). I rather doubt he’s also factored in the burgeoning security apparatus he’ll need to wrap around SpaceX’s activities to inhibit industrial espionage and/or industrial sabotage. And as he takes on more government contracts (both military and civilian), no doubt the bureaucratic restrictions on payload handling and the extra demands for operational oversight will boost company costs dramatically. Will SpaceX be strangled by a combination of bureaucrats, thieves, and saboteurs?

    It’d be disheartening to see SpaceX costs slowly but surely reach equilibrium with pricing in the rest of the industry. But there’s no doubt that, left to itself, the private space industry will make some wealthy men incredibly rich, and some aerospace executives unemployed. How clever people respond to that challenge will be interesting to watch.

    Enough SpaceX technology appearing in other countries in bootleg form, and enough “unexplained” failures of those really big (really expensive) SpaceX rockets, will spell a new and grimmer phase of the private space business. More and more “iron rice bowls” are being broken by SpaceX with each passing year. Hope Elon’s brushing up on his Sun Tzu.

    Posted in Big Government, China, Europe, Human Behavior, National Security, Politics, Russia, Science, Space, Tech | 5 Comments »

    The Cure For Spills, Peaks, and Crazy Foreigners…

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 10th June 2010 (All posts by )

    Howard Bloom argues that America needs a space vision. Like solar power…FROM OUTER SPACE!

    Space Solar

    Space Solar

    Bloom argues that space solar power is the solution to America’s energy needs. With space solar power, this nation would put satellites in orbit around the Earth. These satellites would collect the plentiful  solar power in space that’s just sitting there unused, ready to reduce your power bill, convert it into healthy radiation, and beam that radiation back to the Earth where it can be converted into power. Space solar power would have no problem with spills, weather, eminent domain, NIMBY, waste, Indian attack, pollution, or allergies. Other than the small technology, engineering, and financial hurdles, Bloom faces one massive hurdle in convincing the American people that this is the vision for them: the term solar power.

    When the average red-blooded American hears the term solar power, they think of one thing:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Science, Space | 12 Comments »

    Is the Space Program Worth It?

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th December 2009 (All posts by )

    A few days ago on the way to work I was listening to Dirk Van’s show and he posed an interesting question to the listeners. Is the space program worth it?

    Most said that it was, for a variety of reasons. Some of them posed were national pride, research that is done, and there were others.

    I remember visiting the Kennedy Space Center several years ago. I loved the museums filled with the rockets and equipment used to explore space. I also was able to walk through the area where they were working on the International Space Station. I was with my father and he said to me “this has got to be a black hole of money here”. I couldn’t argue. I assume that NASA is run like any other government program, and is rife with waste.

    The benefits of the space program are many. So many of the things that we use every day that we take for granted have been either invented or improved due to the space program.

    But can’t we build a structure that can hold a perfect vacuum here on earth for a LOT cheaper and do the research there? Like for say, a billion dollars? For fiscal year -09, NASA’s budget was almost $18bb!

    Do we need the weightless part to get the good research done?

    Can’t private industry or individuals look for life on other planets?

    I would love to hear from some of our scientists who read the blog as well as others on this subject.

    Posted in Science, Space | 27 Comments »

    Forty Years Ago Today

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th July 2009 (All posts by )

    Apollo 11 patch

    See also Alan Henderson’s retrospective.

    Posted in History, Science, Space | 1 Comment »

    Apollo 11, launched July 16, 1969

    Posted by Lexington Green on 16th July 2009 (All posts by )

    [The launch] began with a large patch of bright, yellow-orange flame shooting sideways from under the base of the rocket. It looked like a normal kind of flame and I felt an instant’s shock of anxiety, as if this were a building on fire. In the next instant the flame and the rocket were hidden by such a sweep of dark red fire that the anxiety vanished: this was not part of any normal experience and could not be integrated with anything. The dark red fire parted into two gigantic wings, as if a hydrant were shooting streams of fire outward and up, toward the zenith—and between the two wings, against a pitch-black sky, the rocket rose slowly, so slowly that it seemed to hang still in the air, a pale cylinder with a blinding oval of white light at the bottom, like an upturned candle with its flame directed at the earth. Then I became aware that this was happening in total silence, because I heard the cries of birds winging frantically away from the flames. The rocket was rising faster, slanting a little, its tense white flame leaving a long, thin spiral of bluish smoke behind it. It had risen into the open blue sky, and the dark red fire had turned into enormous billows of brown smoke, when the sound reached us: it was a long, violent crack, not a rolling sound, but specifically a cracking, grinding sound, as if space were breaking apart, but it seemed irrelevant and unimportant, because it was a sound from the past and the rocket was long since speeding safely out of its reach—though it was strange to realize that only a few seconds had passed. I found myself waving to the rocket involuntarily, I heard people applauding and joined them, grasping our common motive; it was impossible to watch passively, one had to express, by some physical action, a feeling that was not triumph, but more: the feeling that that white object’s unobstructed streak of motion was the only thing that mattered in the universe.
     
    What we had seen, in naked essentials — but in reality, not in a work of art — was the concretized abstraction of man’s greatness.
     
    That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt — this was the cause of the event’s attraction and of the stunned numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being — an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.

    Ayn Rand

    Liftoff!

    I watched the launch sitting on my father’s lap, on the couch in my parents’ house, on a black and white TV. I can recall it clearly.

    It was dangerous. Nixon was prepared for the death of the astronauts.

    (My mother is a Jacksonian. She has always said that if she had been in Neil Armstrong’s place, she would have claimed the moon for the USA and been court martialled when she got home.)

    The America that launched Apollo was in many ways different and better than the America of today. But “the absolutism of reality” remains as it was, is and ever will be. What matters is what we do in response to it, today, now, and going forward.

    Posted in History, Space, Tech, USA | 4 Comments »

    Too Bad We Can’t Ban Stupidity

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th January 2009 (All posts by )

    The Obama administration will seek a treaty “banning” space weapons. [h/t Instapundit] That’s really great except such a “ban” will have no other effect than to disarm America and other liberal democracies while leaving hostile authoritarian governments in control of space. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, National Security, Space | 9 Comments »

    Space Shuttle Launch

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th November 2008 (All posts by )

    I was maybe 150 miles away. Unfortunately, my camera won’t do longer than a 30-second exposure without a remote shutter release that I didn’t have. So what you see here is a 30-second arc of the flight, starting at the lower left a few seconds after the Shuttle, which appeared to the eye as a small, glowing red-orange ball, became visible. The bright trail continued, at a shallow angle to the horizon, for about thirty more seconds and then dimmed considerably, perhaps when the boosters burned out. It was probably visible for about 90 seconds in total. I’m sure it’s much more impressive close-up, but it was a bit of a thrill just to see it over the lights of the city.

    Space Shuttle Over Miami

    The view from downtown Miami.

    (Click the photo to display a larger version in a new window.)

    Posted in Photos, Space | 6 Comments »

    Elevator Music to the Stars

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 2nd November 2008 (All posts by )

    I’m a kinda-sorta advocate of space exploration because I realize that the technology goes far beyond the intended purpose. Figure out a way to send a robot probe to a distant planet and you also have come up with hundreds of new applications that can be used right here on the Big Blue Marble. It is in this that people dedicated to space travel and myself agree.

    True blue space enthusiasts lose me when they try to make the case for a permanent human presence in space. It would cost far too much with the technology we have available, and they have never been able to come up with any benefit to justify the effort that makes any sense to me. A lot of them insist that it is something we have to do, though.

    One of our fellow Boyz, Steven den Beste of Chizumatic fame, gave me some insight into their motivation.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science, Space | 28 Comments »

    Stephenson — Anathem (A Review)

    Posted by James McCormick on 22nd September 2008 (All posts by )

    Stephenson, Neal, Anathem, William Morrow, 2008, 937 pp.

    Author Neal Stephenson has forged a substantial body of fiction in the last 15 years by combining elaborate narratives and witty, humourous dialogue with a more serious consideration of scientific and philosophical issues. Having covered nanotechnology, cryptography, and the early stirrings of Newtonian science in his more recent books, Stephenson turns now to cosmology and the nature of human consciousness in Anathem. The biggest of big pictures.

    Set thousands of years in the future, Anathem is an adventure story that fits perfectly into the science fiction genre. The conflict between science and culture has led to intermittent but repeated civil conflicts, resolved finally by isolating the scientific and mathematic minds into the equivalent of walled medieval cloisters (maths). Outside the walls society waxes and wanes, prospers and collapses, while inside the walls the life of the mind continues, year after year. Comparisons with the famous 50s science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz are inevitable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Science, Space | 3 Comments »

    Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FBIS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th March 2008 (All posts by )

    Not a Chicago Boy exactly, but a towering presence in my inner life for many years. The only thing remotely resembling a writing voice I’ve ever had is a pale imitation of him. Requiescat In Pace.

    Updates:

    • added “FRSBIS” (thanks, Jim)
    • from Wired, Video: Arthur C. Clarke’s Last Message to Earth
    • from SomethingAwful forum goon “SirRobin”:
    • Tonight, when the sun has gone down, go outside to a place where you can see the stars. Look up. Watch for a point of light that moves fast enough that its motion is obvious … then take the phone out of your pocket and call someone on the other side of the planet.

    • heh

    Posted in Book Notes, Obits, Space | 5 Comments »

    Terrestrial chemistry is an anomaly in the Solar System

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 19th September 2007 (All posts by )

    We take too much for granted when we are looking at terrestrial materials such as rocks and then assume that they are representative for those on other bodies within our solar system in general:

    Conditions on Earth scarcely resemble those elsewhere in our own solar system. We live on a wet and tepid exception to the chemical and physical norms of the planets that contain most of the solar sysytems mass. Being made largely of water like the rest of the life on Earth, we think nothing of life’s inorganic substrate being the product of wet chemistry…
    .
    Earthly quartz and feldspars, micas and clays, all contain water and have been re-arranged by it. Likewise, compounds that are decomposed by water and elements that react vigorously with it are largely alien to the surface of the Earth. Not only have we never seen them in the state of nature, but they scarcely figure in our imagined view of the chemistry that gave rise to life…

    To plug the gaps in our knowledge and to overcome our (understandable) failure of imagination, we would have to send out a fleet of robotic spacecraft to collect samples from the various rocky bodies in the solar system. A systematic analysis of those samples would offer some important insights in how materials develop and self-organize in and on rocky planets and moons that are solid like the Earth but unlike it are non-aqueous. These results would in turn provide some clues on how emergent and autocatalytic processes can lead from inorganic to organic chemistry and maybe even to life, under conditions that are radically different from those on Earth.

    Posted in Science, Space | 5 Comments »

    Millennial Boyz

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 14th July 2007 (All posts by )

    I’m on a mission from Lex. On Thu 12 Jul at 5:34 PM CDT, he wrote me:

    > Are the Millennials Different?
    >
    > I know you are a fan. Any response must be cross-posted on CB!

    I can think of nothing better to do on a fine Bastille Day evening — having missed the concert by virtue of being 400 miles to the southwest — than consume modest quantities of ethanol in the form of Boulevard Lunar Ale and compose a rambling post for infliction on the readership here. By way of my usual thinning out of my prospective audience, graze on over to Arcturus for what has become known as the Baby Boomer Apocalypse post, which will 1) impart what I think is the most important aspect of Strauss & Howe’s model and 2) very likely cause you to decide you’ve got better things to do than read the rest of this.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, History, Predictions, Space, Tech, Terrorism, USA | 7 Comments »

    Industrial Archaeology: Aerojet’s Everglades Rocket Factory

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th January 2007 (All posts by )

    In the 1960s the Aerojet company was considered* as the possible supplier of solid-fuel rocket motors to be used as primary power plants for the Saturn I space booster. The idea was to use a single, very large rocket motor in place of a cluster of smaller, though still large motors on the Saturn’s first stage.

    The first-stage motor (see also the photo of a test-firing on this page) was to be approximately 21 feet in diameter — so big that it could not be transported by road, rail or air. Aerojet therefore built a facility in the Florida Everglades, about forty miles South-Southwest of Miami and remote from residential areas, where the motors could be assembled and tested, and from there barged to the Atlantic Ocean and then up the coast to Cape Canaveral, where they launched the rockets. The State of Florida provided land and built the canal that Aerojet wanted. (A corporate-welfare boondoggle, yes, but probably a modest one in the grand scheme of such things.)

    [*Update: Rand Simberg was kind enough to link to this post. One of his commenters says that Werner Von Braun, designer of the Saturn I, never considered using a solid booster, and that Aerojet's Everglades plant was thus a self-inflicted boondoggle by the company. Another commenter provides a link to a website (search on the word "Thiokol") that provides information about a plant that Thiokol built in Georgia to develop rocket motors similar to the ones that Aerojet developed. At least one of the Encyclopedia Astronautica articles about Aerojet, to which I linked above, mentions Thiokol as a parallel developer of large solids. However, I don't know enough to evaluate this information, so I am putting it all out with the suggestion that you read the comments on Rand's post.]

    You can read the Encyclopedia Astronautica articles linked above to get a better idea of the project’s technical history. The short version is that NASA never did use Aerojet’s giant rocket motors, and Aerojet eventually gave up on its plant and sold the land back (nice trick) to the State of Florida, which holds it to this day as a nature preserve. Most of the original buildings associated with the plant, and some of the machinery, appear to be still there, albeit in decrepit condition. It’s accessible, though the last couple of miles of the access road are closed to motor vehicles, so if you want to visit you have to bicycle or walk part of the way. There are a few houses nearby, and people come to bird watch or to fish in the canal that parallels the road, but the place is essentially deserted once you get past the no-motor-vehicles-beyond-this-point sign.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Space | 83 Comments »

    Bell — Postcards From Mars

    Posted by James McCormick on 23rd December 2006 (All posts by )

    Bell, Jim, Postcards From Mars: The First Photographer on the Red Planet, 2006, 196pp.

    When I was a kid, growing up in a military family, the Apollo program was an impossibly glamourous and distant showcase of talent, excitement, and adventure. It was inspiration for much newspaper reading, discussions with my Dad, and avid TV watching whenever the pair of Canadian networks deigned to broadcast the grainy black-and-white images of liftoffs and moon landings. The cosmology inserts in National Geographic were also rare oases of rich visual evidence of what we knew about the world above our atmosphere. NASA was Oz. Information was sparse.

    My twenty-five year detour into the social sciences and medicine, away from the space program, was brought to a gradual end by the advent of the broadband Internet. Nowadays, amateur space exploration enthusiasts have a waterfall of sources of information and visual inspiration, including live Internet feeds of NASA TV. Once again my Dad and I could share information, ideas, and now URLs. We can perch as a virtual peanut gallery, getting up in the wee hours of the night, if we’re so inclined, to watch the tense faces in Houston or the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, or peer at high-contrast postage-stamp-sized video from the International Space Station with Lego men in bulky suits wielding strange tools. Or even watch the space station zip across the sky at dawn or sunset. Our cup runneth over. We can be party to industry gossip. Follow every high and low. Every failure, catastrophe, funding fiasco, amazing discovery, and triumph of the “rocket scientists” can be shared in the video clips and press releases and space commentary sites available in a web browser.

    For the last three years, one of the enduring small pleasures of life has been following the progress of the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The story of their construction and testing and successful deployment has been well documented in PBS specials but still, a television screen and a computer monitor can only convey a certain amount. Bigger than a bread box. Smaller than a house. Yes, yes. As big as a stadium. About the size of a blueberry. Colour: tan … or tannish. Detail: mmm … rocky, sandy, desert-like maybe. A sand dune of some size or other. Lots of geeky people of all ages and persuasions clearly very excited about something.

    Last April, during a visit to San Francisco, I took the opportunity to catch a limited release IMAX film called Roving Mars. Wow. Suddenly the panoramas of Mars, and the size, shape and detail of the rovers became vivid and crisp, with a resolution that overwhelmed the eye and brain. Much of reason for the excitement experienced by the science teams finally made it from screen to audience.

    Now, three years into what was supposed to be 90 day missions for the two Mars rovers, we finally have a coffee table book that takes full advantage of the human eye to convey the very alien, yet powerfully compelling, landscape of Mars. Postcards from Mars is written by the lead scientist on the twin colour panorama cameras used by the rovers to capture high-resolution images on the Red Planet. He has selected the photographs, supervised their colour-processing, and written a companion text which describes not only what was seen on Mars by the rovers over the last three years, but how the scientists constructed the cameras and developed methods to convey accurate colour so we can see Mars as if we stood with them.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Space | 3 Comments »

    The Manned Space Program

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 4th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Cargo Launch Vehicle with Lunar Lander

    Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the moon. And this time, we’re going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond.

    So opens the article How We’ll Get Back to the Moon on NASA’s website in their Vision for Space Exploration. Brave words. While I’ve no doubt they’re capable of doing it, I do have serious doubts whether we’ll see this program fully funded.

    Why, you may ask, are we even going back to the Moon? Didn’t we already do that in 1969? Is there anything really left there to explore? Here’s NASA’s chief historian, Steven J. Dick, answer to Why We Explore:

    In October 1995 – ten years ago this month – two Swiss astronomers announced the discovery of the first planet around a Sun-like star outside of our solar system. A few weeks later the American team of Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler confirmed the discovery, and a few months after that they added two more “extrasolar planets.” These landmark events were only the beginning of a deluge of new planets. Some 155 are now known in addition to the 9 in our own solar system. Hardly a week goes by without the discovery of more. In a way, each discoverer is a new Columbus, unveiling a new planet rather than a new continent. Although these planets are gas giants, Earth-sized planets are not far behind. A thousand years from now our descendants may explore them in person.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Space | 8 Comments »