Rotating Service Structure Rollback for Space Shuttle Endeavour
01 May, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | Comments Off
Davidgojr on Youtube did a wonderful time lapse video the the RSS rollback revealing Space Shuttle Endeavour in all her glory on Launch Pad 39A. Endeavour was being readied for her scheduled launch for April 29th, but the launch has been postponed to no earlier than May 8th due to technical issues. This type of rollback usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but you can see it all in less than 30 seconds.
Talk About Chutzpah! Obama to Visit KSC For Endeavour’s Last Launch.
20 Apr, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | 4 Comments »
KSC workforce waits for Obama. Credit Florida Today
Florida Today reports that Obama is planning to attend the last launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Talk about chutzpah! It was just one year ago when Obama came to KSC with his minions, hid from the workers whom he had lied to during the campaign, and killed America’s entire Human Space Flight Program in less than 45 minutes time. Now he wants to return and rub salt into the wounds of the KSC workers. (Actually the KSC workers have nothing to do with the reason he’s coming. See Update below.)
This is not about the end of the Space Shuttle Program, but the end of our entire Human Space Flight Program after 50 years.
It is my sincere hope that KSC workers and Brevard County make well known to Obama that he is NOT welcome at KSC. If he tries to speak to the KSC workers for a photo op, don’t leave,don’t shake his hand, just turn your back on him and let the photographers get that shot. If he tries to make a speech, stand and turn your back towards him. Show your displeasure the best you can without risking your jobs (while you still have them).
If your already laid off, stand at the gates with signs and large numbers showing your anger towards Obama. Give Obama a “YouTube” moment that he will never forget. Though Obama will probably choose to hide from the workers again, the media will see you and some of them will make sure your message gets out. If you get any good photos or videos of demonstrations against Obama, send them to me and I will publish them.
Spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, etc. Make yourself be heard KSC!
Update: I would like to give a “hat tip” to Remus, Joseph Farrell, and Richard Hoagland who put all the pieces together and figured out why Obama is coming to KSC. Of course it’s all politics as usual. I’ll explain their reasoning.
So why Obama would return to KSC where he is not welcome by the workforce, and risk a “YouTube moment?” To make an educated guess you first have to think like a politician and not like an aerospace worker. Especially a politician whose poll numbers are falling and are at risk of losing the next election.
There are two major media events happening on April 29th that will dominate the news and no, it’s not the next to last Space Shuttle launch. Earlier that day across the Atlantic a young prince will marry his bride. Since he is heir to the throne of England and the world hasn’t seen such a wedding since his mother was wed over 20 years ago, it’s big news. And even bigger news is the fact that this young prince has decided to invite world leaders from all over the world EXCEPT the President of these United States. There appears to be some bad blood between the Royal Family of England and Mr. Obama, and he is “persona non-grata” at the wedding. Imagine that, the leader of the world’s superpower snubbed and not allowed to be seen at the “wedding of the century.”
Politicians always want to be seen and associated with great or wonderful events. It makes them look like a winner perception wise even if they had nothing to do to make the event happen (which is most of the time). Any politician worth his salt would sell his soul to be seen at this wedding, even if it’s in a crowd photo. Of course that politician will probably try to claim some sort of credit for the happy couple meeting, no matter how hard he has to spin it. Any politician that doesn’t get invited will pout and gnash his teeth for a while, but will get over it as soon as another “big event” comes along that he can attend and maybe take credit for.
But to be deliberately snubbed is another matter. And for Mr. Obama, of all the politicians in the world, to be snubbed is not good for appearances or poll numbers. If you don’t think the media, especially the online and world media, won’t gleefully point out he was snubbed, think again. That’s good for at least several days of articles.
What to do? What to do?
Well that brings us to the next big story of the day. You see at KSC, the wife of Space Shuttle Endeavour Commander Kelly will be attending the launch. As some of you may remember, Commander Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was the victim of an assassination attempt a few months ago. She had been shot in the head and though the injury was grave and life changing, her recovery has been miraculous. She still has a long ways to go and may never heal 100%, but she is going to be well enough to attend the launch and watch her husband fly Endeavour for the very last time. A heartwarming story that will be covered far and wide and compete with the Royal Wedding. And guess what politician wants to be seen at KSC and interject himself into this story? Since Obama can’t attend the biggest story of the day, he will attend the second biggest story of the day set against the backdrop of a Space Shuttle launch.
This is why Obama is going to risk returning to KSC. It’s all politics and looking like a “winner.” I’m sure Obama will find some way to claim his Health Care Plan had something to do with Congresswoman Giffords recovery and ability to attend the launch.
Hopefully if enough people protest his presence, this visit will end up backfiring politically and he will be shown in his true light which is most certainly NOT a winner.
Update: Well since Obama could not attend the wedding of the century or be seen as part of the Kelly/Giffords romance with the shuttle launch in the background on April 29th and obtain his goal of looking like a “winner”, he instead chose to make own headlines by murdering an unarmed man in his home in another country. On April 29th, Mr. Obama decided that it was time to assassinate Osama Bin Laden although they have had him under surveillance since September 2010! I guess murder of a major terrorist is always good for a headline and making you look like a “winner.” Nice to keep a few major terrorists tucked away just for occasions like this.
RV-103 Victory Garden is Now a International Tourist Attraction!
16 Apr, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | Comments Off
RV-103 Florida Scarecrow
Well the RV-103 Victory garden is doing well. We will be harvesting part of our produce tomorrow and enjoying it for dinner. Over the next couple months it should be a continuous harvest of peas, green beans, melons, tomatoes, etc. Good eating for the whole crew and what we don’t eat will be preserved for later meals.
RV-103 Victory Garden 04-13-2011
Some of the challenges the Victory Garden has faced has been from squirrels digging in the garden, hence the scarecrow, and commando caterpillars. Last month thousands of caterpillars descended on silk threads from the trees above all over the complex and took up residence in any green vegetation I spent days removing them from the garden by hand before they could do too much damage. I used “Critter Ridder” to put up a barrier to the squirrels. It’s basically a hot pepper mixture that you spread all along the perimeter of your garden and it’s supposed to keep out the “critters.” So far it’s working well, but you have to rebuild the barrier after a hard rain or 30 days, which ever comes first.
We also got the front patio done and now have two coffee plants, berry bushes, a banana tree, and a pineapple guava tree. Berries are already starting to form and we are looking forward to having them in our morning cereal and pancakes.
So I know you all are asking about the tourist attraction thing. Well, a couple that lives a few units down from us has their parents visiting from China. On their first day there, the couple brought them over to our yard and showed them our garden. I saw them all later that evening and they told me of their tourist trip to the RV-103 Victory Garden. I don’t understand Chinese, but I think they enjoyed it. The young couple are now planting their own garden. So there you have it, RV-103 Victory Garden is now a international tourist attraction!
I talked with a friend of mine at KSC the other evening after the last round of layoffs. He had said that KSC was quickly becoming a “ghost town” and now I can see why. As one commenter had said recently on the Space Politics website, “…the birds and alligators will eventually take over KSC because no one will be left there soon.” I think he’s right.
At least he used the crosswalk! Credit Mark Stanley
Looks like he’s heading for the cafeteria. I wonder what’s on the menu?
Charlie Bolden Says: “Your State Voted For Obama? Here, Have a Space Shuttle!
15 Apr, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | 2 Comments »
Vote for me and I will give you your very own spaceship!
I wasn’t going to comment on NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden’s decision for placement of the soon to be retired Space Shuttles, but since everyone else is throwing in their two cents, I might as well too. The decision made by Charlie Bolden, and I’m sure he was taking orders from Mr. Obama, turned out to be a political game. If your state voted for Obama in the last election, then you got a great chance of getting a Space Shuttle. If your state didn’t, then it doesn’t matter how strong of a case you have to obtain a Shuttle, it’s just not going to happen. Big toys only go to Obama’s friends, that’s the Chicago way.
Discovery is going to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., which was a given, and which also voted for Obama in 2008. I seriously think that if Washington had voted for McCain, Obama would have found an excuse not to allow the Smithsonian to have her. Think I’m wrong? Chew on this. Florida, New York, and California all voted for Obama in 2008 and guess what! They all get a Shuttle. I can understand Florida (Kennedy Space Center) getting Atlantis under normal and non-political reasons. After all, that is where the Shuttles have launched for 30 years, but Houston TX also has a legit claim to a Shuttle. But, TX did NOT vote for Mr. Obama, and their Shuttle was lost to NY and LA. What does LA and NY have to do with the Shuttle program? What claim do they have that outranks the claims Houston has? It doesn’t matter because both states voted for Obama and that’s good enough for Obama and Bolden.
Obama and Charlie Bolden are rapidly running out of space centers where they are still welcome at. It would speak volumes to see Charlie Bolden or Obama try to speak to an auditorium of NASA employees and contractors sometime in the future and every one of those employees stand up and turn their backs on the speaker. It would make for a great NASA TV/YouTube moment!
LA and NY do not have any airports next to the museums that are going to display “their” Shuttles. So, that means a logistical nightmare trying to move aircraft size spacecraft through the city streets. Good luck and please try not to ding up our nation’s crown jewels NY and LA.
Houston of course is livid and rightly so. By the end of the evening after the announcement, over 100,000 people in Houston had signed a petition demanding a Shuttle, but since it is unlikely that TX will vote for Obama in 2012, well it just won’t happen. It doesn’t help when Senator Chuck Schumer fails to “win with grace” and taunts Houston like a child sticking his tongue out. Check out the video below.
Lucky for Senator Schumer that Houston is over 1,000 miles away so he can trash talk Houston without worry. Talk about the lack of class. Don’t you just love politicians and their minions?
P.S. Today is also the 1 year anniversary when Obama, Senator Nelson, and now fired Congresswoman Kosmas traveled to KSC, hid from the workers, and then killed America’s Human Space Flight Program. Don’t forget what they did folks!
Yuri’s Night: Celebrating 50 Years of Human Space Flight
12 Apr, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | Comments Off
50 years ago, a young man named Yuri Gagarin climbed aboard a modified Russian R-7 inter-continental missle in the Soviet Union and made history. Every April 12th is Yuri’s night and is celebrated by space enthusiats throughout the world. This year is special because it marks 50 years since mankind first left Earth for the Heavens.
Below is a nice music video showing his historic launch.
When I worked at the World Space Expo in 2007 representing United Space Alliance, the Russians had treated us all by bringing for the first time outside of their borders, the actual Volstok capsule that was test launched prior to Yuri’s launch. They had placed a mannequin in the capsule wired with sensors to try to determine what Yuri would experience.
Volstok test capsule
When Yuri did his flight, he had to sit in the same model capsule, and during re-entry, he would open the door once in the atmosphere and parachute out before the capsule hit the ground. Talk about cojones!
American Astronaut Cady Coleman, aboard the International Space Station 250 miles up, and Ian Anderson, of Jethro Tull Fame, (located in Russia at the time) did a flute duet honoring Yuri’s night. I wonder if Yuri and the people working on HSF in the Soviet Union and the USA at that time would ever think that this type of event, a flute duet stretched between the heavens and the Earth would ever be possible?
I met Bob Crippen who piloted that mission and had a nice talk with him. He and Commander John Young were the first and only humans to ever fly on a initial flight of a spacecraft without it being tested unmanned first. Those two guys had cojones the size of asteroids!
“Houston Discovery, For the Final Time, Wheels Stop.
09 Apr, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | 6 Comments »
It’s been a couple weeks or so since Discovery ended her very last mission and I have been struggling about what to write. As regular readers know, Discovery was the first Space Shuttle I worked on and has always been very special to me. RV-103 was named in honor of Discovery (OV-103). This was her 39th mission, and though she was designed to fly 100 times, this was her last flight and she is already being prepped to sit idle in a museum.
This was the norm for our nation’s Human Space Flight Programs: End them early, put the ships in museums, and get on to the next program. It has been that way since Apollo (Gemini and Mercury are the only programs that went all the way to completion.), and it was going to be that way this time until Obama took office. As you all know, we have no “next program” (Constellation) any more since Obama and Senator Bill Nelson cancelled our nation’s HSF. After Space Shuttle Atlantis lands for the last time this summer, it will most likely be the last time we will see an American Astronaut fly on an American ship for at least 10 years. Obama and Senator Nelson have abdicated their responsibility to our nation, to the people who productively worked every day for our country running our HSF, and NASA has become the “Can’t do” bureaucracy just like any other worthless government agency.
Historians some day will look at April 15th, 2010 as the day America walked away from HSF and call it the American version of the Chinese Hai Jin policy that lasted from 1371 to 1684, 313 years. ”…Hai Jin marked a retreat from maritime activities such as the voyages of Zheng He and was symptomatic of a technological decline and stagnation that would culminate in China’s 19th-century humiliation by Europe.” America will face this technological decline by abandoning our HSF.
But, what is done is done and it cannot be undone until Obama and Senator Nelson are removed from office and replaced with people who understand the importance of HSF to our country. Considering the continueing carnage (another 800 people lost their jobs today at KSC, another 2,000 scheduled for July) that has been inflicted on thousands of lives in Florida by those two politicians, I am certain that the former HSF employees at KSC and their communities will ensure that Obama and Nelson get their “layoff” notice come November 2012.
Anyway, Discovery may have been on her last mission, but she showed everyone that she is still young and spry and quite capable of many more missions if she was allowed. Below are some videos and pictures of her last mission. She’s a good ship and I am very proud of the contractors that took such good care of her. I am especially proud of my former co-workers at United Space Alliance that showed so much professionalism and competence up to the bitter end. Well done my friends and I am sure that many people in our nation would love to shake your hands in thanks for your service.
Discovery’s Last Launch
Discovery’s Launch from the Pilot’s perspective.
Pictures of Discovery at the International Space Station taken by amateur astronomers all over the world. (Remember, it is not only America that watches our HSF program, but the world.)
Amateur Astronomer picture by Ralf Vandebergh
With strains of Alexander Courage’s famous theme song from Star Trek playing, Shatner replaced the original television introduction with, “Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before.” Video Credit ReelNASA
“Houston Discovery, For the final time, wheels stop.”
The night before the STS-114 launch with a very new and proud technician posing with "his" ship
I assume the next time I will see “my” ship will be in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. If I run into any of you while visiting there, make sure you stop and say “hey” and I’ll entertain you with some stories. Well done Discovery, well done.
“But with spending squeezed and NASA at odds with lawmakers over a 2016 timeframe for building a new heavy-lift rocket and crew vehicle to replace the 30-year-old shuttle program, Braun said that developing the future mode of travel could take longer than Congress, or the US public, may want to hear.
“Let’s call it — think about it as a decade if you want to put a time stamp to it,” said Braun, who gathered along with a host of veteran astronauts, politicians and space enthusiasts at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday to witness the final blastoff for the Discovery space shuttle.”
Finally, someone there told the truth. I have been arguing for quite some time on this blog and in various interviews that when the last Space Shuttle flew, it would be at least 10 years before you would see an American astronaut fly on an American ship.
Mr. Braun does say later on (to cover his backside?) that during that ten year period, commercial space (SpaceX) would be transporting humans back and forth from the ISS, but SpaceX has admitted in their update dated January 17th, 2010, “The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to fly at least 11 more times and the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is scheduled to fly 17 times before the first Dragon crew flight.” Since SpaceX averages about 2 flights per year as they learn how to launch and fly rockets, that would mean it would take at least 8 more years before they fly an American astronaut. That’s without any problems cropping up and that’s with 6 years already invested in their program. Constellation, the real HSF that was killed by Mr. Obama, Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswoman Kosmas (fired by KSC workers November 2010 election) on April 15th 2010, would have flown an American astronaut by 2015 at the earliest.
It’s nice to know that at least someone in a senior position at NASA will tell the truth, even if it’s by accident. Shame he probably won’t get to keep his position at NASA for long for doing so.
Discovery's Final Launch February 24th, 2011 Credit AP/Chris Omeara
On February 24th, 2011, OV-103 Space Shuttle Discovery launched for the last time into space. Discovery was the first Space Shuttle I had the privilege to work on and she has always been my favorite. I have watched many launches since Columbia’s first launch, and maybe because I’m a little bit biased, but I felt that Discovery’s launch this time was the strongest I’ve seen yet and she seemed to leap off the pad eager to prove that she isn’t ready for retirement. This is the 39th and last flight for Discovery. Although all the Space Shuttles were designed for 100 flights each, Discovery is being retired to the Smithsonian before she even reaches middle age.
Credit Florida Today
During her 39 flights, Discovery has made an impressive list of accomplishments serving our nation.
By the end of this mission, Discovery will have spent 363 days in space and circled Earth 5,800 times.
No other spacecraft has been launched so many times.
Discovery delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit, which revolutionized the science of astronomy.
Discovery carried the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a U.S. spaceship.
Discovery performed the first rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir with the first female shuttle pilot in the cockpit.
Discovery carried the first female shuttle pilot, Eileen Collins.
Discovery returned Mercury astronaut John Glenn to orbit that had nearly 1/2 million viewers come to the Space Coast too witness the launch.
Discovery carried the very first female shuttle commander, Eileen Collins, in history.
Discovery carried the second female shuttle commander, Pam Melroy, to the International Space Station. It was the first time in history a female shuttle commander and female ISS commander met in orbit.
Discovery led the fleet in both return to flights after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.
During this mission, Discovery carried the first humanoid robot ever to fly in space to the ISS.
Below is a nice video of the launch for your viewing pleasure courtesy of NASA Television.
Rocketman with Discovery the night before launch 2005.
To all the contractors, especially United Space Alliance, well done! Though all of you will be laid off in April and this summer, though the politicians such as Senator Bill Nelson and Mr. Obama and the NASA senior administration betrayed you by killing our nation’s Human Space Flight Program, you have kept the faith to our nation and ensured that our nation’s most valuable crown jewel has done its job once more safely and efficiently. Well done and thank you!
Previously, in another post, the crew of RV-103 tried their hands at canning food. It turned out quite successful and we wondered what else could we do. Well, since the crew is going to be in Florida for awhile before setting off again on another misadventure/mission, we decided to grow our own Victory Garden.
“Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in United States, United Kingdom,Canada and Germany during World War I and World War II to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” — in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens become a part of daily life on the home front.” During WWI over “five million gardens and foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war,” and during WWII “The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables.” Credit Wikipedia
With the economy entering into the “Greatest Depression,” the knowledge and ability to grow your own food becomes important for the average person. A friend of mine the other day was complaining to me on the phone about how much he had to pay in the store for one tomato. He said that it cost him around $2.50 and he wondered just how much more higher the price would go. With the freeze in Mexico and the southwestern USA recently and the US government interference in the CA agricultural industry over the last several years, where much of our winter produce comes from, I told him the costs would probably go up much higher. In some areas of the world, they have already seen a tripling of the price for staples in just the last two months! Either you learn to like paying higher prices or you learn to grow and store your own.
Though Gypsy was raised on a farm, my only experience with gardening has been with my parents when I was a boy. I spent more time trying to get out of work than learning how to garden which I regret now. Sorry Mom and Dad! Anyway, I picked up a book called the All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew to learn how to maximize the limited space we have at our condo and grow a large amount of produce for eating and preserving. It basically is a raised bed of soil, divided into square feet, that takes away the need to plow, till, or fertilize your lawn. Mr. Bartholomew does a wonderful job at explaining what you can plant, how much you can plant per square foot, the proper season for planting, etc. though at times he is a bit too self promotional about his technique. I think after page 100 Mr. Bartholomew can tone down his self praise for his system.
Many folks I know have used this method with stunning success and we thought we would give it a try. I went to the local hardware store, bought some cheap lumber and a cheap can of spray paint and built a 8′ X 6′ box resulting in a 48 square foot garden. My total budget I had set out was $200. The lumber ran me less than $30 and took me about a hour to assemble. The remaining amount was spent on seeds, compost, and some extra soil to top off the soil I had already placed in the box from our front patio (years of compost had accumulated there, about 4-6 inches). I laid some cardboard below the box that would easily decompose over time to kill any weeds or grass below it. Commander Merlin sat in air conditioned comfort and supervised while watching through the window from inside our home. All in all, it came out pretty nice as you see in the picture below.
RV-103 Victory Garden
The next step was planning out what to plant and where. Using the book, I made out a key or map of the garden including how many could be planted per square foot, germination time, harvest time, etc. Sending it to my IPhone helped me refer to it while planting.
Garden Key for RV-103 Victory Garden
Though most of my “crop” was in the form of seeds (both heirloom, which I prefer, and hybrids), I did have some seedlings for leeks, onions, tomatoes, and strawberries. It only took about 2 hours to get everything planted and now I am awaiting the first sign of my seeds growing into nice little seedlings like an impatient father. I’ll post the Victory Garden’s progress over time with some pictures. Since this is our first garden, Gypsy and I are being realistic and expecting about a 40-50% failure that we will learn from. That’s the nice thing about being in Central Florida, our growing season is pretty much year round so we don’t have to wait an entire year to apply “lessons learned” from previous failures.
We also planted a raspberry and blackberry bush out front for making jellies and jams in the future. I also got my first start at the RV-103 winery by planting two grape vines, one dark and the other light muscadine grapes though it will be at least three years before any grapes are produced.
Next week I will start work on the trellis to support the back row of plants.
If we are as successful as we think we will be, we should see a 50-60% reduction in our grocery bill. I’ll take that over a $2.50 tomato any day.
As some of you may have noticed, RV-103.com has been absent from the web for 5 days. There is a reason for that. Five days ago, WordPress, the program I use for my blog, released an update version 3.0.5. I dutifully downloaded the update and installed it. Suddenly, I could not get access to my site nor could anyone else! After a few hours working on the problem, I contacted my friend Bobby at the server that hosts the site. It took Bobby and a co-worker of his all their skills to purge the update and get my web page files back in order. Kudos to them, job well done guys! Bobby has strongly suggested that from now on, anytime WordPress issues an update, wait one month before downloading it and installing it to ensure they got all the bugs worked out. Wise advice that I will always heed from now on.
As for WordPress, this the second time that they have released an update prematurely and caused my site to crash. WordPress does not make it easy to contact them ( I emailed their co-founderMatt Mullenweb and am still awaiting a reply.); instead they want you to visit their forums and talk with their volunteers to try to solve the problem. I visited the WordPress site right after the crash, and found many ticked off bloggers and website owners along with few volunteers from WordPress giving conflicting advice. Well I have some advice for WordPress;
DON’T RELEASE AN UPDATE UNTIL IT’S ACTUALLY READY YOU IDIOTS!
There is so much debate on the topic of Global Warming, or what is now called Climate Change, that sometimes it’s hard to boil all the arguments down to it’s basic core. Finally, there is a blog post that simplifies and explains it for all to understand by a 72 year old man who has seen titles explaining “this crazy weather” come and go over the decades and is quite humourous to read.
Yesterday was the day of remembrance for the heros who died for our nation’s Human Space Flight Programs. During this two week period the crews of Apollo One, Challenger, and Columbia were all killed in tragic accidents ranging from the launch pad to re-entry. Please take a moment and honor these 17 heros.
May you all rest in peace as you now live forever in the heavens.
Tags: Apollo One, Challenger, Columbia
Category Space |
Belated Congratulations to SpaceX
15 Jan, 2011 | Author: Rocketman | 7 Comments »
Dragon Capsule shortly after returning to Earth. Credit SpaceX
Last month SpaceX completed the first Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS test flight. COTS was set up in January 2006 by NASA, under the leadership of Dr. Griffin, to have commercial companies compete for a contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. This was done because the Constellation Program was designed to leave Low Earth Orbit work to the commercial companies (once they learned how to do the job reliably) while the Constellation Program would eventually concentrate on missions to the Moon and other deep space manned activities. Constellation was killed by Obama and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida (and former Congresswoman Kosmas who was fired last November by the KSC workers she represented.) during a very public address at the O&C building at Kennedy Space Center April 15th, 2010 but the COTS program continued and SpaceX flew their first demonstration flight in December of 2010, one month shy of 6 years after the start of the program, using their Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon capsule.
As many of my readers know, I have fought long and hard to preserve our Human Space Flight Program and always felt that Constellation was our best option. Though I disagreed with the “New Space Boys” that commercial space companies, such as SpaceX, was ready to take over our nation’s HSF program, I always said that they still had a place in our nation’s space plans. I do want commercial companies to succeed and am encouraged to see them learn all they can about “rocket science.” I just don’t think they are ready to take over the entire HSF for our nation at the expense of Constellation or the taxpayer.
COTS is a great area for commercial companies to learn how to launch rockets, rendezvous with football field length space stations traveling 17,500 mph 250 miles up, and deliver cargo reliably and safely. Several companies had applied for the first round of COTS, but SpaceX is the only company not only to fly, but to successfully complete the first round. They not only did it, but did it well with the Dragon Capsule landing within 2,400 feet of the intended landing zone in the Pacific from what I’ve heard.
There were few problems during this test flight, and none of them affected the mission. They wanted to recover the 1st stage booster, but I understand it was lost in the Atlantic Ocean. They also had an engine failure on the orbiting stage, but the other engines performed well and kept Dragon on course. One interesting problem they had occurred prior to launch, and had made the news, was a crack in one of the engine bells or nozzle of the second stage. They flew in a technician from their facility in CA and he cut out the damaged section and used duct tape to repair the nozzle. It of course worked fine and many old time space guys talked about how it reminded them of the old days of Mercury and Gemini. That is nice, but once SpaceX is carrying NASA payloads and astronauts instead of a wheel of cheese, duct tape repairs will be a thing of memory and not allowed. I discussed the future NASA oversight SpaceX and other commercial companies will face once they start carrying USA taxpayer payloads and US astronauts in a past post here.
Overall, I have to give SpaceX credit. They did exceptionally well and I wish them much luck in their studies to join the giants of NASA whose shoulders they currently stand on. Well done SpaceX.
I have been a user of McAfee Anti-Virus programs for a number of years now. The programs have done thier job pretty well in finding and removing viruses, though they have never done well in finding and stopping adware (I useAd-Awareto handle that task). Overall I have been happy enough with McAfee to renew their programs each and every year.
About two months ago I got a nice email from McAfee asking me to manually renew my membership though it was not due for another three months. I put the email away and marked my calendar to renew at the end of January 2011. Then today, I got an email from McAfee saying they had not only renewed my virus scanner program for another year and a month early, but that they had helped themselves to nearly $80 of my money from my credit card! Not only did they take my money without my permission, they had over charged what I usually paid for my virus scanner for two computers by about $30.
Home of "Ashlee", "Bobby", "Sue" and other wonderful "American" customer service employees.
This will not do. I had never knowingly gave them permission to do such a thing and I promptly called McAfee via the phone (after much searching on their site for a phone number to call) and got a hold of “Ashlee” who had that familiar heavy foreign accent we all know and love from our dealings with customer service with other companies. After establishing that I was who I said I was, “Ashlee” explained to me through broken English what had happened.
Last year McAfee had done something different that I was not aware of at the time. To say it was unethical is an understatement in my estimation though I know it is probably legal for them to do it. When I renewed last year and paid my fees for both of our computers, there was buried in the small print of the license agreement, a line stating that I was agreeing to be placed on “auto-renewal” and would have my credit card charged automatically.
I never agree to auto-renewals for any products on or off the computer and if I had known about this little line they tucked away into the thousands of lines of the license agreement, I would have refused. I prefer to keep control of whom, why, and when someone can access my card. Obviously McAfee feels different.
She noted that I had already went to the website and had turned off the auto-renewal (which I did while investigating what had happened and accessing my account on McAfee) and asked if I wanted to enable the auto-renewal again. I of course said “no,” and asked that my money they took be refunded. She then asked if I would like to renew and receive a 25% discount. I said “no” and once again asked for a refund of my money.
She then relented (or ran out of her script she was reading) and said my money would be refunded in 5-10 business days and credited to my card. Why a debit from my card can only take 5 seconds, but a credit to my card has to take 5-10 business days is beyond my understanding and obviously broken English “Ashlee’s” too.
I like the program, but I have a serious problem with how McAfee goes about doing renewals this year. My subscription with them is up January 27th, and I will be spending the next month deciding if I want to renew or not and if I want to pay the over the top price they are now asking for renewal. It is very likely that I will be giving serious consideration to their competitors. What McAfee did was wrong, pure and simple. I am sure some slick lawyer told them it was legal since they included that little line in the licensing agreement, but it was ethically wrong and has damaged their reputation and the ability to be trusted in my eyes. It is my money and my decision when and if I will buy and pay for a product and its renewal, not McAfee or any other vendor out there.
Update 03-14-2011: I have decided to give Microsoft’s virus scanner a try. It’s free and so far seems to be working quite well without slowing down the computer like many third party virus scanners do. So far I’ve heard nothing but good reviews of it and since it’s made by Microsoft, it seems to be perfectly compatible with Windows. And, since it’s free, it saves paying $30-$80 each and every year to a third party vendor or having them just help themselves to your credit card without your permission. You can check out the Microsoft virus scanner here.
Old man and granddaughter making the "Best Pie in the World."
My father wrote a great piece on diabetes that I thought I would share with you all. You can check it out here. Feel free to leave a comment on his site and let him know his wandering son in the RV sent you there.
P.S. More posts will be coming later after the holidays including a post on SpaceX’s recent launch.
As most of you have probably noticed, prices for food and gas has risen quite a bit lately. In fact, Shadowstats.com reports that our current annual inflation rate as of October 2010 is at 7.1% Like other folks, we like to save money and thought that canning some of our food would be a good idea.
Preserving or storing food for long term storage is like putting money into a savings account that gives you a 7.1% return on your investment. Being able to go to your pantry and pull out dinner that you stored away months ago instead of running to the local store to buy it that day at an inflated price just makes sense financially. With canning, you can store meats, vegetables, sauces, jellies and jams, etc. for a long period of time and it still tastes fresh when it comes out of the jar. It’s not hard, but it is time consuming, and as the crew of RV-103 found out, sometimes you have to think outside the kitchen and adapt.
While we were in NY, I received as a birthday gift a canning set. I have been interested in canning for a while because I wanted a way to preserve the freshness of the farm grown food we had been eating up there during our stay. We went out and purchased several dozen jars of different sizes because it was about half the cost of what we would pay in Florida (that’s if we could find any supplies in Florida). Both of our mothers had canned when we were children and Gypsy had continued that practice into her motherhood days. We were looking forward to some good jams and jellies made from fresh ingredients to spread on our toast during our decadent breakfasts. Ummmmmm.
We had chosen to make and can first pumpkin butter and spiced cranberry. We had some pumpkin left over from our New York trip that we had brought down for our Thanksgiving dinner and wanted to put it to use before it spoiled. Gypsy had created a wonderful recipe for pumpkin butter that I was looking forward to trying.
Spiced cranberry is to die for. It is cooked with and placed on top of lamb, venison, or pork chops adding a wonderful flavor to the meat that just can’t be described but sure can be savored once you have tasted it. Gypsy had perfected her spice cranberry recipe and we had it on some lamb chops a few days ago for the first time. I spent the rest of the week kissing her feet and shamelessly begging for more.
As we gathered all our ingredients and supplies in the kitchen, we ran into our first complication: our glass top stove. Glass top stoves are wonderful, pleasing to the eye, and usually efficient but if anyone who has owned a glass top stove will tell you, there are certain pans or pots that cannot be used on them. Our canner is one of them. Hmmm…how are we going to sterilize the jars?
We brainstormed about the problem and came up with two possible solutions: Go to the RV and do all the cooking and sterilizing there on the tiny three burner stove or use the BBQ grill out back for the canner pot. We decided on using the BBQ grill out to sterilize the jars while Gypsy made the pumpkin butter and spiced cranberry on the glass top stove.
Soon enough we encountered our next problem. We had estimated it would take about two hours for Gypsy to complete her pumpkin butter leaving plenty of time to get the jars sterilized. Well, with glass top stoves and the right pans, cooking proceeds just a tad bit faster than anticipated. In fact, it took less than an hour before the pumpkin butter was ready and we still didn’t have the canner up and running yet. When we realized that the pumpkin butter was going to get done much sooner than we expected, I rushed to get the jars sterilized in the canner.
I filled the canner with water, jars, lids, and rings and carried the heavy load outside to the BBQ grill. I fired it up on high and placed the canner on it. That’s when I ran into our next complication: the weather. Tonight of all nights a cold front just had to be coming through with scattered rain, high winds, and dropping temperatures. After a half hour of trying to get the water to boil, I could see it was not working. The wind was blowing the flames around, scattering the heat generated, and cooling the canner stopping it from reaching that critical temperature of 212 F. Meanwhile, Gypsy was checking on me about every ten minutes expressing her worry that our batch of pumpkin butter would go bad if we didn’t get it in the jars soon. What to do?
I remembered a similar problem I had faced while working at Kennedy Space Center. One blustery wintery day I was about 250 feet up on the launch tower trying to do a tile repair on Shuttle Discovery. This repair involved the use of heat lamps that needed to maintain a temperature between 250-300 degree F and with the wind blowing so hard and cold; I couldn’t reach the temperature required. I built a tent like shelter around the lamp and tile using a fire proof fabric made of nomex and was able to block the wind and reach the temperatures needed.
Another spin-off from the space program!
So, I proceeded to build a “tent” of aluminum foil around the canner and grill diverting all the heat up and around it. I laid two blocks on each side of the air intake of the grill to prevent the wind from blowing around the flames, and within 10 minutes we had boiling water. Woohoo! Another spinoff from the space program! Somebody call NASA!
I got the jars sterilized, carried the hot canner inside and then Gypsy and I set up an assembly line filling and sealing the jars with Commander Merlin looking on and supervising. You have to be careful not to touch the rim or inside of the jars or lids or you will contaminate them risking your food going bad. Total sterile technique is required. I joked with Gypsy that I wish I had some “bunny suits” from KSC that we could wear. We got all the jars done for that batch, and then it was off to the grill again for some more sterilizing.
By the end of the evening we had done 22 jars of pumpkin butter and spiced cranberry. Only one jar failed to seal and that promptly went into the fridge for later consumption. All in all, despite the complications, things went well. In the next few nights we will be making some jellies to add to our pantry.
If you want to learn more about canning, I would suggest going to this site here or find someone you know that does canning regularly. I am sure that if you assist someone while they can their food, you will not only learn much about how to do it, but will probably get to take some home with you after your lessons. Canning is a time consuming and detailed oriented process that takes the better part of your day, but it will provide you with fresh food that will last up to a year that you can safely store in your pantry.
Early Monday morning we packed up and started the long trip back home. With the tank already filled and the car loaded, we started off just before the rain started which I was thankful for. Our goal was to reach the southern border of WV at a travel plaza in Beckley.
Most of the trip that day was uneventful, but our night in Beckley sure wasn’t. Being the educated people we were, we thought we would save a little money by staying at the travel plaza in Beckley. We have seen many RV’ers stay the night at rest stops and thinking that since the Beckley travel plaza was much larger than a rest stop and had fuel and food on the premises, it would be a good idea to spend the night there.
We got in about 7 pm that evening and fueled up first off. Afterwards, I drove RV-103 to the back area of the parking lot and parked two slots over from another RV. The place was huge with room for hundreds of semi-trucks and at first there weren’t too many of them there. We assumed that many truckers were not out driving due to the holiday later that week, but we were wrong. Within the next 2-3 hours, nearly every parking slot was filled by semis with airbrakes hissing and engines idling. RV-103 got flanked by two semis on each side parked so close that we could reach out the window and touch them. Other trucks kept circling the parking lot looking for an open slot until the wee hours of the morning.
We didn’t feel like cooking so I went inside the plaza to get some food and coffee. The food was terrible and even the coffee was weak (Starbucks, go figure!), but the worst part was the price. The prices were at least 20% more than other places and the Burger King didn’t even have a dollar menu. I bought our meager meal and headed back to the RV where Gypsy and Commander Merlin were waiting for me.
As I got to the door, a “lady of the evening” approached me looking for “work.” She seemed quite upset when I refused her and even commented to her partner who was somewhere out of sight behind the RV. After I was sure she and her friend had left, I knocked my secret knock and Gypsy let me in.
We ate and then tried to settle in for the night. It was hard to sleep due to all the semis making their unique noises, but eventually we drifted off for an uneasy night’s sleep. About 3 am I heard cows, lots of cows, and boy they were not happy. A semi hauling a couple dozen cows had parked right across from us and we spent the rest of the night hearing the moos ( Small Herd Cattle-SoundBible.com-101186334 ) and kicking against the cages like they were ready to avenge their brothers and sisters whom I grilled not long ago. Commander Merlin spent the night on our bed with her ears laid back and tail swishing.
I woke up about 7 am to the sound of the cows being even more upset and decided it wasn’t worth trying to go back to sleep. I got some coffee and Gypsy and I got RV-103 back on the road. It was now two days before Thanksgiving and the roads so far were pretty clear which surprised us. We made good time until we got to Columbia SC and then the holiday traffic started to appear slowing us all down. I swear that for some people, Thanksgiving is the only time of the year that they drive and it shows. Some just putter along at 40 mph in the passing lane while others are living out their dreams of being a NASCAR driver. And stuck in the middle is our 37 foot RV towing the car.
We knew we wouldn’t make it out of SC before the end of the day, so we started looking for a campsite (no more travel plazas or cows for us!). I decided to trade in some of my gazillion KOA points and we stopped in a little town called Yemassee SC at the Point South KOA. Our cost for the night’s stay was less than $20 and was well worth it.
The Point South KOA is right off I-95 and in a wooded area. The staff is very friendly, and I actually had a bit of difficulty getting the RV set up before darkness due to their willingness to stop by and chat. They have the only pizzeria in town so that makes them the best and worst pizza around. Actually the pizza was good and you could get a large pizza with everything on it hand delivered to your RV for only $14. They also had a wine bar, but we had enough of our own wine to drink with our pizza and wings.
As I mentioned, Point South KOA is in a wooded area. A much wooded area and it was tight getting the RV out of the campsite and back on the road. I walked the route beforehand noting where the trees were and how much space I had. We got out without incident and headed south.
Traffic was heavy, but manageable until we got onto I-75 on the west side of Florida. Then it was bumper to bumper, stop and go, and slow going all around. We were traveling about 2 miles an hour overall. We learned on the CB radio that there was a fender-bender about 30 miles south of us causing the slowdown. So, instead of sitting in the traffic, we pulled off into a rest area to wait it out.
The nice thing about traveling in a RV is you travel in comfort. We cooked a nice meal on the stove, fired up the generator, and watched a nice movie on our HD TV. Later on, I stepped outside to have a cigar and saw that several RV’s were lined up beside us doing exactly the same thing, the TV’s flickering through their windows and blinds.
After the movie was over (we watched Disney’s Scrooge starring Jim Carey), we checked the traffic and saw that it had thinned out some. We fired up our RV and pulled back onto the road. We got home about 10 pm that night and Commander Merlin meowed out “Wheels Stop” and Mission #3 The Empire (State) Strikes Back had finally ended.
We had a good time on this mission and enjoyed welcoming our new grandson into the world. Now it is time to settle down, get some maintenance done on RV-103, and prepare for our next mission and misadventures.
Commander Merlin and the crew of RV-103 wish you all happy and safe holidays.
As many of you know, I have been an avid supporter of the Constellation program and have expressed grave doubts about Obama, Senator Nelson, and former Congresswoman Kosmas’s plan to turn our entire Human Space Flight program over to unproven commercial space companies such as SpaceX. The commercial companies, which now seem to prefer to call themselves “New Space” (Sounds like another boy band created out of Orlando doesn’t it?), have included older aerospace companies such as Boeing and some very young upstarts such as SpaceX run by Elon Musk. The New Space boys have pushed hard with success to see the Constellation Program killed along with thousands of well-paying jobs that will devastate the economies of local communities near the various NASA space centers and place our nation’s Human Space Flight program at serious risk. During that push to kill HSF, they have made some pretty big promises on when they can launch humans and their capabilities, and have set their eyes on over $1.2 billion taxpayer dollars per year that can come their way with no need to pay it back. The American taxpayer has not had a choice, but is now forced to be “investors” in companies that claim they can do it cheaper and faster than NASA. But, I think New Space has miscalculated. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, for you just might get it.”
New Space companies have done some wonderful and impressive things. The two leading contenders in the news right now are SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, and Bigelow, owned by Robert Bigelow. In the beginning, Elon Musk originally risked his own money and actually bragged that he would not take any handouts from NASA or the American taxpayer. Though he has had failures in one form or another with his various launches, he has still persisted and has managed to place payloads 150 miles up and in orbit. Not many companies let alone countries can do that. SpaceX has promised they will be able to transport cargo to the International Space Station starting in 2011 and has not stated to my knowledge when they will transport their first human crews.
Bigelow, which licensed technology from NASA (one of the purposes of NASA is to share technology or spinoffs created in HSF programs with the nation), has already had two small “space stations” made of puncture proof fabric material launched into orbit on Russian rockets with the hope of someday providing “space hotels” and orbiting space stations for use by other countries and companies. Robert Bigelow “is willing to risk up to $500 million of his personal wealth on developing the world’s first commercial space station.” Though Bigelow has no way of launching their space stations or hotels on their own, they have recently partnered with Boeing (Boeing has taken $18 million from NASA as part of the $1.2 billion fund set up for commercial companies.) Boeing (with their as yet un-built spacecraft) and Bigelow have promised they will have the first commercial space station in orbit and inhabited with human crews by 2015.
I can play pro ball!
What these New Space Companies have done is impressive, but I have argued before that they are not ready to take on the responsibility of our nation’s HSF. It’s like an excellent little league baseball team that is so good they won the Little League World Series. Suddenly the owner of the NY Yankees shows up and flashes NY Yankee salaries in their faces and says he wants them to replace the NY Yankees and play professional baseball. He gives them the former Yankee’s uniforms, which are way too big for those 10-11 year old boys, all the equipment and stadium, etc. and expects them to compete on a professional level. I’m sure the stockholders for the NY Yankees and the fans would have a problem with that.
Florida Today, Brevard County and KSC’s local newspaper, has been a strong supporter of New Space to the detriment of KSC and its workforce (who happen to be its largest customer base). Recently they published two stories (here and here) to advocate New Space and try to promote how good it would be for the local economy. But, even in their stories, they had to admit that New Space is “highly unpopular” with the people at KSC and that though Florida Today predicted a “launch boom” in the near future, they had to admit that “Past projections for commercial launch booms have been bust.” Even Robert Bigelow is quoted in the articles as saying, “The future of this country is hugely reliant on some version of this architecture working successfully. If not, boy, I don’t know where we are going to head.”
Elon Musk of SpaceX
Most of my concentration in this post will be on SpaceX for they have been the most vocal on their wish to replace America’s HSF program and they make a good example of the major challenges New Space faces. Elon Musk used to boast that he could do things 10-100 times cheaper than NASA, and faster. Though Constellation had planned on its first human missions to the ISS in 2015, Mr. Musk had indicated he could do it faster with his Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. Just when, I have not been able to find a concrete date he has set, but his first unmanned mission to the ISS is scheduled for 2011. As I said, he boasted about using his own money until Obama dangled nearly $1.2 billion in front of his nose and the opportunity to be one of the main providers to transport astronauts to the ISS. Then, it became all about the money in my opinion, and that money has blinded him to the challenges he will face trying to play in the big leagues.
His first challenge, and the same challenge that all aerospace contractors face each year, is the budget battle. Just because you are promised by a politician a set amount of money each year does not mean you will get it. Politicians break promises all the time. Just ask the KSC workforce about Obama’s promise to close the gap and speed up Constellation. Recently, an Obama appointed deficit reduction commission, headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, proposed, among other things, the complete defunding of commercial space. “Bowles and Simpson called commercial space flight “a worthy goal” but said it’s unclear why the federal government should subsidize it.” New Space howled at the suggestion in protest. Welcome to the big leagues gentlemen! NASA, and its contractors, has had to fight the budget battle for 50 years. It is part of the game and it never ends. Some years you win, some years you survive, and some years you are cancelled.
The second challenge facing New Space is NASA oversight. Elon Musk used to complain that the paperwork required to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), right across mosquito lagoon from KSC, was so excessive that he had to go through the expense of hiring people to process and track it. Well Mr. Musk, if you think CCAFS paperwork was excessive, you’ve seen nothing yet. SpaceX and other commercial companies have no idea what type of regulations and oversight they will experience as they get into bed with NASA. All these New Space companies see is the $1.2 billion of taxpayer dollars for the taking. As a former shuttle worker I have seen first-hand how much time is devoted to paperwork and dealing with the NASA bureaucracy. Oversight and regulation are what NASA bureaucracy does best and no matter how many speeches is made by Charlie Bolden, the current NASA administrator, on how regulations and paperwork will be cut down, that decision is really not up to him but up to the bureaucrat hidden in a small office deep in the bowels of NASA that developed, wrote, and enforces his pet regulation.
Not all regulations and oversight are bad and some are actually needed to ensure the safety of the ship and crew. But when you throw in a risk adverse army of bureaucrats trying to cover their backsides, the regulations will grow exponentially. Former Flight Director Wayne Hale said “As with all good government bureaucracies, NASA believes that improved processes (read: increased bureaucracy) is the answer to preventing future problems. So NASA writes longer and longer specifications and requirements, and demands more and more documentation and proof.” Mr. Hale wrote two wonderful posts about this problem in his blog located here and here. As he said, “Commercial Human Spaceflight is poised to enter a bad relationship and I wonder why everyone is so blind they cannot see what is about to happen.” Well the blindness is caused by that $1.2 billion dollars.
During a typical Space Shuttle Flow, the two weeks prior to shuttle rollover, a series of teams will be formed by the contractors to review all paperwork. This actually will take two weeks to do or longer, at least it did in the TPS department where I worked. Every signature, every stamp, and every checkmark must be done. Nothing can be overlooked or NASA bureaucrats will ding the company. If Elon Musk thought CCAFS was excessive in their paperwork and oversight, he’s in for a rude and expensive surprise when he comes under NASA’s thumb.
So you want to fly in space eh?
Well how bad can it be? Take the lowly screw that would end up on a Space Shuttle. The following would need to be documented by a contractor in order to satisfy NASA. Has the screw been “human rated”, tested in space conditions such as vacuum and radiation? What is the sheer load for the screw? Is it resistant to corrosion? Who made the screw? When was it made? Who inspected it? Who and when was it delivered? Who accepted delivery and inspected it? Who stored it? Who signed it out? Who inspected it again? Who installed it on the ship? Where was it installed on the ship? What was the lot number? Who oversaw the technician during the installation of the screw? Did the Quality Inspector inspect it? Get the idea?
According to Wayne Hale, the CCT-REQ-1130 ISS Crew Transportation and Services Requirements for commercial companies wishing to fly crews to the ISS has been issued. This is how Mr. Hale describes the document: “The document runs a mind-numbing 260 pages of densely spaced requirements…on pages 7 to 11 is a table of 74 additional requirements documents which must be followed in whole or part. Taken all together, there are thousands of requirement statements referenced in this document. And for every one NASA will require a potential commercial space flight provider to document, prove, and verify with massive amounts of paperwork and/or electronic forms.” And gods forbid if there is an incident, injury, or fatality during a mission for it will guarantee even more oversight and regulations if not outright cancellation of their contract or program.
All eyes are now on you.
The third and last challenge I want to cover that New Space will have to face playing in the big leagues is being in the spotlight. If SpaceX or any other commercial company thinks that their work and missions can be edited, withheld, or hidden from the public as it can be right now, think again. When you are in bed with NASA and you are using taxpayer dollars, everything is public record. Every bump, scrape, near miss, success and failure is for public viewing. And don’t think the media isn’t going to amplify it and whip you every each way to Sunday. They will because they like doing that. It’s a blood sport to them. So will your critics. New Space caused a civil war within NASA and the aerospace community and cost thousands of jobs in the Constellation program and possibly our nation’s HSF program. Those people have endured New Space’s quiet and not so quiet war against them for seven years and now will be watching the New Space companies like a hawk. Fair or unfair, it will be interesting to see if New Space can take was well as it gave. Miss a deadline, people will pounce. Break a promise and people will quickly point it out and never let you forget it either. Lose a ship or astronaut, and fortunes will be lost. Get the picture?
To sum it all up, New Space wanted to play in the big leagues. Well now you’re here and it’s time to put on that oversized uniform and see if you can play ball. I do wish the New Space companies luck, but remember, when it comes to America’s Human Space Flight program, if you can’t back up your words and promises you made to the nation and rise to the challenges, you will find your major league career over quite quickly. New Space has cost our taxpayers $9 billion so far by getting Constellation cancelled, done a lot of damage to thousands of people who worked on Constellation, and jeopardized our nation’s HSF program to get into the big leagues. I sure hope it was worth the cost.
Update:AmericaSpace.orghas written a wonderful post about SpaceX’s attitude and the “wake up” call they are going to get soon from the media and public. Hat tip to our reader astronautics_student.
I quit flying after my flight to pick up the RV in 2009. Dealing with the airline was a pain, but nothing compared to the TSA. Something is not right when you have to practically undress just to fly on a plane you paid a ticket for. I have a problem when my fourth and fifth amendment rights are violated and I am assumed to be a criminial.
When TSA recently brought in the “nude scanners” and the pat downs that border on sexual molestation, I was glad of my decision not to fly anymore. It seems the TSA can now touch the privates of your wife, husband, or young child in violation of the Constitution and laws concerning molestation.
Today I lectured at Letchworth Central School and a question came up about what astronauts were like. I thought I would share my answer with you all.
Astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave: the ultimate renaissance man. A high school dropout that became a aircraft mechanic, mathematician, chemist, physician, poet, writer, speaker, astronaut, pilot, and much more.
I’ve met probably close to 60-80 astronauts and cosmonauts during my time at KSC. Some are more outgoing and some are more reserved, and they seem to exhibit the many varied personalities that most of our population shows with some exceptions. I have found that they all share an intense curiosity about life. I can’t count how many times a astronaut would sit down at our shop table or walk up to our work site and inquire what we were doing, why we were doing, and how do we do it. Unlike a politician, whose interest is faked, an astronaut’s curiosity is actually real. They really want to know and they ask intelligent questions. They are in essence, the proverbial student, always learning, always questioning, always observing.
Below is a nice video produced by Honda that deals with that need to explore and be curious.
If you want to be an explorer, you have to develop your interest in the world around you. You have to be always curious, always seeking new knowledge, no matter how removed from your current career it may be. In fact the further removed from your career, probably the better. It is surprising at how much knowledge and experience from something unrelated to your life’s career can become relevant when you draw upon the lessons learned from it. A curiosity in many varied things will lead to a much better skill set to draw upon when problem solving. Go out and learn something new today.
No, we are not celebrating Guy Fawkes day or watching a rerun of the movie Vendetta. We are instead celebrating the main reason why we came to New York, the birth of our first grandson. Little Zachary was born at 4:15 pm November 5th and has become the newest resident on this fair planet and in our lives. The news was so exciting that even Commander Merlin was doing backflips in celebration.
Proud new parents of little Zachary
Rocketman is already trying to corrupt the little boy with a astronaut bib, sleeper, and halloween costume.
Rocketman and Gypsy with Zachary
Welcome to Earth Zachary. May your visit be long and prosperous.
Last night I appeared on The Space Show hosted by Dr. David Livingston. The interview went so well that it went a half hour over the scheduled time. There were many good calls and email questions from all over the world and Kennedy Space Center. I wanted to thank the people of KSC for their participation and taking the moment to say “hey.” I do miss you all and think of you all each and every day.
You can download to the interview or listen online at the following link:
On Wednesday, November 3rd, Rocketman will be the subject of a 1 1/2 hour interview conducted by Dr. David M. Livingston on the podcast The Space Show. The live interview will start at 10 PM EST and end at 11:30 PM EST.
“The Space Show®focuses on timely and important issues influencing the development of outer-space commerce and space tourism, as well as other related subjects of interest to us all.”You can listen live and phone in or submit questions/comments via email, or download the archived show the next day after the show.
“The Wednesday, November 3, 2010 7-8:30 PM PDT program replaces the Tuesday show for this week due to election return night on Tuesday. Our guest for this program is Gregory Cecil, retired NASA shuttle worker. You can visit his website for more information at https://rv-103.com.
Gregory Cecil has been a space enthusiast since he first watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon when he was nearly six years old. After a 22 year medical career, Greg returned to school at the young age of 40 and obtained his A.S. degree in Aerospace Technology from Brevard Community College. Three months after graduation, Greg was hired by United Space Alliance to work on the thermal protection system for the Space Shuttle Fleet. During his 5 ½ years at Kennedy Space Center, Greg obtained three more degrees, including his Masters in Aeronautical Science: Space Operations Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
During his time at Kennedy Space Center, Greg has:
• Partnered with the NASA Biomed division and conducted a study on the feasibility of using the Crew Physiology Observation Device (a high tech monitoring system developed for the astronauts) for other tasks and personnel at Kennedy Space Center.
• Was one of the first 100 people to obtain the National Certified Aerospace Technician offered through SpaceTec. (www.spacetec.org)
• Was one of 75 scientists, engineers, and technicians selected to participate in a month long class on Microgravity culminating in a flight on ZeroG.
• Wrote an article for The Space Review detailing his experiences on ZeroG.
• Has been interviewed by Ad Astra, Career World, and most recently Smithsonian Air & Space magazine.
• Has assisted in conducting VIP tours and doing presentations to those VIPs on the thermal protection system.
In October of 2009, Greg elected to take early retirement/layoff during the first round of layoffs at Kennedy Space Center. Since then, Greg and his wife, Linda, along Commander Merlin the cat have traveled the nation in their RV called RV-103. “Space Shuttle Discovery was my first ship I worked on and it has always had a special place in my heart. The official NASA designation for Discovery is Orbiter Vehicle 103 or OV-103, hence the name of RV-103 when it came time to name our RV.”
Greg started a website last December at RV-103.com that deals with current Human Space Flight issues and currently has over 150 posts. Greg also does presentations at local schools, colleges, and civic groups where ever RV-103 is at on “What it is Like to Work on the Space Shuttle: The Misadventures of a Space Cadet” as part of the RV-103 lecture series. Greg is also a contract blogger for SpaceTec, a nationwide consortium of colleges that teach aerospace technicians. The blog, Space Update, is found at www.blog.spacetec.org.
Listeners can talk with Gregory Cecil or the host using toll free 1 , by sending e-mail during the program using , , or dmlivings”
Mark Twain picture taken in 1871 by famous Civil War photographer Matthew Brady
Recently, Gypsy and I traveled over to Elmira NY. Elmira has two people who have a claim to fame, first female shuttle Commander Eileen Collins and a gentlemen named Samuel Clemmons or better known as Mark Twain.
Samuel Clemmons was born in 1835 two weeks after Halley’s Comet had made its closest approach to Earth. During his lifetime he traveled all over the world and was a printer’s apprentice, a typesetter, river boat pilot, silver miner, author, newspaper reporter, and lecturer.
Samuel Clemmons came to Elmira after viewing the picture of a friend’s sister. He said he fell in love at first sight. After a year engaged, Samuel Clemmons and Olivia Langdon married in 1870. The Langdon family was a wealthy family in Elmira and Samuel Clemmons spent many summers there in a small little study writing some of his most famous works.
The study looks like a gazebo with windows and a fireplace. Quite smaller than I had expected, but I could understand why he liked to write there. It had a small desk for writing and chairs for visitors. When Clemmons used the study, it was situated on a hilltop, but since then has been moved to the grounds of Elmira College.
List of books written by Mark Twain at this study.
Afterwards, we went to his gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira. Samuel Clemmons was buried in his wife’s family plot. He said of his impending death as he got older, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.” He got his wish and died the next year in 1910 one day after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach.
There is a simple headstone marking his grave beside his wife and a 12 foot monument is nearby with his name and likeness on it. Someone had left a pumpkin with a penny on it for some unknown reason at his headstone.
Congresswoman Kosmas, Senator Bill Nelson, and Obama arrive at KSC on April 15th, 2010.
Some folks in the space community are not too keen on public political endorsements, so they sometimes take offense when someone in their community takes a stand and supports a candidate. Since Human Space Flight programs are decided and funded by politicians, I personally think it is prudent for aerospace workers to find, support, vote, and endorse candidates that will be the best for our nation’s Human Space Flight Program. It only makes sense if you think about it. When working on spacecraft, a technician and engineer will always seek out the best tool/part to complete the work. Space hardware is expensive and paid for by the taxpayer, so it should have only the best. The same goes for choosing a politician.
Many people at Kennedy Space Center actively vote each election, probably more than the general population, but that is usually the extent of their participation in the political process. After Obama, Congresswoman Kosmas, and Senator Nelson visited KSC and killed our nation’s HSF in such a cowardly and public manner, it gavlanized many in the 10,000 strong workforce to become much more politically active. I am one of them and recently wrote a letter to Florida Today in Brevard County endorsing publically two congressional candidates that serve Brevard County and KSC.
At this time, Florida Today has not published my letter (this is my second letter to them), but the frequent readers of Florida Today wouldn’t be surprised by that. Anyway, Sandy Adams, who is running to replace Congresswoman Kosmas, did publish my letter here.
Remember, elections do have real life consequences as we have found out at KSC. Be an educated and active voter.
Brevard County's Future?
November 3rd, 2010 Update: Suzanne Kosmas has joined the ranks of the unemployed thanks to the KSC workers by a two to one margin. Sandy Adams will become the Congresswoman representing Kennedy Space Center and hopefully will do a much better job than Kosmas could have ever done. Well done KSC workers…well done!
Next up is Senator Bill Nelson in 2012. Never forget his betrayal KSC…never forget.
Great Moments in Mainstream Media Coverage of Human Space Flight Issues
Neithercorp Press just recently published a essay titled, “The Mainstream Media is Now Obsolete” written by Giordano Bruno. In it he discusses why mainstream news organizations are failing due to inept and sometimes deliberate journalism malpractice and the rise of citizen journalism on the internet. It’s a good read and well worth the time.
When I tell people that I get most of my news from the web, many say that it’s full of inaccurate crazies and is not reliable. They are partially true. There are many inaccurate web sites out there, but there are far more many accurate web sites and citizen journalists that cover the news much better than any mainstream media organization will do. Human Space Flight is a wonderful example of that. Most mainstream media sites have cut their science bureaus budgets and some have gotten rid of their science bureaus all together such as CNN has done. These mainstream media companies think you are more concerned if Britney Spears wore panties today than if America still has a Human Space Flight Program or not.
“Some sources of web news, like most mainstream outlets, are not reliable, while others are fantastically precise. The internet forces you, the reader and researcher, to check the viability of the information you encounter. You are no longer a passive observer frying your synapses in front of a talking box, but a participant in the realm of news, seeking out and separating that which is factual, from that which is not. Web news users have to put individual effort into their learning, which is, frankly, the way it should be.” – Giordano Bruno
During my time at Kennedy Space Center I have witnessed first hand the idiocy that is the mainstream media, from describing detailed shuttle repairs saying we used duct tape to do the repair, to male NY Times reporters wearing shorts, tee shirt, and flip flops on national TV asking accomplished female astronauts “How do you keep your hair so perfect in Zero G?” Obviously many of these mainstream reporters have a lack of education when it comes to space flight, didn’t prepare and do the background research, or thought it was just a fun Florida vacation. One mainstream aeronautical magazine reporter had the gall once to ask if shuttle workers were sabotaging the Space Shuttle due to a troublesome hydrogen leak to extend their time at KSC and delay being laid off. Of course the other mainstream outlets ran with it though there was no evidence to suggest it was true.
It is the bloggers, the citizen journalists, that ask the appropriate questions and have done their homework. People such as Keith Cowing of NasaWatch, America Space, Nasa Engineer, etc that are listed on the sidebar of this webpage and out there on the web for you to seek out. If you want detailed news about Human Space Flight and space flight in general, you have to go to the web to find it. It won’t be on TV or in the newspapers. These people, myself included, have a higher standard to present the information, present the means to have it verified, and correct things when they are proven inaccurate. Trust me, if any of us get it wrong, the readers out there will not hesitate to “ding” us and will leave if that higher standard is not kept.
The web is the highest form of free speech known to man and also probably overall the most accurate form of news and information out there. It’s just up to the readers to find it and fact check it.
“Just as Earth orbit was necessary to go beyond Earth orbit, “mastering” the Moon is necessary to going beyond the Moon.” – Joel Raupe, AmericaSpace.org
Last Friday NASA released data from the collision of an empty rocket stage and a crater on the southern tip of the Moon that occurred one year ago. Two satellites were orbiting the Moon at the time and analyzed the ejecta from the 5,600 mph collision. NASA has determined due to the data it received from the collision that the Moon potentially holds twice as many gallons of water in the shadowy areas of its craters as than previously thought.
Why is this important? In order to have a Moon base and to minimize the cost of transporting materials to the Moon, astronauts need to have a way to “live off the land.” With water being discovered in copious amounts on the Moon, astronauts can purify it for drinking, cooling purposes, and irrigation for Moon grown plants in lunar greenhouses. Since water weighs 8 lbs. to a gallon and the cost of flying one pound into orbit is around $50,000.00, the discovery of water at the Moon is a major savings in launch costs.
Astronauts can live off the land with water being on the Moon.
Also, water is made of two components, hydrogen and oxygen. These are primary rocket fuels. Using water on the Moon, astronauts can make their own rocket fuel to both return home saving the cost of transporting that extra fuel to the Moon, and use the fuel to launch missions into deep space towards Mars and other locales from the Moon. Also the oxygen can be used to replenish the atmosphere inside the Moon base for the astronauts to breathe therefore saving even more costs.
My question is did NASA sit on this data until after Congress and Obama killed Constellationa few weeks ago? To release this data before the killing of Constellation would have made it more difficult for Obama and his cronies in Congress to accomplish their goal of destroying America’s Human Space Flight Program.
From the Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. likely won’t be involved in manned voyages to the moon anytime soon. President Barack Obama recently canceled a NASA program to return astronauts to the lunar surface a decade from now…But other countries are gearing up. China has pledged to land astronauts on the moon by 2025, and India has plans to do the same by 2020. Japan wants to establish an unmanned moon base in a decade, potentially setting the stage for a manned mission later.”
I think it is a good question and hopefully someone in the media, besides this website, will ask NASA’s Charlie Bolden if NASA deliberately sat on this data until after Constellation was killed.
Update:Looks like NasaEngineer.com and AmericaSpace.org are starting to wonder the same thing.
The World Lost a Good Man Yesterday: Edward Nichols 8-19-1953 to 10-06-2010
07 Oct, 2010 | Author: Rocketman | 7 Comments »
Edward E. Nichols 1953-2010
My good friend Edward Nichols was killed yesterday in an auto accident in North Carolina. None of you know him, but he has impacted literally hundreds of lives in WV, NC, and Vietnam.
I first got to know Ed when I worked as a paramedic at Tri-State Ambulance in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Ed was the senior medic in the Elm Grove station and I was the senior medic in the Wheeling station in WV. We were each other’s primary backup during emergency calls. I always knew that if I found myself in a bad situation, such as a cardiac arrest or a motor vehicle accident involving multiple trauma patients, Ed was not far away and would always be there to help. During those years we began a friendship that lasted until his death yesterday. We were drinking buddies, roommates, co-workers, and cohorts in fun and mischief.
Ed was a man who loved serving and helping people. He was a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corp and served in Vietnam. He was wounded once during an mortar attack and received a Purple Heart. He is in the famous April 29th 1975 picture of Marines shoving helicopters off the flight deck of the USS Blue Ridge to make room for other helicopters bringing Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Communists during the fall of Saigon. His service in the Marine Corps was one of the proudest times in his life.
Ed on the USS Blue Ridge
Upon return to these United States, Ed became a coal miner in WV until the coal industry collapsed in the 1980′s. Ed changed careers and became a paramedic working for Tri-State Ambulance in Wheeling WV and was responsible for helping literally hundreds of lives during his time there. He worked five 24 hour shifts each week and made our jobs fun even during the most darkest days. Ed was a peacemaker, team builder, mentor, practical joker, counselor, advocate, and friend to all there.
In 1993, Ed followed me to Winston-Salem North Carolina and lived with me until he bought his own home where he lived until he passed away. He started out his time in NC working with me taking care of a disabled man whose family became life long friends of ours. I eventually moved on, but Ed stayed with the family until the death of our friend and patient. Afterwards, Ed started working at Forsyth Hospital in Winston-Salem NC helping and touching hundreds of more lives. He was on his way to work when he was killed.
Ed never sought fame or recognition. He was the quiet kind of hero that did what he felt was the right thing to do and served people and his nation every day. He lived the Marine oath, “Semper Fi” or “Always Faithful”, everyday with everyone who he encountered. He was a good man, good marine, and a damn good medic. He made the world and the lives around him better than he had found it. He used to joke that “No good deed goes unpunished”, but he never stopped doing good for his fellow man despite any personal hardship. He is my friend and I am honored to have known him all these years.
Ed leaves behind his wife, Sherry, his two children, Courtney and Brian, and one grandchild.
This evening the House passed the Senate Bill effectively killing Constellation and America’s Human Space Flight Program after 50 years of leadership in space exploration. Obama, Senator Bill Nelson, and Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas have succeded in dismantling another part of our country’s infrastructure and once more diminishing our nation. Hopefully Floridians will remember these three and their betrayal come election day in 2010 and 2012.
To the folks that spent years tearing down Constellation and our HSF, you got what you wished for and soon you will join me and many others on the unemployment line. Enjoy your food stamps. You sure did earn them.
Congressman Bill Posey, who represents South Brevard County and is a former aerospace worker, worked hard to save Constellation and America’s Human Space Flight Program. With the vote coming down to the last day or two of Congress’s session before they left to go campaign, Congressman Posey was placed in a tough position trying to decide to vote for or against this bill. He ended up choosing to vote for it while acknowledging that it was a bad bill and bad for America’s HSF because if the bill didn’t pass, then Obama could divert NASA’s funding away from space exploration without any checks or balances and use if for his own desires such as buying votes or bailing out his cronies.
Hopefully, when the Republicans take power in January, they can start the long process of undoing the damage that Obama, Senator Bill Nelson, and Congresswoman Kosmas have done to America’s HSF and to Florida’s citizens. After the last Space Shuttle flies, it will be at least 10-15 years before you will ever see an American astronaut fly on an American ship if ever. We are now dependent on Russia’s good graces for a ride to the International Space Station as long as we meet their price.
Below is the statement from Congressman Bill Posey about this dreadful choice.
“The House passed a NASA Authorization bill with the support of Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) which, if not enacted, would have paved the way for the Administration to dismantle key NASA programs without Congressional consent.
“Had the House had failed to pass a NASA bill this week, the Administration, whose NASA plan failed to keep the promise of closing the gap and keeping us first in space, would have been empowered to dismantle key exploration programs even further and shift the program money elsewhere. I wasn’t willing to let that happen. I think that would have created a worst case scenario. So while the bill falls short of legislation that I authored last year which closes the human space flight gap, the good news is that this final bill is at least somewhat of a departure from the plan outlined by the Administration in February.
“Rather than leaving the fate of our nation’s space program – which is critical to our national security and future economic competitiveness – in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who are accountable to no one, Congress needed to act. I will work hard to improve this bill in the coming months and when the Congress convenes in January so that we can keep America first in space.
“I am also disappointed that the bill sends NASA back to the drawing board to design the next space launch system because I believe that will lengthen the gap. However, I will work with my colleagues to see that NASA closely follows the directive in the bill, to utilize to the maximum extent, the work that has already been done on Ares I, as doing so will shorten the gap.”
“Over the past 18 months, the Administration has tried to dismantle key elements of our human space flight program and Congress was slow to respond. Now, here we are at the eleventh hour with a take it or leave it proposition. That is not the best way to govern and I am deeply disappointed in this dysfunctional process.””
Meanwhile, another 2,000-3,000 workers at the various NASA Space Centers will be laid off on Friday. Remember them in your prayers.
Credit Jeff Parker
Sandy Adams is the Republican opponent running against Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas. Please support her this November with your vote and donations. Her website ishere.