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Chicks in Space October 25, 2007

Posted by shubber in distracting PR, Manned Space, NASA, Uncategorized.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the space press arena, NASA’s PR machine is in high gear touting their latest “success”.

Chicks in charge.


I kid you not. The big accomplishment? That for the first time in history, a woman is in charge of the STS and another in charge of the ISS – at the same time!

As many of you no doubt are aware, I’m one of the first ones to call BS when the private alt.space community bangs their “we can do it better than NASA, just give us the money” drum. However, in this case, the private sector is right – they’ve had women in charge of BIG companies for years – think Carly at HP for a recent (if somewhat unfortunate) example. Sure, there’s still a glass ceiling in many respects in the private sector, but it has been cracked a few times.

This is certainly an accomplishment for both Colonel Pamela Melroy (STS commander) and Peggy Whitson, Station Commander – and they should be recognized for all they have achieved (my feelings about the manned space program notwithstanding). But making a deal out of the “grand alignment” of TWO women commanders at the same time – well, it just smacks of how far mighty NASA has fallen that they are grasping at virtually any straw to make the space program seem interesting or relevant.

If you think I’m wrong about this desperation, allow me to present exhibits A and B:

Light Saber Stupidity

Relative Velocity

What is perhaps sadder is that the mainstream space media is lapping this silliness up, accepting that it is in fact newsworthy (rather than say an interesting feature on EITHER of the two female astronauts, based on their individual accomplishments). More so, the ridiculous PR releases coming out from the alt.space community congratulating NASA and leaving the neanderthal era.

I guess anything to distract from the last few notable news events concerning infamous activities of astronauts (drinking, stalking, kidnapping, you know…) is considered a good thing. Personally, I just think it’s sad….

*note – if I’ve offended any feminists with my choice of title for this post, let me suggest you should be more offended by the time it has taken NASA to join the rest of the US in treating women as people and not the fairer sex.


Tap tap tap… October 21, 2007

Posted by shubber in CRATS, death, Manned Space, NASA, rocketplane, space, space tourism, suborbital tourism, Wasting Money.

that sound, dear friends, is the sad accompaniment to the activity of driving a nail into a coffin.

RPK Coffin

In this particular instance, the coffin would be that of RpK’s COTS efforts. It appears that NASA has finally determined that RpK was not going to be able to meet the already missed milestones or upcoming ones, and has therefore informed Oklahoma City-based Rocketplane of its decision in a letter from Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Rick Gilbrech.

In the next breath, of course, NASA then went on to mumble something about “A vibrant commercial space industry will help NASA fulfill its promise to support the International Space Station, retire the space shuttle and return humans to the moon.” This from Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office.

Of course they’re going to say that. It’s not like they can ever just come out and fess up on what a colossal SNAFU the entire manned space program is, right? And just what vibrant commercial industry are they referring to, anyway?!?

Meanwhile, NASA says that the unspent money will be re-awarded to other aerospace firms in a new competition.

Here’s a question for those who are excited at the prospect of the money being up for grabs again…. Has anyone noticed a common theme amongst the new space access companies: SpaceX, Blue Origin, Armadillo, Virgin/Scaled, and even Beal (before it went bye bye)?

Here’s a hint: the investors/developers in these NewSpace launch technologies are all gazillionaires or backed by those people. So who does NASA plan to award the remaining $170+ million from RpK’s lost contract? I can’t say for certain, but i’m pretty sure I know who WON’T be getting the money…

Space Investment Summit – Silicon Valley October 18, 2007

Posted by shubber in angel investing, gauntlet being dropped, investment, PYMWYMI, space, space tourism, suborbital tourism, venture capital.
1 comment so far

Ok, for those of you with entrepreneurial space aspirations, who think that your plan isn’t just another flavor of kool-aid, it’s time to step up and represent (so to speak).

The third in a series of Space Investment Summits, otherwise known as SIS-3 (clever, no?) is being held this December in Silicon Valley, offering would be future space titans of industry the opportunity to present to well-heeled investor types (angels and VCs). You must, of course, prequalify – the application process is on the event website:

SIS-3 Registration

So now’s your chance… let’s see who can make the cut, and potentially get some megabucks to get their venture on the path to stardom (sorry, couldn’t resist).

And yes, yours truly will be kicking off the event with an overview presentation of the Space Industry for the attendees, so you can’t say you weren’t warned.

A quick recommendation October 10, 2007

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

One of the great things about internet 2.0 and blogging is all the cool stats you get with your weblog these days. For example, we’ve had over 10,000 hits in just the few short months we’ve been here on our new wordpress home! Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read our various posts, rants, and occasional bits of humor.

Another great thing is doing the “reverse surf” as I call it – look up where visitors came from and go see what those websites are like. Well, today I found a new one (to me) that, well, made me feel like I’d found my separated at birth siblings:

Mundane SF

The authors here have some great comments on the Google X-Prize, the craziness of mining the moon, and in my opinion just “get it” when it comes to separating the reality from the Kool-Aid.

’nuff said.

Slim Pickings…? October 8, 2007

Posted by shubber in Manned Space, NASA, pickens, public service announcement, Wasting Money.


Thomas Pickens III seems to think that the future opportunity for making the ISS that success that we all deep down know it can be </sarcasm> is to get the pharmaceutical industry to line up to use it… if only they knew how valuable it was!

“If people knew what I already know, the International Space Station would be considered one of the most valuable resources our world possesses,” Pickens said at the ISS National Laboratory Workshop last week. – Wired

Well, if only Mr. Pickens knew what I already know – that industry was extensively surveyed in the late 1990s as to their interest in using ISS for commercial research and the resulting feedback was NOPE, NADA, ZIP, NO INTEREST, PISS OFF, NO THANK YOU…. perhaps he would save himself from the latest pyrrhic endeavor for SpaceHab.


For those who don’t know the backstory, allow me to set the wayback machine to the early 1990s, when Dan Goldin told the “big lie”…

In an impassioned attempt to save the ISS from cancellation in Congress, some pretty bogus claims were made about the value of ISS to industry, and more specifically that industry was so itching to use this amazing facility (which had already cost over $10 billion without any hardware even launched yet…) that NASA was promising over 30% of the costs would be covered by industry.

Of course, as the costs escalated and those pesky bean counters started looking at TOTAL life cycle costs, the price tag for ISS had shot up to almost $100 billion by the time it would be completed. Knowing that industry would never pony up $30 billion for this orbiting locker room, the claim was modified to mean “30% of operating costs”. Which was a much more palatable $1.2 billion annual expenditure.

Supporters of ISS (you know who you are) rallied around this number as being much more defensible – after all, the total spending in the US on R&D (private industry, government, and university) in the late 90s was approximately $80 billion annually, so what was $400 million in the big picture? SURELY that would be spent on ISS, right?


What the booster/hucksters failed to look at was the % of R&D funding that was translatable to ISS from terrestrial labs. Luckily, some of us did look at that.

Turns out, you can break R&D into three categories – basic science, applied research, and production R&D. Basic science in the US in the late 90s accounted for about $8 billion of the $80 billion spent on R&D – and much of that was conducted at the Federal lab or University level. The vast majority was on Production R&D – the sort of thing that would NOT be done in the furnaces on ISS. Now $400 million taken out of $8 billion is 5%.

5% of ALL basic science R&D performed across the entire United States would be shifted to the ISS?

Sounds like BS, doesn’t it? Which is precisely what it was.

So, in the best tradition of space repeating itself every 10-15 years, along comes Mr. Pickens with another “ISS is the place for pharma research!” media campaign. Which sounds eerily similar to Dan Goldin in the 1990s.

I understand he is Chairman of SpaceHab, and has to do whatever he can to increase shareholder value (or the share price, if you’re cynical) while he’s there… I think that the outcome of Mr. Pickens’ attempts to commercialize ISS through big pharma will be the same as that of Slim’s ride on the A-bomb…. somehow I just don’t think it’s nearly as funny. I’m betting the shareholders will feel the same way. Just look at the performance of SpaceHab over the past decade…  And that’s a real shame, because Pickens is a smart guy, and if there’s a chance of turning around SpaceHab I’d say he’s the kind of guy to do it (someone who is *not* a space tragic).


p.s. – for those who read the linked Wired article, note that the cost of ISS has been moved up again, now at $130b and counting. Pretty soon it will have cost almost as much as a Space Based Solar Power Satellite….

Disturbia October 6, 2007

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

Apparently, the Space Cynics seem to have finally caught the eye of a few kool-aid drinkers out there, who find our site disturbing.

I’m glad to see we are doing our jobs, then.  Frankly, what disturbs me is how otherwise intelligent people swallow the space kool-aid without the slightest bit of skepticism – or, as my texan friend likes to put it, less smarts than a bag of hammers.

Oh, and for those of you still following the old link, we moved to wordpress over 3 months ago… do try and keep up.