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It’s a MAE MAE MAE MAE MAE MAE World…. November 26, 2010

Posted by shubber in Manned Space, military, NASA, public service announcement, space, space tourism, Uncategorized.
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A recent article in TheStar.com discusses how space may be the first frontier for the next major conflict. By major conflict I assume one in which the US is engaged with another world power and not the sort of massively asymmetric warfare we are engaged in in the Iraq & Afghanistan.

Thinking through how a conflict might unfold – there are lots of scenarios that could potentially lead to the start of a shooting war between the major powers, such as China finally getting around to trying to “take back” Formosa (maybe they haven’t updated their maps to call it Taiwan..?) – the issue of how it starts is less relevant; what is more relevant is what might happen next.

China’s ASAT “test” (some prefer to call it demonstration) where they blew one of their own defunct weather satellites into smithereens was IMO the modern day equivalent of what the US and USSR did back in the 50s and  60s before the test ban treaty – a show of force that “we have nukes, too” just in case the other side had somehow forgotten about the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

Critics immediately decried the test/demonstration as irresponsible due to the cloud of debris that it immediately generated. There are currently over 600,000 pieces of debris floating around the Earth according to ESA, the remnants of satellite launches, debris from collisions, the occasional intentional destruction a la the ASAT test/demonstration, etc.  Our friends at NASA are currently tracking many of these to help keep our satellites, rockets, ISS, and astronauts safer.

So now I propose that a new doctrine is in play – one that supercedes the MAD doctrine (because c’mon, no one REALLY expects us to go nuclear against each other in this day and age, so those weapons are effectively just expensive museum pieces).  I call this the doctrine of:

Mutually Assured Exclusion (MAE)

The problem is that, unlike MAD, this doctrine is not well known or possibly actually factored into policy thinking as it should be – the fact that we already have 600,000+ pieces of debris is clear evidence of our lack of foresight and planning when it comes to littering the space around our planet.  But it is something that we must discuss now, in the context not simply of reducing debris from launches and other non-conflict-related space activity, but rather in relation to what might happen in a real conflict involving members of the space faring club on opposing sides (i’m going to ignore for the moment the scenarios of the “rogue nation” launching a nuke into orbit in some Dr. Evil-like plot to destabilize the world).

If we were to get into a shooting war with another major power, the first thing that the “weaker” of the two would do is to level the playing field as much as possible – in this case, by taking out our space-based superiority.  After all, depriving the US of GPS and spaced based imagery capabilities would have a non-trivial impact on our ability to wage a war “over there”.  Think Kirk entering the Mutara Nebula.   (“We daren’t follow them into the nebula, Sir! …. Our weapons would be useless!”)  Granted, you may still have a general or admiral who will cry, “Full Power! Damn You!”, but I doubt it.


Whatever the results of the shooting war on the ground, one effect that I haven’t heard much talk, but should be of supreme concern especially to those in the alt.space community, is that of MAE – the debris field created through the targeted destruction of numerous satellites could dwarf what is out there right now and make access to space virtually impossible for a long time.  If you thought they had it tough in the Millenium Falcon going through the asteroid field, you have no idea….



Words to live by April 16, 2009

Posted by shubber in public service announcement.

Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then they beat you with experience.

Why We Won’t (fill in the blank): April 14, 2009

Posted by shubber in bailout, distracting PR, economy, finance, hot air, investment, Manned Space, NASA, public service announcement, sbsp, smack talk, solar power, space, Space Solar Power, Wasting Money.
  1. Go back to the Moon
  2. Build a Lunar Settlement (see #1)
  3. Send humans to Mars
  4. Build a Space Based Solar Power Satellite (other than a demo, if that)
  5. Build a real replacement for the Shuttle (i.e. something reusable)
  6. Build a Space Elevator
  7. Fulfill any other wild fantasy of the Space Tragic community


Giving kudos where they are due, I was alerted to this chart by a blog posting at Rand Simberg’s site, Transterrestrial Musings.  The reason I decided to show this here is not to engage in a “who can spend more like a drunken sailor on shore leave” debate between the righties and the lefties – since both parties have long since given up any semblance of fiscal conservatism, proving once again that the old saying:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse (generous gifts) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy….”

While we aren’t quite at collapse stage yet, I wouldn’t hold my breath for any major investments in space-related projects when you are fighting against much better organized and heeled opponents wanting those funny money dollars for their clean coal facilities, bank bailouts, auto bailouts, national health care systems, expanded international adventures with our military, farm subsidies, rail subsidies, etc.

For those of you who are in your 20s – i feel for you.  This is the first recession you’ve experienced, and it’s got to be discouraging (to say the least).  Take heart in the sage words of Chance Gardner, who said:

In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

What should discourage you even more, and those of you who are even younger that read this blog (all 3 of you), is this: you (and perhaps your children) are going to be stuck working crap jobs and paying high taxes to work off the ridiculous level of debt this country has saddled itself with over the past 30 years, and from the looks of the chart above, will continue to do.

You Can’t Fight In Here! This Is The War Room! April 9, 2009

Posted by shubber in economy, finance, gauntlet being dropped, military, public service announcement.
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It seems our friends at the Pentagon have either finally gotten around to watching Die Hard 4.0 or their kids have been twittering long enough that the message (via sheer electronic osmotic pressure) has finally penetrated their cold war mindset.  Either way, there have been many of us on the sidelines who have been trying to point out that another carrier group or silo full of nukes ain’t going to win against our upcoming superpower adversaries…

The Pentagon sponsored a first-of-its-kind war game last month focused not on bullets and bombs — but on how hostile nations might seek to cripple the U.S. economy, a scenario made all the more real by the global financial crisis.

The two-day event near Ft. Meade, Maryland, had all the earmarks of a regular war game. Participants sat along a V-shaped set of desks beneath an enormous wall of video monitors displaying economic data, according to the accounts of three participants.

“It felt a little bit like Dr. Strangelove,” one person who was at the previously undisclosed exercise told POLITICO.

Give the entire article a read – it’s worth it.

So Much For Space Tourism… March 5, 2009

Posted by shubber in finance, gauntlet being dropped, Manned Space, NASA, public service announcement, smack talk, space, space tourism, suborbital tourism.
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When Dennis Tito flew to ISS, there was an outpouring of cheering from the alt.space community because the era of space tourism was finally here.  Claims were put forth about how the $10m price tag was only the start, to be followed by a decreasing price that would make space accessible to more and more of the masses over time.

Fast forward a few years, and with the flight of Anousheh, even more of an outpouring of cheering and “this changes things” was heard from the maddening alt.space masses.  This Cynic was blasted by not a few for daring to question what her flight did for the greater “space tourism” movement.  But the thickness of their heads is matched by that of my skin, so no harm done.

While it might be a good time to point out that the Cynics were right, and that the price of trips to ISS would (contrary to the economically challenged arguments of the alt.spacers) continue to rise, as evidenced by the most recent $10m hike in price to Mr. Simoniy, there is a more interesting note that has just come out of Russia.

It appears that the Russian Space Agency has decided it wants no more tourists going to ISS after 2009.  Bummer.

Then again, this could be that much-needed boost to Mr. Bigelow’s efforts to build a space hotel, now that ISS will no longer be a govt subsidized alternative.

</crickets chirping>

I am a Lost Cause February 23, 2009

Posted by Thomas Olson in gauntlet being dropped, hot air, public service announcement, sbsp, smack talk.

As a good friend of mine reminded me: “Getting into an argument on the internet is like being in the Special Olympics – you might “win”, but you’re still [developmentally disabled].” I didn’t use the term he did, at the end, out of respect for the fact that my wife has worked with/for the MRDD community for nearly 20 years. But I agree with the sentiment, nonetheless.

About a week or so back, I let myself get into it on Facebook with someone over all the usual canards concerning Space-Based Solar Power. Even after I threw up my hands and walked away, it didn’t end well – I kept getting message after message in my inbox. It was late at night, he was spewing complete nonsense, and I should’ve just let it go.

Early last week found me in Portland, OR, packing up my mom’s recently-sold home. As that “someone” also lived there, I sent him a quick e-mail inviting him to dinner or lunch – largely as a peace offering. Even though we in the “community” may have some serious disagreements, I find we can usually find common ground somewhere, and as we’re rather a small community to begin with, it just made sense to me to extend an olive branch.

That olive branch, a couple days later, was abruptly thrown back in my face by this person, in a tersely-worded missive claiming that his work life takes up most of his time, and he doesn’t have any to waste “arguing” with me. He finished with: “I think you are a lost cause.”

Well, there you are. We’ve just crossed the line from impassioned, reasoned debate and discourse to “religion”. For only the truly devout would use the term “lost cause.” This is a term usually reserved for the damned and doomed. And of course, the proselytizer doesn’t have any time to waste on those he can’t reach – new victims await his message of hope and eternal salvation.

I was angered for awhile – particularly at his incivility. A born Brit should know better. A born Brit should also, simply out of a sense of history, realize that many of those who settled America and Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries were also considered “lost causes” by those whom they left behind. Convicts, slaves, religious cultists, the politically inconvenient, the oppressed, the starving – “lost causes” all. This would include my own great-grandparents. So we can be a bit sensitive to that term.

Millions of “lost causes” came to North America and Australia, during that period, survived the hardships, and prospered, caring not a whit about the sanctimonious judgments of others. Most of us here today are their descendants.

So in reconsideration of the “space” context, I concluded that I should wear that mantle proudly. Indeed, I am a “lost cause”:

I am a lost cause for anyone who seeks to convince me that railroad-building in the 19th century – with all its political corruption, human misery and business failure – is any kind of model for building space commerce infrastructure in the 21st;

I am a lost cause for anyone seeking to convince me that $200/lb to LEO with conventional rockets is in any way practical or profitable, unless you’re talking about a “new” dollar that’s worth a whole lot more than the ones we’re using now;

I am a lost cause for anyone trying to convince me that SBSP will be of any practical or economic value before at least 50 years have elapsed;

I am a lost cause for anyone trying to convince me that Helium-3 mining on the moon – for fusion reactors that don’t exist – is anything other than a smokescreen;

I am a lost cause for anyone attempting to make me believe that “we” can actually muster enough influence to lobby Congress to give NASA more money, at a time when the TRULY politically-connected and influential are reaping the benefits of bailouts right and left from a hopelessly corrupt DC machine;

And I am definitely a lost cause for anyone making the argument that Walt Anderson is actually “guilty” of anything.

Moral of the story: If you dare to think for yourself – in this or any other context – you are probably someone’s “lost cause” somewhere. Wear it proudly.

When Police Regulate Research Scientists January 11, 2009

Posted by shubber in distracting PR, gauntlet being dropped, hot air, public service announcement, smack talk.
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Taking a brief detour from things space, I present to you this “would be funny if it weren’t so disturbing” bit of legislation that appears destined to get ramrodded through in NY. As the readers of this board tend towards the more scientifically/engineering minded, I thought you might find this worth a read.

NYPD Seeks an Air Monitor Crackdown for New Yorkers

The basic “rationale” is that by preventing private citizens, researchers, etc from monitoring for any sort of hazards (not just anthrax, but even asbestos and other air quality dangers), it “will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety,” the first draft of the law states.

Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission.

Apparently it originally comes from our friends at Homeland Security, and I suppose NY has been put up as the guinea pig. Not content with trying to convince you that there is a security danger in carrying more than 3 oz of a liquid onto an airplane (as if determined individuals wouldn’t simply put 15 ounces into 5 identical containers, meet up with 4 friends in the terminal and end up with 75 ounces of moonshine on the other side…) and that you should be conditioned to trust $9/hour government rent-a-cops for your safety when the real reason 9/11 was effective is that we WEREN’T EXPECTING THE HIJACKERS TO KILL THEMSELVES AND DESTROY THE PLANE, they are now looking to condition you to yet another bit of “the State knows best”.

Who won the War on Terror(tm) again?  Methinks there’s a smelly guy with a  beard laughing his ass off in a cave right now.  Possibly lacking a pulse and buried under 10000 tons of rubble, but still laughing.

What’s next? A note from his Mom? January 1, 2009

Posted by shubber in Congress, CRATS, distracting PR, gauntlet being dropped, hot air, Manned Space, NASA, public service announcement, smack talk, space, Wasting Money.
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So in honor of our 300th post, i was planning to do a detailed examination of where we’ve been in the past couple years since the Space Cynics blog was started, how the industry has/hasn’t matured, predictions we (and others) have made that have/haven’t come true, etc.

And then I read this little gem.

Seems that Mike Griffin has been fighting pretty hard to keep his job when the new Administration takes over – and now he’s recruited his wife into the mix.  The headline:

Don’t Fire My Husband, NASA Chief’s Wife Begs Obama

Really? Have you no shame, Mike? It’s not like you’ve presided over any great legacy at NASA in your relatively short tenure under President Bush. You are beholden to your special interests in the military industrial complex, and only grudgingly have allowed any form of innovation or private sector involvement to participate in our development of space when forced, kicking and screaming, to adopt Zero G flights over the Vomit Comet or fund COTS – and even then you can’t do it right.

But to send out (via priority mail) copies of your speeches, as if anyone would want to suffer through them a SECOND time, was priceless.  Granted, it’s not like the total cost of mailing was even a rounding error in NASA’s budget – it’s about leadership.  The CEO of an organization, which is what you are for all intents and purposes, sets the tone for the people who choose to work for him.  When you engage in such behavior, it reinforces the wrong sort of message to the rank and file employees – no different than when the President chooses to get a hummer in the Oval Office from an intern and then lie about it on national television.

It’s about Leadership.

You missed great opportunities to engage in development of true CRATS, real hypersonics research, support initial studies into SBSP (yes, even though I am very cynical about it, that IS part of NASA’s job IMHO), and to put nails in the coffins of both VSE and the ISS, freeing up billions of dollars to fund the hardest part of the equation – getting out of the gravity well.

So, perhaps I can weave in a bit of “The 300” after all.   End your tenure with dignity, not sniveling before the next President begging for your job.  Or, even sadder, having your wife beg for you. DO your job, now, and then go out with pride.  If that’s still possible.

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama! November 5, 2008

Posted by shubber in Congress, economy, NASA, public service announcement, PYMWYMI, solar power, space.
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Now be prepared for everyone and their brother to come knocking on your door with their proposals and plans…

They Wish It Were This Easy November 1, 2008

Posted by shubber in distracting PR, gauntlet being dropped, hot air, investment, public service announcement, PYMWYMI, smack talk, solar power, space, Space Solar Power, Wasting Money.
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