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(Don’t) “go the distance, Ray.” August 9, 2014

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

field of dreams

If you’re old enough to remember the line, you know how this movie turns out.

A farmer (kevin costner) has a vision that inspires him to turn his prime farmland into a baseball field.  Never mind that he is WAAAY behind on his mortgage and will be foreclosed on… He keeps telling everyone that ghosts show up to practice on the field, but only he can see them.  

Of course, like any good Hollywood film, he perseveres and eventually is proven right, lots of people show up with cash in hand to watch the game, and the farm is saved.

“Space may be the final frontier,

but it’s made in a hollywood basement.”

-the Red Hot Chili Peppers

It was in 1999, while I was a manager at KPMG for the Aerospace and Defense group, that we conducted our assessment of the commercial viability of the International Space Station.  Back then, it was still early days for the program, and while the promises from NASA were full of hopes and dreams (and echoed by the space enthusiast community, who had dreams of a Babylon 5 station that they could run if NASA would only let them….) our hard nosed analysis of the actual “customers” found a major red flag:

NO ONE was interested.

15 years later, with the shuttle fleet ground and the US reliant on foreign nations (and soon) on our private sector to simply GET to the ISS, the question can be asked: what has been accomplished with the $100 Billion (with a “b”) we’ve thrown at the Great White Hope?

Well, according to Google searches… not much.

more to come, but it bears repeating the great quote from Carl Sagan at this point:

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”


Quick interesting factoid July 20, 2014

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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On the 45th anniversary of this photo…


Unless you believe in alien abduction.

In which case, never mind (on a whole lot of levels…)

Attention Scotland: You may ALREADY be a winner! July 14, 2014

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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In what can only be the most ridiculously transparent and laughable attempt to entice Scotland into not leaving the “United” Kingdom, the British Government has announced that it is planning to create a spaceport for commercial spaceflights by 2018, and SIX out of the eight potential sites are in Scotland.

“Spaceports will be key to us opening up the final frontier of commercial space travel,” said UK treasury minister Danny Alexander.

 I have visions of a car with live camera feed driving up to the house of the leader of Scotland (the future “Space Heart”?) and bringing up a big check for a surprise award on live national television (although I don’t think even the BBC would stoop to that level of tripe on their channels…).  “Congratulations! You just won a spaceport!”  (followed by said Scottish leader grumbling something about needing more coffee, that it must be a thursday, and he’s going back inside to read the paper…).

Aside from the fact that there is no spaceplane to fly from said spaceport, the 300 Million pounds of funding the UK government could be better spent on other space-related activities (such as funding of nano-sat incubators where student engineers and entrepreneurs could work on building such technology and developing real skills).  Of course, the UK government actually wants Sir Richard Branson to build the port – which is silly as it flies in the face of the model for airports and seaports.  If you believe that commercial demand is there and that it will drive $ into the local economy, then invest in infrastructure.

However, if you realize that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and unlikely to be anything more than window dressing and a great PR stunt, then by all means continue.



Zzz…. zzz…. huh?… what…? oh… you’re still there? What year is it? July 6, 2014

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

Having just had a delightful catch-up-after-much-too-long dinner with my good friend Dr. Livingston (no presumptions needed), it was agreed that it is time to relaunch the Space Cynics blog as, it turns out, the need for Cynics in this industry has not only NOT diminished, but apparently become even more apparent than ever.


So here’s a warning to all of you purveyors of various flavors of sugary sweet beverages that prey on the undiscriminating minds of those who love Space – WE ARE BACK.


But, as times *have* changed since the inception of the blog, and the mechanism of crowd-sourcing and collaboration and social media have become the dominant model in this decade, we are taking our next logical evolution from the Space Cynics you knew and loved to add you all to the rank of Cynics in training.  Guest posts will be welcome from would-be cynics – they must be submitted by tuesday COB each week, and we will (barring objectionable, or non-cynic-worthy, content which we will attempt to contact you about) publish them on each friday in time for people to enjoy and mull over during the weekend…


This isn’t a big change, but rather the next logical evolution – after all, I originally started this blog as a solo effort, but then expanded it to include fellow Cynics when I recognized that I wasn’t alone in the effort to dispel the rampant Kool-Aid that had coursed through the veins of the alt space community (and, to be honest, the Big Establishment space community as well).   So if you see/read/hear something which doesn’t add up, now you have a place to talk about it.







Tom Olson, Dr. John Jurist, Dr. Space “Bringing Cynics Back,” Friday, 6-22-12 June 22, 2012

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Tom Olson, Dr. John Jurist, Dr. Space “Bringing Cynics Back,” Friday, 6-22-12

Guests:  Tom Olson, Dr. John Jurist.  Topics:  The return to life of the Space Cynic blog, https://spacecynic.wordpress.com. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  We welcomed Tom Olson and Dr. John Jurist to discuss our plans to reactivate the Space Cynic blog, https://spacecynic.wordpress.com.  Tom started our Space Show discussion with an historical overview of why the Space Cynic blog was created by Shubber Ali and the three of us.  We talked about some of the past programs, themes we wrote about, the goal of the blog, and the Walking Eagle Award.  We mostly focused on the business side of issues, the engineering, human factors, and other issues that can make or break any venture, including a space venture.  We each mentioned some examples that highlight the themes we respectively focused on with the blog, including asteroid mining and space solar power.  We also talked about themes we have in common with one another. Each of us mentioned some new themes we are interested in once the blog becomes active again, probably by September at the latest.  A new feature of the rebirth of the Cynics blog will be the opportunity to be a guest Space Cynic blogger.  Details on this will soon be posted on the Space Cynic blog but we did mention of few of the obvious guidelines during our discussion.  We also talked about making comments on the blog and opening up the Walking Eagle Award to a blog reader nomination process.  Note that I will archive this program on Space Cynics as well as The Space Show blog but do understand that The Space Show has no formal relationship to Space Cynics other than as an individual, I am one of the four space cynic contributors.  We welcome your feedback on bringing the Space Cynic blog back to active life.

Post your comments on either blog or both of them.  If you want to email either of the guests on this show or space cynic founder Shubber Ali, you can do so through me and I will forward your email to the person of your choice.

NASA vs. a 74-year old grandma October 24, 2011

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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Flak-vested deputies? Really?

I get that NASA feels the need to maintain the shrininess and sanctity of Apollo, especially now that they’re left bumming rides from the Russians after completely failing to plan over the past 3 decades for any sort of post-shuttle capability.

But going after a grandma who was trying to raise money for her sick son by selling an old piece of memorabilia using the gestapo tactics of local law enforcement?

Shame on you.

Space Cynics & 10th Anniversary Space Show Program, Tuesday, 5-10-11 May 11, 2011

Posted by drspaceshow in Uncategorized.

Space Cynics & 10th Anniversary Space Show Program, Tuesday, 5-10-11


Guests:  The Space Cynics with Dr. David Livingston, Dr. John Jurist, Tom Olson.  Topics:  A general space policy, economic and technology driven discussion.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming.  The Space Cynics got together to celebrate with The Space Show on  its tenth anniversary with a 2.5 hour marathon space discussion without a break. We were sorry that the Space Cynics founder, Shubber Ali, could not be with us due to illness.  As we kicked off our discussion which largely focused on the future of human spaceflight, the Cynics linked current U.S. and global economic problems to space policy and NASA budget issues.  We also had much to say about Space X and its outstanding accomplishments to date.  Later, I asked fellow Cynics about SSP.  Tom said maybe 30 40 years but the solar sats would be around the Moon or Mars, not orbiting Earth.  To combat some of our earlier tone about the severe economic problems facing the US and our space program, we talked about existing and future innovation and ongoing private investment into entrepreneurial activities.  The Cynics referred to space cadets and our extended community as living within a space bubble.  Tom suggested many inside this bubble were fighting tooth and nail new policies that would transform the job creating potential of space as well as the technology and innovation. Both John and Tom suggested that many within the bubble were in denial about the extent of our economic problems and the probable impact on space programs.  Our first caller from Jersey City asked several questions about NASA shrinking budgets and Space X.  Rich Godwin called in to talk & inquire about old business paradigms changing to new paradigms.  One of his points was that an  SSTO RLV was not as economic as a string of big dumb boosters.  Another issue brought up by a listener email dealt with the addition of new people to space advocacy groups and who actually attends the conferences.  We had a good discussion on rocket economics and Rich sent in an analysis of the Apollo era & Saturn V costs adjusted year by year for inflation to 2011.  I read part of the analysis on air.  John also shared some of the research he is currently doing regarding rocket economics & efficiency factors for a government program, then extrapolating to Space X.  I suggested a book to the listeners, “Leo On The Cheap” By Lt. Col. John London  (www.dunnspace.com/leo_on_the_cheap.htm).  We talked about leading fantasy drivers such as the $10/lb cost to LEO if only this or that happened. The Cynics had a lot to say about this and fantasy space ideas in general.  Toward the end of our discussion, I was asked to reflect on the past ten years of The Space Show. Those of you who are frequent listeners will not be surprised by my mini talk as I covered the usual grounds including fantasy, solid foundations for building the future, education, students, civility, and more.  I also addressed some negativity traits I bring to the table & how I sometimes see things in the negative light.  However, overall, the Show is a demonstration of hope and & faith in space and our future and is a positive force for change.  While I am extremely critical of things and how I see the world, were I not ultimately optimistic and hopeful for our future, I would wind The Space Show up now and move on to something else.  John and Tom each provided closing comments to our marathon discussion.  This program will also be archived on The Space Cynics blog, https://spacecynic.wordpress.com.  Please post your comments on The Space Show blog and you can do the same with the Cynics blog.  If you have questions for either of the Space Cynics, use the blogs.  If you do want to email Tom or John, you can send your note to me and I will forward it to them.

Space Cynics Reunite For Special Space Show, Tuesday, 5-10-11 May 7, 2011

Posted by drspaceshow in Uncategorized.
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Space Cynics Reunite For Special Space Show, Tuesday, 5-10-11

The Space Cynics are reuniting for a special 10th Anniversary Space Show discussion, Tuesday, May 10, 2011 from 7-9 PM PDT.  You can hear the program live, just visit www.thespaceshow.com and click on the Listen Live link near the top of the home page.  We will be accepting email and toll free phone questions from listeners.

Don’t miss this special Space Show and Cynics program, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Dr. David Livingston, Host

The Space Show


Let There Be Light (and the end of Space Based Solar Power?) January 23, 2011

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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The Cynics need your assistance – calling all Junior Cynics!

We are looking for any interesting links to current/cutting edge research and products in the area of terrestrial solar power:

  • Have you heard of a new fabrication technique being developed in a lab?
  • Have you seen an article/blog post on a company that’s selling solar power kits for the home?
  • Do you have links to economic analysis on the cost of power generation with solar (of various kinds)?
  • Can you send in (or point to) information on the different types of solar generation and an overview of each?
  • Do you have anything else interesting in this area you’d like to share?
  • Are you involved in a company doing one or more of the above and want to be interviewed by us (or know someone who does?)

If you can do any of the above, let us know.  There’s a prize (real one, from the scrappy company that dethroned Microsoft in market cap not too long ago) involved for the best/most useful submission.  And we will thank everyone for their contributions (unless you want to remain anonymous).

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….