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Who lost the moon?

I feel bad for the people who worked on Constellation. The new NASA boss, Charles Bolden, compared it yesterday to a death in the family. We need to give them time to grieve, he said. But they're not just grieving: They're furious. One made a YouTube [via NASA Watch] that's worth watching, contrasting campaign-trail promises by Obama with the decision to blow up Constellation even after it had started cutting metal for spacecraft. These folks were doing their best to get America back to the moon. Ain't gonna happen.

I also feel bad for the taxpayers. Constellation was -- or is, technically, since it hasn't yet been shut down -- an $11.5 billion fiasco. We're told that NASA has spent $9 billion so far on the plan. There's another $2.5 billion over two years that the White House estimates will be necessary to shut down the existing contracts.

Something went wrong here. This would make a great topic for a management dissertation. You can't sort-of go to the moon. You can't almost go to the moon. You can't begin to go to the moon. Having a little bit of a moon program is like being a little bit pregnant.

I haven't followed the ins and outs of Constellation since its inception and have only a rough sense of what happened and why. But I'll throw out a couple of thoughts and let others who know share their comments.

First, you can't do big things cheaply. Constellation would have cost, under initial estimates, something like $108 billion over the lifetime of the project. But right from the get-go, the Bush Administration's Office of Management Budget began trimming money from the program. Here's what Mike Griffin, the former NASA boss, told me this weekend:

"The problem was not the president. He got behind a pretty good policy document. If I had any quarrel, it would be the OMB, who, as soon as the president's back was turned, started taking money out...President Bush never had any idea what the OMB was doing behind his back, not just at NASA, but in other discretionary programs."

So with less money, Constellation's schedule slips. Then Obama comes along and, in his first budget, cuts several billion for NASA exploration in the out-years. The administration also has decided to extend the life-time of the space station, which will eat up many billions more in NASA funding. The upshot, as the Augustine panel found last year, is that you can't get to the moon until something like 2028 at the earliest and even then there's no money for lunar hardware, like a moon base. And your rocket to replace the space shuttle, the Ares 1, likely isn't ready until something like 2017 or 2018, so we have to rely on the Russians for about seven years just to get into orbit.

Second lesson: You can't do big things using someone else's political capital. If you want to go to the moon, don't expect the next occupant of the White House to champion it.

Now, this is an idealized world we're talking about. The plain reality, from a budget and engineering perspective, was that the bulk of Constellation's expenses were going to be incurred after Bush left office. NASA wanted to fly the shuttle until the space station had been completed, then shift shuttle money to Constellation. But it was a politically risky proposition all along. The hardest budgetary decisions always came down the road, after Bush (and Griffin) were gone. Here's what I wrote a year and a half ago:

... without a space race or any national groundswell of opinion in favor of ambitious human spaceflight, the Vision has to proceed in an incremental, bureaucratic manner, keeping within a flat NASA budget. That means that most of the money to build the new system will become available only when the shuttle is retired in 2010. That also means the United States will not be able to launch astronauts into space for about five years. The plan calls for us to hitch rides from the Russians. But the U.S.-Russia relationship has been deteriorating.

This makes the next few years a slippery time for NASA. At any point Congress or the White House could decide that the nation's priorities do not include sending people back to the moon. Joseph Alexander, of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, says he worries that NASA is being "set up to fail."

"The program is in danger of completely running aground at this point," Alexander said. "Within the constraints that this administration has put on NASA's budget, you can't get there from here."

Third lesson: You have to get the public interested and involved. Bush didn't talk much about the moon program. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe he didn't even mention it in the State of the Union Address he gave right after the Vision for Space Exploration was unveiled. If the public is fully vested in a project, a change in administration won't mean its demise. Constellation always suffered from a very basic public-relations problem: We had already been to the moon.

The Obama budget document released Monday all but said: Been there, done that.

The most vociferous howls of protest come from lawmakers in the space districts. Is there a national groundswell of opposition to the killing of Constellation? I haven't felt it.

Going to the moon again makes sense if you want to be a spacefaring civilization. The moon is the best training ground for a Mars mission. Mars is the real target. But we don't have the money to go there right now.

So the question for NASA is the same as it has been for a number of years: Where do we go from here?


Now here's a different view, from "Paulspudis" in the boodle this morning:

Hi Joel,

Wrong in just about all aspects.

quote: First, you can't do big things cheaply.

That was never the plan. The goal of the Vision was to return to the Moon and go beyond under the existing agency budgetary envelope. The way you do that is to construct a program that advances through small, incremental, but cumulative steps. NASA was NOT told to develop an unaffordable architecture and then whine about not having enough money to implement it.

quote: Second lesson: You can't do big things using someone else's political capital

The Presidential Vision for Space Exploration was specifically endorsed by two different Congresses in two separate NASA authorization acts. Both bills passed with large bipartisan majorities. How is this "someone else's political capital"?

quote: Third lesson: You have to get the public interested and involved.

No you don't. You simply have to provide value for money spent. That's a different thing. To put it another way, how many air traffic control system "buffs" do you know? Few, I'll wager. Yet there is widespread agreement that such federal spending is important. Are people "excited" by it? Not really. Do they think it critically important? You bet.

Likewise, a space transportation system that can routinely access the Moon can also routinely access cislunar space (the zone between Earth and Moon); this is where virtually all of our national security and economic (e.g., communications, remote sensing) satellite assets reside.

The purpose of going to the Moon was NOT to "repeat Apollo" regardless of what you (or most of NASA, for that matter) think. It was to learn how to use the material and energy resources of the Moon to create a sustainable human presence in space. As long as we are limited to what we can lift out of the very deep gravity well of Earth, we will always be mass- and power-limited in space, and therefore, capability limited as well. The purpose of the Vision was to change the rules of spaceflight.

By the way, the current robotic missions to the Moon are showing us that the Moon is an even richer scientific and utilization target than we had thought. So we're abandoning it just as we are finding that sustainable human presence there is feasible.

The so-called "new direction" is fundamentally programmatic pork, only doled out to New Space companies rather than the old "iron triangle" aerospace contractors. Plus ca change.....

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 3, 2010; 8:17 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The coming moon war
Next: The snowy winter


What I find most disturbing in your kit, Joel, is that staement about how OMB on its own somehow has the ability to deflect money away from a program without the president (of either party, presumably) knowing about it or approving.

Now that's scary, and I don't understand it. It certainly isn't supposed to be that way.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all. Got mudged. Reposted from prior kit.

Good morning, y'all.

Lots of fun here in Ill-In-Oys on the Day-Apres-Primary.

The primary races on both sides for Governor are still too close too call.

The race to fill Obama's Senate seat (now occupied on an interim basis by Burris the Hack, who wisely decided not to run for a full term) should be fun. The contestants are Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL), who somehow has a reputation for being a RINO when he's actually quite conservative, and Alexi Giannoulias, the current Ill-In-Oys Treasurer who got his money-management experience in a family-owned bank that's now about to go under.

There will be much slinging of wet earth and odiferous projectiles over the next 8 months, all in the name of the democratic process. Everyone duck.


Will give this kit a good reading momentarily. Thanks, Mr. A.

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Is there a parallel with Clinton's killing the super-collider being built in Texas? If I recall, they had part of the tunnel dug.

Posted by: bharshaw | February 3, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

That's a brilliant and insightful analysis, and echos with eerie accuracy the fellow who sits next to me. You know, the one who used to work in NASA's manned mission program.

He adds a slight variation, that I have always agreed with. He never thought Constellation was an effective way to advance technology. Ironically, he always favored spending more money on new engines and the like, which seems to be the new push, and less on an Apollo do-over. Further discrete technology development programs can endure budget variations far better than a full-blown mission.

As Joel points out, It all comes down to "separability." Some efforts give you value added even when they are partly done. And some don't. Somewhere along the line the money people confused a moon program with a foodbank.

Now, it is entirely possible that the stuff already developed for Constellation might still lead to technological advancement. I don't know.

As to where we go from here? Well, in my view the answer is implied in what Joel said at the end of this kit. Even though I question if going to the moon would be a necessity for going to Mars, it certainly would facilitate it. So let's not go to Mars.

One solution is to abandon manned spaceflight entirely. And as I have argued this is a reasonable solution. But I admit it seems kind of a downer.

As an alternative, let's embrace the "flyby" concept and use the ISS and an emerging (one hopes) capability to put stuff into orbit to build some big fancy job-enabling spacecraft that isn't intended to do anything but fly through space.

Why must we land anywhere?

Let's use this "Enterprise" like vessel to boldly go throughout the solar system and drop advanced probes onto the surfaces of inner planets and moons. These would either be advanced AI, or remotely controllable by the mother ship loitering nearby. And, I assert, such a technology path would allow common folk the possibility of a space cruise far sooner than recapitulating the Apollo model for Mars.

Such a vision is, to me, inspiring, exciting, and plausible. Yes, it will take a long time to develop. Many profound challenges of energetics, shielding, sustainability, and the like remain. But, to me, this is the future I would like to see. One I could get behind. A road trip in space.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 3, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Mudge -- (You know this but bears repeating; and I am blinded by the OMB boldness here there and everywhere)

POLITICS -- the art and science of making sure that other parties pay for what you propose and want

PAY should be interpreted widely....includes pounds of flesh (almost wrote bounds of flesh -- good boodle handle that)

Off in the fluffy wonderland -- look now because the charmingly arrayed branches are loosing their festoons and feather boas in the sun. I think that the next bike I want is a three wheeler -- three wheels better than two wheels in snow, etc.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Rachel Maddow with segment guest Anthony Weiner.

Is the Health Care bill still alive?

Paraphrasing Rep. Weiner ...

The president goes to New Hampshire to talk about Jobs and all the people want to talk about is Health Care. The people still want it, the President thinks it is alive, Michelle Bachman still thinks it is alive, the people who talk to her from the Mother Ship still think it is alive...

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle!

MsJS-thanks for the report on the primary. Always nice to get a close personal view before being subjected to the national media punditry.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 3, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

One of the saddest aspects of the demise of NASA's budget is that where the unemployed engineers are supposed to go. There remains only one fully funded area for technology development for big things that roar, the Pentagon.

As the father of someone who graduates as a computer engineer in June, I wish he had another venue to demonstrate his skills.

Posted by: edbyronadams | February 3, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Be careful out there, CqP. And don't let all the wet earth get on your clothes!

I suppose I am a member of the demographic to be persuaded that Constellation is a good idea to spend my money on. So far I haven't seen anything compelling enough to catch my attention and imagination. As RD and Joel say, what next? Come up with something, NASA!

Why are people surprised about OMB playing fast and loose with the budget? It's their job to make the deals so money can be spent. The better they are at it, the lower their profile. When something comes to the attention of the White House or Congress, or is reported in the media, they have blown it.

Posted by: slyness | February 3, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Joel feels sorry for the taxpayers and the NASA team who worked on the Constellation project. I feel sorry for the hungry.

Significant and very good reporting this morning by the San Antonio Express-News, placed prominently on the paper's website, and hopefully within the dead-tree edition of the paper.

One in eight people last year experienced hunger in the U.S., but in San Antonio the numbers are one in five. Every fifth person. The accompanying graphics are telling: half of those hungry in the city (those agencies served by the San Antonio Food Bank) were either children under the age of 18 (34 percent) or the elderly (16 percent).

One of the "pie charts" [oh, thank my years in computer graphics...oh that there were delicious, wholesome pies to provide for hungry mouths] breaks down the hungry by ethnicity: of the hungry, 69 percent are Hispanic.

Other details, not graphically portrayed, provide other important information. Of the hungry, eight percent are homeless. Sixty-seven percent have incomes below the federal poverty level, and there is at least one employed adult in 47 percent of the households that are "food-insecure." [Hate that bureacratese!]

Oh, to be a cynic and know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Constellation was pretty much screwed from the get go as it was never properly funded. 8 years later and the first test rocket finally went up late last year. Not a timetable for success. NASA's been prepared for Constellation to be wound down for a while now, so the final news isn't really shocking.

Someone asked about tne engineers? Well, it's a high-demand field, especially for people with the kind of security clearence NASA folks at that level have, so most of them will find jobs. Unfortunately for Coco Beach and Huntsville, most of those jobs will be elsewhere.

Posted by: EricS2 | February 3, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

No, slyness, I have to disagree that it isn't OMB's job to undercut and sabotage a program that has been ordered by any given president. If it has problems or objections with a program, it needs to raise them through channels, not simply go off and do whatever it wants. No gummint agency of any sort should be undercutting and sabotaging a program that has been approved by the relevant approves (the WH and Congress). Sabotage is sabotage, no matter who is doing it or why, even for presidents and/or programs I don't like.

Now, if the question was Bush's lack of attention, or poor communication, or something, that might be different. But the clear implication was the OMB was doing something behind Bush's back. God knows I didn't like Bush or any of his policies -- but having OMB undercut him just isn't acceptable. (The poor sumb1tch had enough trouble with Cheney undercutting him.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Joseph Alexander is partly right: NASA is continually set up to fail, but only insofar as the really big stuff is concerned. It's been happening since - give or take a day or two - July 24, 1969. Once Neil & Buzz & Mike splashed down, Nixon was able to declare "Mission Accomplished" on behalf of Kennedy, and the cuts started almost immediately. Apollo 20 was cancelled 5 months later.

Those big dreams - putting people on the moon, on Mars, and beyond - simply cost too much money for politicians to be able to sell it.

So they talk a big game and announce things they have no intention of fully committing to (e.g., moon landings after Apollo 11, Skylab, the Shuttle, Constellation). Then they give organizations like NASA enough money to (a) get them started on the project, (b) appease the power brokers in politically important places like TX & FL, and (c) leaves NASA enough left over to do a few other projects on the cheap.

What you're left with is hugely expensive boondoggles that give us some new scientific discoveries but which turn out to provide cover for other stuff: things like Pioneer, Voyager, Hubble, and all those aeronautics programs that end up inventing things like winglets and slats.

And Mike Griffin's whole "blame the OMB" thing is just cover for President Bush: 43 didn't get hosed by the OMB details when he prosecuted the war in Iraq to the tune of $7B a month - a discretionary war if ever there was one. And, at $7B a month, Constellation would have been fully funded in 15 months or so.

Posted by: byoolin1 | February 3, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Frosti: You're welcome.

The Senate race will get the most nat'l coverage cuz it's Obama's old seat and one the GOP views as ripe for the taking.

Setting aside ideologies for the moment, I see Kirk having a great edge in knowing how to present himself as a seasoned but caring pol (five terms in Congress and winning at least 2 close races to retain that seat). The GOP will likely send many dollars Kirk's way as well.

Giannoulias is a one-term state Treasurer who won in 2006 largely because of his prior experience as a banker. But his family's bank is now about to be taken over by the feds and one of his marquis programs as Treasurer is being scrutinized for mismanagement.

Added to that mix is the fact that former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich's trial is set to start this summer. This is something the Dems don't need during campaign season.

The drug companies who make blood pressure meds are going to see their sales soar.

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps there is a certain zen budget jujitsu going on here. Perhaps the Constellation is some sort of budgetary bargaining chip to use with affected red state congresscritters.

Or more likely, the project just never had any discernible unique support base. Former subscribers to Analog are not known for their bloc voting prowess.

And maybe it just fell between the cracks and somebody was looking for a good way to lop off a big chunk all at once. $108 billion is the budget for the National Park Service for the next decade and then some. And I'm on the record for which I prefer if that bizarre either/or choice were presented with a gun to my head.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Oh, the irony.


Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Very interesting comment by Alexander in the Kit about NASA being set up to fail.

Hey, I remember resembling tht remark. So, too, set up to fail was the small group that I worked for [contractors and subsontractors] at Brooks AFB [now closed because of BRAC] tasked to document widespread military environmental pollution [more specifically, caused by the Air Force.] Not only did Richard Yu [in our group and who last I heard was at the Pentagon] comment that I was set up to fail in my own duties, but the general consensus, I think, was the Lackland group generally was set up to fail as well.

*pulling down from the shelf the spiral-bound book the 1995 edition of "Environmental Issues for the 90s: A Handbook for Journalists" that I purchased for myself while employed at Brooks. Thoughts of the critical next 30 years for us here on Planet Earth, as expressed by Jared Diamond on Monday night, are swirling around my brain*

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Yes, that, too, bc.

When do you want our Super Bowl picks?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Obama has squandered the great wealth of our nation on the idle poor and the idle rich—funds that should have gone to innovative programs.

Posted by: Jerzy | February 3, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Hi Joel,

Wrong in just about all aspects.

quote: First, you can't do big things cheaply.

That was never the plan. The goal of the Vision was to return to the Moon and go beyond under the existing agency budgetary envelope. The way you do that is to construct a program that advances through small, incremental, but cumulative steps. NASA was NOT told to develop an unaffordable architecture and then whine about not having enough money to implement it.

quote: Second lesson: You can't do big things using someone else's political capital

The Presidential Vision for Space Exploration was specifically endorsed by two different Congresses in two separate NASA authorization acts. Both bills passed with large bipartisan majorities. How is this "someone else's political capital"?

quote: Third lesson: You have to get the public interested and involved.

No you don't. You simply have to provide value for money spent. That's a different thing. To put it another way, how many air traffic control system "buffs" do you know? Few, I'll wager. Yet there is widespread agreement that such federal spending is important. Are people "excited" by it? Not really. Do they think it critically important? You bet.

Likewise, a space transportation system that can routinely access the Moon can also routinely access cislunar space (the zone between Earth and Moon); this is where virtually all of our national security and economic (e.g., communications, remote sensing) satellite assets reside.

The purpose of going to the Moon was NOT to "repeat Apollo" regardless of what you (or most of NASA, for that matter) think. It was to learn how to use the material and energy resources of the Moon to create a sustainable human presence in space. As long as we are limited to what we can lift out of the very deep gravity well of Earth, we will always be mass- and power-limited in space, and therefore, capability limited as well. The purpose of the Vision was to change the rules of spaceflight.

By the way, the current robotic missions to the Moon are showing us that the Moon is an even richer scientific and utilization target than we had thought. So we're abandoning it just as we are finding that sustainable human presence there is feasible.

The so-called "new direction" is fundamentally programmatic pork, only doled out to New Space companies rather than the old "iron triangle" aerospace contractors. Plus ca change.....

Posted by: PaulSpudis | February 3, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Wow, laloomis, that's not good. Times are tough in my state as well. I do what I can though. One of DC's playmates doesn't get enough to eat, so when she's here (at least twice a week), I make sure she leaves with a full belly. Things may be tight for me these days, but not so tight that there's *nothing* I can do.

I'm sure you're doing everything you can to help out. Even those without cash can wash pots at the soup kitchen. Or stuff envelopes for a fundraiser.

Off to shovel snow. Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 3, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I always thought that Bush's announcement that we would return to the moon was his blowhard way of trying to look both pro-science and simple-minded at the same time.

"Yeah, goll-dangit! Let's go back to the moon! That'll make them science fellers happy!"

His not funding it kind of solidifies that idea in my mind.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

We'll rediscover our motivation for going to the moon once the Chinese do it.

I'm not kidding.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | February 3, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

From the handbook for journalists about environmental issues that I mentioned, in the chapter, "Hazardous Wastes," p. 121 (aothors : Robert Logan, Marie Tessier and Stacy Christiansen):

Where it comes from

The primary surces of hazardous wastes in landfills, waste ponds, underground storage tanks, and waste disposals wells are the military, and the chemical, metals, and petroleum industries. The U.S. armed services have been the nation's largest producer of hazardous wastes, primarily from conventional and nuclear weapons development. Historically, the military oversaw its own storage and disposal of hazardous wastes, and released little public information about each service's waste management practices. Closing of Department of Energy facilities, such as the Rocky Flats plant in Colorado, reveal in part how the military handled hazardous materials. But most data remain classified and are difficult to obtain. Overall jurisdiction for the military's hazardous wastes now resides with EPA, and the Department of Energy has pledged a new policy of openness.

A strange twist on "Don't ask, won't tell." Don't ask the military about its horrendous pollution problems, because the military won't tell you--or reporters-- diddly-squat.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Off topic but interesting-

if you haven't seen this you should. Short and amazing-

Posted by: kguy1 | February 3, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Wow, with friends like that...

This is a supposed Bush supporter, the former NASA chief, saying this:
"President Bush never had any idea what the OMB was doing behind his back, not just at NASA, but in other discretionary programs."

How does that not translate into:
President Bush was such a poor, out-of-touch manager that he was unaware of the most basic functions of government under his watch, including the budget that sets the actual policy on, well, everything.

A devastating indictment slipped into a supposed defense of a past president.

The other possibility is that this version of history is not true at all, and that President Bush just said one thing, and quietly (and knowingly) worked with OMB to do another. I actually find that more believable. There is a long history back to medieval times of saying "It's not the king -- it's the evil advisors (here, OMB)!" It was usually the king.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | February 3, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Exactly my thoughts, too, fairfaxvoter.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Tony, I've been saying that in here for years.

I've been advocating that NASA human flight training programs include Mandarin. And Russian, maybe Hindi, too.

What would be better - a Moon made of bleu cheese, or a Moon used to store hazardous wastes? (Cue "Space: 1999" theme music).


Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Front Page Alert, anyone???

Oh, and morning! *belated Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 3, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I could write a book here but I will spare the boodle.
If Bush didn't know it's because he didn't want to know, or he is incapable of knowing much of anything.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

This article on the Constellation program is pretty good.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | February 3, 2010 10:12 AM

We'll rediscover our motivation for going to the moon once the Chinese do it.

I'm not kidding.
Well said. The US has become a reactive society instead of a proactive one. Until another country actually sends a manned mission to the moon, we can sit back and pat ourselves on the back, but when it happens there will be "outrage" and talk of why the government didn't do something... yadda yadda yadda..

Posted by: volhokie | February 3, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

We'll return to the moon once it's cost-effective to do so, not before. Sorry if that sounds self evident but right now we simply don't have the money to fund such an ambitious science program that was championed at the outset by a President who said the jury was still out on evolution. Tony in Durham above said we'd return once the Chinese went to the moon and I agree with that -- it'll be that or some other incentive like the discovery of a valuable new resource or a significant lowering of the cost.

Until then, we have to content ourselves with robotic space exploration. Which is not too shabby. I mean, good grief we have rovers (well, a single rover now) driving around the surface of Mars!

Posted by: simpleton1 | February 3, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

One of the funniest moments during Jared Diamond's talk at Trinity University here in San Antonio on Monday night actually came from the students in Diamond's freshman geography class at UCLA.

(The Express-News did a very poor follow-up story, sadly, and included a poor retelling of this funny portion of Diamond's lecture.)

The students in Diamond's freshman and freshwoman geography class called on Jared to ask what the learned professor thought was probably said when the very last tree was cut down on Easter Island. The professor turned the question back to the students to answer.

One must realize that Easter Island had the biggest palm trees in the world at one time. These palms enabled the islanders to erect a number of statues that weighed about 90 tons, using no draft animals or machines. As the land was cleared, these palms were used for cooking, construction, dugout canoes used to fish for tuna and other fishes--the island's primary protein source. The fibers from the palm were crafted to make rope and sleds that transported the statues, put into place with levers. The felling of the last tree meant that no more statues would be erected on this farflung, remote island.

So, the students wanted to know why the islanders were so stupid to chop down the last tree and what must have been said during the act.

Scenario One: "Don't worry, technology will solve all of our problems.

Scenario Two: "I'm just so sick and tired of tree-huggers. They exaggerate their fears. We need more research."

Scenario Three: "I'm a fiscal conservative. We've got to get the big government of chiefs off our backs!"

As Diamond pointed out, there are parallels, past and present, in terms of mananaging resources.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Paul, I have to disagree on some elements of your critique. When I read the NASA announcements from yesterday, my impression was that about half the contractors who are in the new Space Act Agreement are "iron triangle" companies like Boeing, and they got contracts a factor of 5-10 bigger than the New Space companies. The proposed new NASA budget is a net increase in $, with many of those new $ going to multiple companies now instead of just one. Politically, that's a winner, and has the potential for innovation derived from competition between the companies to build an eventual flight system.

On your first point -- I'm not exactly sure of your point. I understand that you disagree with Joel's capsule description of the situation, but my impression is that you agree that the overall architecture for Constellation was designed in a way that made it unsustainably expensive. So, it sounds like you disagree with Joel's effort at drawing an overall lesson from it, but agree with the specific analysis. Have I misinterpreted?

On the political capital issue -- I read Joel's point as meaning that the Vison could live only on the hope that the next President would agree to sustain it. It got through two different Congresses, but Congress does not set priorities, the President does. This President does not buy the priorities of the last one. What a surprise.

On the issue of public buy-in -- I agree that there are expensive boring things on which there is no political dissension from funding them. There is no political dissension because the necessity is obvious. You can bet that if we did NOT have effective air traffic control then there would be air traffic control "buffs". The manned space program is something that we are not effectively doing right now, so that means it is not already an essential underpinning of daily life. Until that situation arises, I think it's obvious that we *do* need to garner public support. We are already able to access cislunar space *without* manned flight. The only reason for manned flight to that region is for man-tended operations. The day may come when we need that capability, but it has not been demonstrated.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Hey, kguy, if you're going to do BBC news, also known as British news, this one's a gem, headlined "Blair Called a Liar in Iraq Inquiry."

Seems Blair surrounded himself with the old boys' club and head-nodding yeah-sayers. Or as Robert Wright (Joel's buddy) would say in today's NYT, Blair "cocooned" himself.

This article does a b1oody good job of explaining what Clare Short, an international development minister with the Blair's cabinet, knew and when she knew it. A very unflattering portrait of Gordon Brown, too, for that matter.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The upside of letting the Chinese do it before us is that the rockets will be a bargain when we do get around to it.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I'll take an order of moon to go, without MSG, please.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, f-voter.

OMB is part of the Executive branch and we are all now well aware of the puppets vs. string-pullers in the Bush-43 administration.

Mr. A, I disagree with your assertion that "having a little bit of a moon program is like being a little bit pregnant." Having a presence on the moon has never been the end goal. Big huge long-range programs of any sort have milestones, but the milestones can be altered, or even scrapped, without altering the end goal.

The problem for NASA is they haven't communicated the end goal very well, or you'd be kitting about that instead of "where do e [NASA] go from here."

More on that later.

**pondering on the verbification of 'kit' whilst preparing to hunt and gather**

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The only people with rockets who worry me are the Iranians.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 3, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

SCC: make that we instead of e. I do not mean to misqoute Mr. A.

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

A question of moral clarity?

How can you lose something that you never really owned?

Speaking of moral issues, a splendid review of a book coming soon to a bookstore near you, about the African-American woman Henrietta Lacks. I posted about her here on the Achenblog some ages ago, and someone, a woman writer, finally had the gumption to go out and flesh out the story about how science misapproriated her cell lines, the famous HeLa line:

The woman who provides this book its title, Henrietta Lacks, was a poor and largely illiterate Virginia tobacco farmer, the great-great-granddaughter of slaves. Born in 1920, she died from an aggressive cervical cancer at 31, leaving behind five children. No obituaries of Mrs. Lacks appeared in newspapers. She was buried in an unmarked grave.

To scientists, however, Henrietta Lacks almost immediately became known simply as HeLa (pronounced hee-lah), from the first two letters of her first and last names. Cells from Mrs. Lacks’s cancerous cervix, taken without her knowledge, were the first to grow in culture, becoming “immortal” and changing the face of modern medicine.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The fundamental problem was NASA itself, starting at the end of Apollo when NASA asked for a ridiculously big follow-on program that assumed continued Apollo-era levels of funding (“On to Mars”, as then Vice President Agnew said). If NASA had proposed an appropriately-sized program of continuous launcher development and improvement and incremental exploration they probably would have got it. Instead they were cut off at the knees and scrambled to find something to keep everyone employed. They settled on the space shuttle. That and the space station became chronic jobs and aerospace company welfare programs. Running those programs caused NASA to forget how to do anything quickly or efficiently. The design, schedule and budget of Constellation and Ares are only the latest demonstration of NASA’s mindset: the more that Congress and the public think that space is inherently difficult and expensive, the longer any given task can be dragged out, the easier it is to be forgiven for delay and failures, and the more potential competitors can be bad-mouthed.

Now, finally, the era of government-monopoly space is over. NASA will return to its proper role of conducting basic and applied R&D in astronautics and scientific exploration. The job of building and operating launchers belongs to the private sector, who face real competition from each other and face real pressure to succeed by winning contracts for delivery of payloads to, from, and via space.

Posted by: raschumacher | February 3, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Um....everybody needs to hold up a minute. No one has yet mentioned the other major factor -- that conditions change, sometimes dramatically. It's all well and good for Bush to have had his "vision" back when the economy was bubbling and perking along nicely (so everyone thought), and his two wars, while already overblown and over budget, had probably not yet dragged into the uncontested quagmires they are now.

But one massive condition DID change: the entire economy has since crashed, although just not fatally. There's talk it may take as much as ten years to recover, and no matter whether people agree with the stimulus and recovery plan or not, still that's the now the 800-pound gorilla (to coin a cliche) in the room. And so it is vastly different now to blithely discuss funding a $108 billion mission to the moon and Mars, as compafred to discussing such a venture nearly a decade ago, when we (delusionally) thought the economy would keep rising forever.

All of a sudden people who never worried about the deficit before are now cowering at the notion of it. So do you want to shrink the deficit, or do you want to go to Mars? I doubt you can find anyone in favor of both, who thinks both can be achieved simultaneously.

Add to it the interminable cost of the two wars. Add to it what I suspect is a slow-growing consensus that global warming is going to be a major future problem (and money pit).

So the Chinese will get to the moon before us? When? If we can't get there until 2028 (wasn't that the estimate?) how long will it take the Chinese? 2035? 2040? Won't Florida be under water by 2040? Why assume China will remain both stable and within it's same, current condition by 2040?

Let the Chinese try to get to the moon. So what?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I have seen a lot of commentary about how Obama is killing space exploration in general and manned spaceflight in particular, but that is an inference that does not appear to me to be well-supported. Funding for science is proposed to continue, and even increase a bit (it will be an improvement if it stops getting raided for Constellation and Shuttle). Obama is killing Constellation, but Constellation is not synonymous with the future of US manned spaceflight. At this point, Constellation has done a lot of design and prototyping and, of course, flown a test vehicle. We were still several years from flying an operational unmanned Orion crew capsule or a full-up Ares I rocket, far from flying a manned capsule, and even farther from flying the Ares V rocket that would be needed to move serious man-rated cargo and to get us out of LEO. There is a lot of expensive engineering and fabrication that would yet have to be done. What has been killed are plans, not real things. So what has the money been spent on? Primarily: people. Engineers and designers and fabricators. Those people still exist, as does the expertise gained from what has been done so far on Constellation.

Here are some critical paragraphs from yesterday's contract release:

#1: "NASA has awarded $50 million through funded agreements to further the commercial sector's capability to support transport of crew to and from low Earth orbit. This step is the first taken by NASA consistent with the president's direction to foster commercial human spaceflight capabilities."

#2: "Through an open competition for funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, NASA has awarded Space Act Agreements to Blue Origin of Kent, Wash.; The Boeing Company of Houston; Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, Ariz.; Sierra Nevada Corporation of Louisville, Colo.; and United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colo. The agreements are for the development of crew concepts and technology demonstrations and investigations for future commercial support of human spaceflight."

ULA has been the prime contractor for managing the Shuttle program. Boeing, you know. The others are relatively new players at this level.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

RD, I agree on Iran, except that I think that there is a very large population subgroup that really wants a return to normalcy and international responsibility.

The rulers play the SHOCK game over and over.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I don't read the Kit as suggesting a rogue OMB, sneaking around and changing allocations willy-nilly irrespective of presidential priorities. I did read a suggestion that the president at the time might (a) not have paid attention or (b) not understood what OMB was doing. Either seems to me likely. I also wouldn't be surprised by suggestion (c), found in the Boodle, that the president at the time actually did know of the OMB actions and tacitly approved although they undercut the program funding.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 3, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Oh, let me note that my 11:09 partially invalidates some of what I said in my 10:43. 2/5 of the Space Act companies are Old Space, and one of the New Space companies is actually getting a little more than Boeing.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

That was well said SciTim.

I agree with you, Mudge, that a Chinese space program isn't something to worry about. This is because I deny the implied premise that their program offers them either an commercial or military advantage. And I'm not competitive enough to worry about losing our street cred.

RT - Indeed, I am keenly aware that the people of Iran are our best hope. I am just reacting to today's news about the Iranian rockets and what the Iranian leaders might choose to do if they felt too threatened - most likely by their own people. Just running scenarios in my mind. I've been know to do that.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 3, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

And BTW, I can go completely off-topic in less than two sentences. But I doubt a moderator would let me do that.

At the risk of repeating myself here in the Boodle, I believe the problems with NASA or human spaceflight has never been technical -- they're due marketing and management. And I, too, empathize with those who devoted years of blood, sweat, tears, and toil to Constellation and Ares just to see it boxed up and put away, like the SST program or the aforementioned supercollider. As IIRC the Bard said, "If the cause be not good, then it will be a dark matter for the king that led them to it," (and then there's all the stuff about arms and legs that Clive Barker would enjoy -- but I digress). I suppose this too will fall on GWB, as I believe it should.

I cannot recall anything great ever having been accomplished without hard work and sacrifice, but I think the most important thing is inspirational leadership. JFK provided that spark of inspiration for Apollo, and perhaps we carried torches forward for him as a tribute. And that momentum carried into the STS and ISS, but that's as far as the wave if inspiration went.

We as a human species are limited only by by ourselves, and perhaps our biggest failure is to stop dreaming and working collectively to make them come true, stop working to make our lives and worlds bigger and better, stop being inspired by each other to be and so *more* -- to give in to the individual self-indulgences of negativity and complaint and making ourselves feel better by trying to tear down and undermine rather than build and achieve.

I am interested in the story of Constellation and Ares, but only to learn what not to do next time.

And there will be a next time.
I'm betting on it.

And, perhaps, so are we all.


PS, Mudge, SB picks later, my friend.

Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Sorry 'bout the typos. Like I've said. Multitasking.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 3, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

RD, please don't think I mentioned that as criticism--not at all. AND, again, I totally agree. This underlines the risk of non-democratic governments or faux-democracy.

The whole area is a tinderbox.

Iran is not a black and white picture, but that doesn't lessen the threat. In fact, it could increase the threat.

I am much more appreciative of the current administration being that they are more likely to be aware of the non-black and white nature and the ability to deal with the threat without demonizing people who, at this very same instance, are fighting for their rights.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I fret a bit about Pakistan, as well.

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

We will return to the moon when there is return for investment. The only resource that the moon has to offer is mass in a smaller gravity well, so when we start large engineering projects in space, the moon has something to offer.

The only prospective large engineering projects for orbit are a Mars mission, orbiting solar power stations or the militarization of space, the latter being the most likely since the Chinese are not party to any agreement to defer it.

Posted by: edbyronadams | February 3, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

fret not.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

After you box up a prototype, all you need to do to reactivate it is to get a Sharon to help you infiltrate the base star and then send Lucy Lawless another guest-star contract.

Wait, what show were we watching?

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

JA talks about doing stuff on someone else's political capital. NASA's got political capital. Where's that going?

Posted by: LostInThought | February 3, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Repost from the last moon kit:

"Other knitting lessons:

1. If someone else is going to have to finish the sweater you're planning on starting, don't go around taking all the credit or it will never get done.

2. Don't promise a sweater when you only have time for mitts.

3. Some projects are too big for one knitter. A patchwork quilt is better than no quilt at all."

On #3, I was implying that a multinational project may be the only way to get the big things done in the post-Apollo era. I realize that may not work either. There's a lot of nationalist egos at work and you might have the political legacy effect multiplied several times when relations between participating countries sour. Plus nobody wants to see their national budget being a mere contribution to somebody else's project. You may have noticed that this works both ways, by the way (doing my bit as providing a bit of Non-US perspective). As much as a political non-starter as it would be for the US to be a minority contributor to a Chinese Mars mission, I think there's a certain amount of suspicion whether the US can keep its focus on a long term project. Reading (at least some) US media one gets the impression that the ISS is a US project with a bunch of loser nation add-ons, and a big waste of time. As well, as we all know, the ISS was an Augustine Report away from being a big fireball. From the ESA's (and others') perspective, is contributing several billion dollars to a Mars mission going to be all for naught if the wrong person is elected in the US?

The lesson seems to be that we (the global we) either have to find a way to do the big projects in bite-sized pieces or find a way to de-politicize them (the latter is a tall order given the amounts involved).

Posted by: engelmann | February 3, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"On #3, I was implying that a multinational project may be the only way to get the big things done in the post-Apollo era." - englemann

A knitaphor, if you will.

Posted by: byoolin1 | February 3, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

(And "engelmann," if I will.)

Posted by: byoolin1 | February 3, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse


NASA's political capital is much less than other pigs at the trough, like say Big Pharma or ADM. Space exploration is a sideline for the MIC oligarchy and there are lower, riper fruit to pick.

Like I said before, until the space exploration fanboys take off the Spock ears and start writing their congresscritters, their dreams, like them, are never going to leave mom's basement.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

From its inception NASA has mostly been an exercise in extracting money from a credulous government to indulge the preadolescent pulp-fiction male fantasies of its employees and managers.

Hubble and a couple of other really science-worthy projects are notable and noble exceptions, but mostly NASA activities have been boondoggles.

Posted by: norriehoyt | February 3, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Joel, That is an excellent analysis, particularly your point about carryover from one White House to the next.

NASA is an administration, so Obama does have the right to put his imprint on the agency. The President also wields ample leverage to guide NASA toward schemes that will reward our tax dollars to his friends in the speculative and risky commercial spaceflight lobby, and in the scientific-technological community that depends on NASA for their livelihood.

The internet billionaires that used their spare cash to start-up speculative commercial space ventures, are joyfully leaping at the chance to live out their Howard Hughes inspired dream of building the next "Spruce Goose". Unfortunately, these new money aerospace novices are not experienced aerospace leaders like Hughes was.

In the end, these commercial space operations, already dependent on generous support from the USAF (in the case of SpaceX, will probably not be able to do space travel any cheaper or safer than NASA has done it for more than for years. Building rockets is a long and expensive process that is full of surprises and setbacks.

The worst thing of all about this is that we have a President who is ignoring the independent safety panel warning about this scheme, and who is willing to risk one of America's most positive strategic investments with a highly speculative experiment.

Posted by: Jim_McDade | February 3, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

An alternative to the current Constellation architecture is the DIRECT space launch system, which is getting little press. Basically, DIRECT uses the the current space shuttle set up, removing the orbiter and placing a space capsule on top of the external tank. This is a viable design (I am an aerospace engineer) that costs a fraction of the Constellation program and can be ready to put Americans into space by 2013.

If you are interested, you can check it out at

Bottom line- American needs to maintain (and expand) our access to space for Earth science, national security, and commercial development.

Posted by: alaska_ranger | February 3, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I see Mr. A has added Paulspudis’ post to the kit.

Mr. A, kindly consider adding those parts of ScienceTim’s 10:43am that address Paulspudis’ three main points to the kit as well. They add greatly to the discussion and are likely to be missed by newcomers.

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I was just thinking that maybe privatization does de-politicise things somewhat, but there probabably is something to be said for not having your gazillion dollar Mars lab not being launched by the lowest bidder.

Posted by: engelmann | February 3, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Tim, one correction to your 11:09. United Launch Alliance is not the prime contractor operating the Shuttle. That would be United *Space* Alliance. ULA operates the Delta and Atlas rockets. Both have as parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but they are separate companies.

United Space Alliance stood to lose a lot of jobs with the end of Shuttle, and with the end of Constellation, that number likely goes up even further. ULA is unaffected by shutting down the Shuttle, and has apparently already benefitted from the cancellation of Constellation.

I worked at the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation from September '08 to October '09. Prior to that, I worked for a Shuttle contractor, and I am currently working for a Constellation contractor. So I'm as close as anybody to this decision.

My experience at the FAA convinced me that most of the commercial industry, and "New Space" in particular, is not up to meeting NASA's high standards - they actually successfully lobbied Congress in 2004 to prohibit the FAA from regulating manned spaceflight. That prohibition is set to expire in 2012 - Congress and the companies expected a relatively mature manned spaceflight industry to have evolved by that point. Clearly, it has not happened, and the Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation intends to continue not regulating manned activities.

Granted, $6 billion dollars may influence private industry to come around to NASA's standards, but I think the Augustine Commission grossly overestimated their capabilities. And I'm not aware that the Commission talked to any of us at the FAA.

Posted by: tomsing | February 3, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

constellation = too big to fail!

Posted by: HardyW | February 3, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I would like to alert this fine Boodle that this Saturday will be the Folk-Lore Society of Greater Washington Mini-Fest (aka "Mid-Winter Festival), an afternoon of fun within the halls and rooms of Takoma Park Middle School. Read more about it here:

or on the FSGW web site:

Some persons known to you reputedly will be performing...

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse


*Puts toe back into the Boodle water*

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

boy oh boy, there are a lot of really smart people here today. i don't understand a lot of the discussion about nasa. but i am pretty sure bush had no clue what was going on at omb. that would have required some investigation, and as we all remember, he was a decider, not a thinker.

my family and myself would really like to go to europe for an extended tour. the benefits to the kids would be inestimable, in terms of what they would learn, how it would alter some of their stereotypes, open their minds, etc. etc. who can say how their lives would change for the better? not to mention that it would be cool. (and all that french and italian food, OMG).

but we can't afford it. we would have to borrow the money and i can't say at this point where we would find the money to pay back the credit union. we're pretty much maxed out, debt-wise. i am a little ashamed about all that, but i can't hide from that truth.

we will have to live with our disappointments, i guess. maybe my kids can go later, or maybe their kids can go if they are smarter about their money than i was in years past.

i hate having to say this to my kids, but i have said it a few times over the last couple of years, and there will be more occasions in the near future: 'yep, kids, that would be really nice, and i'd like to do X, too. but we just can't afford it'.

Posted by: butlerguy | February 3, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Oops. Thanks for the correction tomsing.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Good comment by Jim_McDade.

I would add that space projects are of the kind where the development and execution must span decades. What we have is every administration (not just that of Obama) and new session of Congress messing with the goals and budgets of NASA. You cannot be efficient in running and completing the project if that happens.

Posted by: observer31 | February 3, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

butterguy, loved the post.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm probably BOOO-ing, but I have no idea there was a new moon I'm going to go do some catching up right now.

Hi bc, yello, college, rd, sciencetim, kguy, ivansmom, mudge, and slyness.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I am now typoguy

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I have to concur with the sense that New Space is very far from producing man-rated orbital/re-entry vehicles. I have resisted bringing it up, because I'd hate to be in the camp of stifling innovators just because I don't have as much imagination as they do. But it's a worrisome issue.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Sara!! *catchup Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 3, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Hi Sara!

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse


Thanks, butlerguy. I was thinking along those lines and before I could compose a post, along came yours.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 3, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

SCG. I HAD no idea.

Oh dear. Not just a spelling error but a grammatical error.

Hi, Scotty!

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh my! A visit from our very own Sara! How are you? How is life? How is *married* life treating you? We miss you!

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

AHHH! SCC. Not SCG. That's a peer group I work with in finances.

Wow. I need to go read the Achendictionary again.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Just so you know, yello and dmd, there is a Facebook group called "Can this Onion Ring get more fans than Justin Bieber?"

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse


I swear I'm back this time. For good. I need boodle laughter, gaiety, and levity in my workdays.

And life is wonderful!

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Sara!! Is that really you, Sara? The Sara who just got married (well, a few years ago now)? C'mon, sit down, have a cup of virtual tea, tell us how ya been! I'm all verklempt.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I just joined the onion ring group.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

It's really me. I was sitting here at my desk thinking, "I can't edit another page right now or I'll shoot myself. I need an outlet." And then the light came on. Achenblog.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom! :-)

Sara, I'm proud to say I have not a single idea who in the wide world of sports Justin Bieber is, but I love onion rings!

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 3, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

How about this for a lesson: You cannot do anything big in space exploration or anything else if one major political party will not hear of raising taxes, and they need only 41 votes in the Senate to make it stick.

Disclaimer: I think that manned space flight is a waste of money in any case.

Posted by: jgbay | February 3, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, you just stole my line. Not only am I so old, I'm getting slow.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for manned spaceflight. But if Bush wanted a return to the Moon, he shouldn't have slashed taxes for the superrich, invaded Iraq "off-budget," and run up the public debt.

We're all tightening our belts right now. So can manned spaceflight. If and when the economy and budget will permit, this decision can be revisited. But it cannot be a priority when millions of Americans don't have health insurance.

Posted by: uh_huhh | February 3, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse


Justin Bieber is the bane of my radio existence. I swear he's 8 years old and he's on every single station in the world (except for the hard rock stations) singing about how there's going to be "one less lonely girl" because of him. And all I can think is, "You're 8. You should be playing with earthworms."

Onion rings are cooler.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Sara, nice to see you again, thanks for dropping in.

Yes, there was a moon program. Minus the actually going-to-the-moon thing.

Posted by: joelache | February 3, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Ames Research thinks the budget is good for them. No layoffs for the 2500 working there.

Posted by: bh72 | February 3, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Oh, sure, Joel. Just drop in and flirt with the pretty girls, and ignore the rest of us.

*grumbling in my cave*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 3, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

That's why I listen to satellite radio, Sara. *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 3, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Hey JA. :)

I feel as though I've derailed the conversation, so back to business.

I agree with uh_huhh. Manned spaceflight can wait for health care reform. I'm not sure yet where I'm at with the whole health care reform thing, but I'm sure that with the $50 a year increase in our health plan, we'll be paying $500 for two perfectly healthy people next year with private insurance and I'm not okay with that.

Though due to having to buy private health care since my employer doesn't offer it, I did get an extra $1400 on my state tax refund this year. That was a new development that I enjoyed.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

The problem with manned flight is that the technology to do it right just isn't here yet. That is why its far better to use unmmanned probes, and space craft to really study Mar and the Moon very well.

Then, when things develop, we can send humans for a prolonged stay on Mar, and the Moon etc. I not talking about the old, mostly for show moon shots, but the start at building a Moon Base, and possible a martian colony. If we do it right, the retun vehicles will be waiting, and the fuel sources well established before the first human arrives.

This is faster in the long run, because it will not waste resources with weakly supported manned mission before its time.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | February 3, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back. Last night I was reading old boodles from 2005 before I joined and I kept saying to myself "What happened to sara and jw? They sure were a lot of fun." And here you are. I need to use this power only for good. Heaven forbid I invoke the Lone Mule.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Sarahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-- LTNSee em. Onion rings, with an earthworm side. Yum.

About space, generally, I bow down to RD for specfics, with a big dose of sciTimrationalTim on top. For space vision and meaning, bc is pretty good.

Shoes -- space or otherwise, well, LiT.

Full snow day in my locale. The snow muffles the traffic. but oh the shouts of sledding children. Many fine snow persons a-dotting the lawns.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"No you don't. You simply have to provide value for money spent. That's a different thing. To put it another way, how many air traffic control system "buffs" do you know? Few, I'll wager. Yet there is widespread agreement that such federal spending is important. Are people "excited" by it? Not really. Do they think it critically important? You bet."

People "support" air traffic controllers because almost everyone has traveled by plane. That's like saying people "support" traffic lights at intersections. NASA absolutely has a PR problem. Using myself as an example, there are plenty of rubes out there who don't see the value of having NASA at all, let alone one particular mission that appeared to be a repeat.

Also - there is an entire generation (I'm 31) of people whose thinking re: NASA begins and ends with Challenger (I was 7). Ask someone my age the first thing they think of when you say NASA -- I bet it's Challenger

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 3, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I calculated my health insurance premium a while back, for a family of four: $24k/year, paid by my employer. This is not a particularly gold-plated Cadillac plan. It has significant holes and the co-pay on prescriptions has gone up to $20 a pop.

Sara, I'm a tad worried about you. $500/year sounds like a policy that won't cover diddly-squat if you should actually have a health event. If you are paying $500/mo = $6k/yr, that sounds more realistic for a policy that would actually cover something. Don't get caught by one of these outfits that takes your money and pays zero on claims.

The whole and entire operating principle of health insurance is for perfectly healthy people to be paying premiums. The system depends on most of the payers being perfectly healthy people, so that no individual person is hit with a giant health-care cost all at once and so there is enough money to pay those giant bills plus some profit. The fundamental concept is that the insurance company places a bet that you will pay them more over your life than you will cost them. The benefit to you is that the time of occurrence of bad health events is unknowable. It may come after 20 years, or it may come tomorrow (even healthy people get hit by trucks, electrocuted, food-poisoned, etc). No matter how diligently you save money, you may not have enough money saved at the time of a health crisis to pay its costs. Should that be a death sentence? Should you incur a debt that will take you years to pay off before you can even start working on new savings for the inevitable next health crisis? I had a heart attack, which cost a $43k procedure to fix. At your premium rate, that would take 86 years to save enough money to pay it. If I misunderstood and $500 is your monthly premium, then it's 86 months = 7+ years. At the time of my procedure, I was less than 20 years older than I believe you are now. During that time, we also produced two offspring and there were several other significantly costly medical events. Health insurance is expensive, but it works (in principle). The problem in reform is to make it work for more people.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I take a libertarian view towards traffic control, both vehicular and aviation. We need to privatize roads and let people that want to use the roads directly support them. Some competition would do us good.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Hey Sara!!!!! Great to see you back.

Entirely off-kit (well, maybe . . . .) alert: I had a lovely conversation with a colleague in Scotland this morning (my time). We hadn't spoken in an embarrassing number of years, so we had a great deal to catch up on. But, just think of that delectable Scottish brogue -- all I did when he was talking was to close my eyes (and, yeah, "think of Scotland" (*snort*)) and listen to that simply heavenly sound.

He ll, rather than to the moon, I'd be more in the mood to go to Scotland.

And that's the only connection to the kit I've got.

Gotta go make some money. Toodley Boodley. . . .

Posted by: -ftb- | February 3, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

good to know that one of us has a decent printing press.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

My replacement Cell Phone is on a UPS truck somewhere... any bets on when it shows?

Left Laurel hub at 7:21

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

There should be some broken cell hiaku available to pull me through the event.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Where's the hypersonic trans-Pacific jetliner Reagan promised me? Tell NASA to get on it now that they have some spare time on their hands.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Sara.
Good to see you again.

Back to the NASA marketing again for a minute, there's likely something to be gained by leveraging James Cameron, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, John Travolta, and other folks to market and glamorize NASA's future, and help set and accomplish goals for the country. Give NASA something to hang it's helmet on, and something for politicians, lobbyists - and especially the public - a focal point.

Here's a pitch for a marketing campaign, perhaps best heard over a beverage:

"Cop shows, lawyer shows, hospital and war shows have been around forever. But besides Majors Nelson and Healy, any astronaut shows? Shoot, having one science babe try out for American Idol (Anyone know one? I think we do...) would help their image. Along with technology that spills into other industries and jobs, popularity can be leveraged into political capital.

But first, let's bring back astronaut lunchboxes!"


Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I also don't want to stifle innovation. As a matter of fact, I'm in favor of encouraging the development of commercial manned spaceflight, because I'd love to book a trip.

But at the same time, if you believe that national manned access to space is important (and I do), then it doesn't make sense to abandon Constellation in favor of a commercial industry that doesn't exist.

Posted by: tomsing | February 3, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather have a Charlie's Angels lunchbox.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, I almost brought up the original SST program of the late 60's and early 70's, presumably America's answer to Concorde and the Soviet TU-144 (and how big a geek am I that I didn't have to look that last up?).

But we got the STS, got to name the first one Enterprise, and we all sat down and shut up and got to work, confident in out shiny New Republican futures, with-ever increasing stock options and flying cars parked in in our driveways (when we could eventually afford to buy homes).

Unforunately, the future wasn't like that.


Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Just what astronomical constellation was supposed to be the emblem of this eponymous spacecraft? Maybe "Deficitus", the money-sink? (That's the constellation with a super-massive financial black hole in it.) Anyway, it doesn't make too much sense to fret about "Who lost the moon?", since as everyone agrees, the Chinese will find it soon enough, with the Indians not far behind. IN the meantime, the USA can launch a salvo of interplanetary fly-bys and orbiters, and we can build new generations of space telescopes in the gamma-ray, x-ray, UV, visible, and IR bands. That should give us the biggest bang for the buck, and by spreading out the research dollars to universities in every Congressional district, it will keep everyone happy.

Posted by: seismic-2 | February 3, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

SCC: not out, "our"

tomsing, I'd like to think there's room for both.

But I'm still waiting for my flying car, too.

And yello, of course you would. I'm not going to ask you about the Farah poster.


Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Underneath my bed lies
A well-chewed ball of green cheese.
Ummm.... no "lost" moon here.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 3, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Beneath, not underneath.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 3, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse


I meant $500/month. Oops. :)

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Sara! tomsing! butlerguy!

I admit, I was browsing Sara's blog occasionally until my computer crashed and I lost the site, couldn't remember what to Google for. Glad you're back here.

Yep, lotsa smart and interesting commentary today. Of course, I may think some of it is smart just because I don't quite grasp it. However, as I am confident in the source of some of it, I extrapolate and give other commenters the benefit of the doubt. Unless they're refuted by my known sources, that is.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 3, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

What's next, Nike releasing a set of throwback blogger uniforms and some throwback French Reds from Château Cos-d'Estournel.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't know which one you were browsing, but the one I update the most is It's my business blog, but I've mixed in personal stuff, too, since I'm useless at updating the personal one.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I can't sit here and read people dissing manned flights after our recent triumphant and outstanding Hubble repair mission. It's not right.

I like the Direct 3 proposal for refitting the current Shuttle launch system to work without shuttles. I don't know much about it but I'm glad someone is thinking.

I think NASA and Americans suffer from a

lack of vision, and this includes the Moon and

Mars missions currently envisioned. I like

Padouk's idea, but this takes things that just

aren't planned right now. Orbiting

greenhouses for food. Extraterrestrial fuel

and fuel tank factories. Orbital filling

station. Which could be the ISS, but which is due,

apparently, to go into the ocean a few years

from now.
Even the idea of building something in orbit

and can be mothballed for a few years and

then reinhabited later is not on the table. Why? Why if a moon mission is planned, no one talks about preliminary delivery of food and air caches to the lunar surface in advance of human visitors?

(If out-of-gravity-well manufacturing is ever begun, costs of robotic exploration and science missions could also eventually go down.)

I see manned flight as at worst, a mobile Geek Squad, needed to repair extraterrestrial stuff. At best, exploratory adventures.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Stupid notepad. Sorry.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Oddly, I never had a Farah poster or any other pin-up. I decorated my room with military surplus topographic maps. Until my mother moved her bamboo hat collection into my room.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Sara! Long time, girl! Glad to hear all is well with you, please stick around.

Science isn't my area of expertise, as we all well know, but I kinda like seismic-2's suggestions. We've already been to the moon, let's do something different and better.

Posted by: slyness | February 3, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

We would go to (or more accurately attack) the moon if terrorists were found there. Just saying.

Posted by: turkerm | February 3, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The moon was lost before it even started. It was based on a politics rather than scientific merit. It was lost when George Bush made a sill commitment to going to the moon. NASA needs money to fund real research and exploration. Whats there on the moon for scientific discovery? Nothing but reminding us our technical excellence. The government should give billions of dollars to the guy who developed SpaceShip 1. On a shoe string budget, he seems to know how to make spacecraft.

Posted by: theAnswerIs42 | February 3, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

tuckerm wins best comment of the day.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Getting a higher class of drive-by today. The troll ratio is really low. This sciencey thing may be a hit. Perhaps Joel should write these type of articles more often. He could even do it in some sort of question and answer format.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see you back Sara.

I don't have any expertise in these matters but I know that with the deficit we are running, we'd better be very careful how we spend money. I like the idea of robots, they worked well on Mars.

Posted by: badsneakers | February 3, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Man Plus. Just sayin'.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

jkt, that's because our usual trolls are at a grassroots convention to discuss the impeachment of Barrack Who's Sane Obama.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 3, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Sara!

I'm relatively new to these parts and it's always nice to have seasoned A-bloggers return. Willkommen bienvenue welcome et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Sorry, mixed my movies.

NASA is thinking too big and too small at the same time. Too big in that it wants lots and lots of money. Too small in that it still has sufficient political capital to totally reinvent its raison d'etre if it just got creative about it.

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Joel can and should write about anything he wants to. The trick in dealing with the home page is to get to the headline writer. Let's say JA writes a Kit about what a doo-doo head Rush Limbaugh is, but the headline reads "Has the Human Genome Really Been Unraveled?" Problem solved.

All we have to do is develop a code, you know-

When you mean: You say:
Health Reform Chaos Theory
Tea Baggers Mixed Nuts
John Boehner Orangina
GWB Mad King Ludwig
Dick Cheney Voldemort

Then it's just a matter of mix 'n match- "Voldemort addresses assemblage of mixed nuts and denounces chaos theory!"

As I said, problem solved.

Posted by: kguy1 | February 3, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@theAnswerIs42: "The government should give billions of dollars to the guy who developed SpaceShip 1. On a shoe string budget, he seems to know how to make spacecraft."

Yes and no. SpaceShipTwo has not yet flown, although I don't doubt that Burt Rutan can make it happen. There are plans to give him hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, but not to build spacecraft -- to buy flights on them, in order to run instruments looking out a specialized port. I have a couple friends who just recently went to ground school to learn how to do such things, to get centrifuged, fly in a Vomit Comet, etc. It also depends on your definition of shoe-string. SS1 and WhiteKnight took $20M or so.

SpaceShipTwo is absolutely incapable of orbital flight. Even if you strapped on some big honking solid rocket boosters to get it up to orbital velocity, it is not capable of a survivable re-entry -- it is not made with appropriate materials and appropriate design (at least, that's what Rutan has said, and it appears consistent with everything else I know about the subject). It also lacks cargo capability, extended habitability (days-to-weeks), that sort of thing.

SpaceShipThree (I saw a documentary in which I believe Rutan used that name) potentially COULD do the job. That vehicle is far from reality at this point. Rutan has expressed serious contempt for NASA. He may be able to build the vehicle he intends to build, but I gather that he has no interest in working with NASA to do so.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of in-space construction, but (there is always a 'but'):

(1) If you're going to build and stock something big, it will take a long time. In LEO (like ISS), you have to keep pushing it up to correct for orbital decay from atmospheric drag. If you are going to leave Earth orbit and work at a Lagrange point, well... sounds good, but requires a lot of kinetic energy = fuel. And, we don't currently know how long or how well that environment can be made biologically tolerable.

(2) Radiation exposure rates increase with altitude, even staying in Earth orbit.

(3) Construction will require a lot of astronauts. Training astronauts is very expensive. You are talking about the equivalent of hiring double-PhD's to work high steel construction.

(4) Construction will require launching lots of food, water, oxygen, materiel.

(5) The only experience so far is from SkyLab 1 (improvised), Mir (launched mostly intact), Hubble servicing (huge amount of engineering in advance), and ISS (stupendous amount of engineering in advance). Not zero, but a long way from throwing a few standard parts into space and screwing those babies together.

We need baby steps. There's a lot to learn, and Mother Nature is a mean teacher who will take your head off and kill you if you don't learn the lesson before the final.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

And Grandma Deep Space is even meaner...

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 3, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse


Ah, the Tea Bagger Nation Convention in Opryland for $600 bucks a head (lodging, transportation, and meals not included) is this week. Sarah, Palin Full Of Gall is allegedly getting $100k to address these Joe Plumber manqués although she is claiming she is not benefiting financially. Sounds like some PAC money laundering is going on.

Here is her rationalization for attending a shindig too full of wingnuts for Michelle Bachmann to show her face at:

Posted by: Mo_MoDo | February 3, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Where did the moon go? President Obama gave it up in a deal with the Russians. Tass said today that now the American and Russian space programs are in alignment...Never thought I would hear that deal come down.

Posted by: tanderson4 | February 3, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ever since I did a radio adaption of Asimov's 'The Martian Way' for a high school English project, I've wanted to be a deep space ice miner. Kinda like Sean Connery in 'Outland.' Where is my libertarian asteroid belt colony?

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Nice to meet you, MsJS! :)

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

An international conspiracy to deliberately pull in the reins on our space program? Instead of a Space Race, we have Space Sandbagging. It's as if Shoeless Joe Jackson were on the Augustine Commission.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Would that be a colony of libertarian asteroid belts?

Or a colony of belts made of libertarian asteroids?

Or a colony on an asteroid consisting of libertarian belt-makers?

Posted by: MsJS | February 3, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Concerning the Superconducting SuperCollider: it was killed by Congress, not by Clinton, who after a lukewarm start did try to save it. Congress could have chosen to kill the space station instead and use the money to complete the SSC. They made the wrong choice, funding an orbiting astronaut hotel with extremely limited research capability instead of the instrument that might have revealed the fundamental basis of physical reality.

Posted by: raschumacher | February 3, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I always feel conspicuously absent during these space kits and boodles. I can't even think of anything good to troll about.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Wait... here's my contribution...

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

If the ISS has taught us anything, it is (in my opinion) that building and working in space is a lot more difficult and expensive than we might have originally thought. Perhaps it's time for--pardon the cliche--a paradigm shift.

Around the world right now, there is a huge, multinational effort underway to design and build a protoype fusion reactor, called ITER. Regardless of what you may think about the technology and its potential capability to provide--at some point in the future--an almost limitless supply of (relatively) clean, carbon-free energy, the ITER model may be a good one to consider for future space exploration.

If the Moon, Mars, and possibly other bodies in our Solar System are places where we could benefit by exploration beyond robotic capabilities (or where we might want to, some day, consider establishing off-planet colonies), why should only one nation bear the costs of such a program? Why not establish a multinational effort, along the lines of the ITER model, to go to the Moon--and beyond?

Of course, it would not be easy to do this. But again, if the ISS has taught us anything, it's that humankind is capable of transcending political (and other) differences to collaborate on what are perceived to be worthwhile scientific endeavors.

Something to think about....

Posted by: oldguy2 | February 3, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Today I read both Wikipedia articles on the ISS and on the Constellation project. Also a Federation of American Scientists pdf about, among other things, radiation at different orbital heights, prompted by Tim just now. (Thanks for prompt!) Then I posted both Wiki articles' links on my new website, violating a half-formed protocol to not cite two related subjects in tandem. Surely now I will have to research something like tiddly-winks, Veg-All, or knitting (shudder) next, to regain the balance.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Here you go Jumper...

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Geez, leave the room for a few hours and both Scotty and MsJS quote from "Blazing Saddles."

I'm surprised my in-laws aren't at that Opryland shindig. Yesterday they went and waved signs at Obama's motorcade in Nashua. It's all I can do to keep Raysdad from falling under their evil spell.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 3, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse


You too can produce original doilies.

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

TBG, me too!
No werewolf syndrome, no pants,
no mooning, no clue.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 3, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"...Mother Nature is a mean teacher who will take your head off and kill you if you don't learn the lesson before the final."

In honor of SciTim's comment, here's an image of a statue of Amerigo Vespucci with a "dragon", the kind that falls out of trees in cold weather. In other words, an iguana:

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 3, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Obama was speaking up in Nashua, N.H., today and said this: "When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It's time your government did the same."

This story is one of the first things I read after logging on the computer this afternoon. Lawmakers from Las Vegas, a Democratic female Rep., plus Senate Majority Leader and Nevadan Harry Reid are criticizing the president for slamming Vegas now twice in the past year.

However, Obama's right about the need for taking personal responsibility for one's finances--whether it be a family saving for college or a young person in college. For more about gambling, please see Ricky Gervais' movie, "The Invention of Lying." When you're earning peanuts on the paper at South Lake Tahoe, the last thing you do is go to the casinos at Stateline.

What a strange juxtaposition of stimuli/input/ideas for me this afternoon. Given the cold, heavy rains here this afternoon, I decided to go get an education. By that I mean that I decided to go see the British movie, "An Education."

What an extraordinary movie, and what a phenomonal job best actress nominee Carey Mulligan does. The story of a young girl who learns the true value of an education--the hard way (and given my family connection to Oxford, well...what can I say?). I'm favoring Mulligan over Streep for the best actress nod from the Academy, but I've other movies yet to see. Tolstoy, anyone?

Thanks to DotC and Curmudgeon for the heads-up about Crosby and "The Columbian Exchange." I checked this morning and do have it in my library--unread. One of the other books that I own along the same lines is the Smithsonian's "Seeds of Change." I bought three copies, inexpensive at the time, and gave each of my two instructors in the dietetics program at Cal State Sacramento a copy, keeping the last copy for myself. Hopefully, one of their copies found its way into the library at Cal State Sacto.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Or is it bc in a toga?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I with TBG, while backboodling it occured to me I have absolutely nothing I could add to the conversation.

Back from our wine tour only made it to two wineries but brought home six bottles of wine, whites for me, reds for my husband. Had a great time and a very nice lunch. Two lovely wineries, one on the smaller, quaint picturesque side, the other large, french inspired complete with modern chateau main building.

Service from the winery staff to the person who looked after us at lunch was so above and beyond the regular it just added to the enjoyment of the day.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 3, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Joel Achenbach got to the real heart of the matter in his next to last paragraph -- viz., "Going to the moon again makes sense if you want to be a spacefaring civilization." Perhaps, before spending what would almost certainly roll up to a couple hundred billion dollars worth of borrowed Chinese capital on reclaiming the dubious glory days when men stomped around on what may arguably be the most worthless rock in the Universe, we should have a decent go at becoming a respectable Earth-faring civilization.

Going to the Moon, and then on to Mars, makes sense to those whose careers and livelihoods are invested in such a mission, and to those corporate interests who benefit from the long-term cost-plus contracts that such a mission creates -- for the rest of us, the real challenges to ingenuity and imagination ought to be abundantly clear right here on the Mother Ship. Manned space travel and colonization is a relic of a bygone era -- let's get over it and get on with living sensibly and sustainably here on Earth.

Posted by: mpwilliams | February 3, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Completely forgot Sara, Tomsing, butlerguy nice to see you.

Also forgot that we purchased a bottle of wine for our 25th anniversary today, in five years that bottle should be a it's best but since my husband raved about it the chances of it lasting for five years - not good.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 3, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Knitting and tatting ARE on kit. We be discussion the fabric of the universe.

Shall work on the Lladro and togas (the fabric of togas be not enough).,,KinKade? Well, surely the starlit nights sans light pollution....

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse mere editing the posting thing happened....blech and apologies and I think you take my meanings....let's talk what is for dinner next...


Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

O.K., we're going with dragons...

I've mentioned a lot recently the 2009 book by Dennis McCarthy about biogeography, "Here Be Dragons."

HC SVNT DRACONES is on the Hunt-Lenox Globe (c. 1506), a small copper sphere, a little less than five inches in diameter, now on display at the New York Public Library. The Latin, Hic Sunt Dracones, is stamped on Southeast Asia on this fist-sized, metal globe, one of the first to be constructed after Columbus's journey to the "New" World. On other ancient charts are pronouncements such as "here lions abound" or "in these places scorions are born," Hence, the main title of McCarthy's book is taken from the Hunt-Lenox globe.

In Chapter 2, "The Mesosaurus Problem," McCarthy writes that the men who are the focus of the chapter: Wallace, Wegener, du Toit, and Darwin--share something in common that is contrary to the stereotype of scientists as geeky, famously awkward social creatures. These men profiled in McCarthy's second chapter, aside from being biogeographers, were grand and intrepid adventurers--"swashbucklers, all," McCarthy asserts.

McCarthy then proceeds, a page later, to discuss Jared Diamond, who traveled widely and spent much of his life among hunter-gatherer societies of South America, southern Africa, Indonesia, Australia,and New Guinea.

McCarthy continues: "The long-standing tradition of the adventurous biogeographer may offer another clue as to why the subject has produced so many revolutionaries, It is certainly not a coincidence that the writings of heretics like Wegener, Wallace and Darwin are every bit as intrepid as their life histories. Wegener's "The Origins of Continents and Oceans" and Darwion's "ON the Origin of the Species are not textbooks; they are grander, freer, more rugged. They do not smell of the classroom, they smell of rives, beaches, swamps and jungles. The risk takers who wrote them are not the type to be daunted by professors or swayed by conventional wisdom. There is not a schoolmarm among them."

This was the set-up for the question I asked Diamond Monday night. The answer will have to be later as I fear I need a nap, as my disorder too often dictates.

Posted by: laloomis | February 3, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

That's the problem with these relentlessly moderated blogs. The minute you go off topic and start discussing movies and dragons somebody zaps your posts and bans your IP address. It's a good thing this is the official WaPo knitting and decorative and culinary arts blog.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

A piece of lean flank steak, marinated in mustard/lemon/garlic/rosemary/pepper, to be grilled and very thinly sliced.

A combination of green and red chard and beet greens, sauteed in a touch of olive oil

roasted red and golden beets, dressed in horseradish sauce (very Jewish treatment, except for the dairy component, which is non-fat sour cream, with lemon and pepper. Wowza when served room temperature.

There might be glass of wine, but more likely San Pellegrino or soft dry cider.

Himself will join me after he feeds the dogs at his house.

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Once again, the Moon/Mars program is the perfect government program.... no real early benchmarks, huge money spent before anyone realizes how far over budget it will go, and the result is a nearly unkillable pig in a poke. Think of it as the Joint Strike Fighter in space.

Posted by: steveboyington | February 3, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I love that sauce, Y. I am faxing you beets. TAKE THEM PLEASE. They are lovely as beets go, organic too. My CSA sends them. Blech....BUT, I am redeemable with this:

over the summer, thin slivers of beet appeared in the best potato salad I ever ever et. (INTENTIONAL, that 'et'). The dressing was the warm oil/vinegar/mustard dressing of the salad-comma-potato that I know as German style.

I just had home made nachos, with Ranch brand beans and homemade guac..huhhh.Walko sauce, as we say in our house. Do the huhh quickly and elide into the wa-sound quickly.

CPBoy spelled this once as Joaco sauce? Why? A good friend is named Joaquin....which is not pronounced as Joe-ah-kine.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Does that mean I'm not invited this evening, Yoki?

*stomach rumbling*

Ah, okay. I'm planning some quinoa with as many veggies as I can pile on and topped by perhaps some szechwan spicy sauce. I'm in a spicy, saucy mood.

Something tells me that we are going to be inexorably dumped on with snow Friday through Saturday. Hope I can get to the grocery store on Friday morning. . . . .

Posted by: -ftb- | February 3, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I made a Thai curry for 5 to 6. Two showed up; Mrs D. and me. Cauliflower, snap peas, zucchini, onion, celery and pork in a red curry (from a jar) flavoured coconut milk sauce with store-bought Nan bread. It smells good.

I had a lousy day, I'm working on my third drink and finally mellowing out.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Mmm... y'all's dinners sounds great. I'm staying in tonight to play Bingo.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Ooooh! I'll take all the beets you can fax, CquaP. Love 'em. They taste like good earth. And treated respectfully, give more than they take.

I was rather amused (here pronounced "smug") several weeks ago, when the "Well" blog on NYT published a list of 11 foods we should be eating, but aren't. Among them, beets, chard, sardines, cabbage, pumpkin/squash. I regularly (at least once a week, often more) eat 9 of the 11, and can work the iffy two in with some attention.

This is also very good:

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Of *course* you are invited, ftb. Always, always. Though saucy doesn't begin to describe you. As Jeremy Irons said in the role of Claus von Bulow, "You have no idea."

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

We'll probably have frozen egg rolls with orange chicken sauce...we're not fancy lately. :)

Posted by: Sara54 | February 3, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: dmd3 | February 3, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm also 9/11 if I replace canned pumkin with frozen pumkin. I hate beet but the girls (i.e. a majority of the household) love it. So I accept that they make their own repugnant tepid beet salad in my kitchen. I allow pickled beets in my fridge. How generous of me.

I sounded bitter earlier of eating in duo. I'm not. I missed that the fungi works 12-9, one witch has a course 19-21:30 and the other one plays basketball. My brain is a sieve.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

But are ya' bitter?

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Um, *could* be me in the business toga today. Gotta keep the strappy leather gladiator gear under wraps until it's needed, y'know.

I think there several different ways to establish repeatable human-rated earth-to-orbit flight systems, lunar flight and landings, lunar bases, and even flights to Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System, with technologes we have today (I think, anyway).

The hows are variable and less important at this moment than summoning the will and the resources to actually *do* it. Garnering the political capital to expend on such things, and then managing it over time (and replentishing as often as possible) to assure that the steps are funded and managed appropriately, and that there's a broad base of political and public support.

I, for one, still think this country can do great things -- including giving humankind options for getting off of the Cosmic porch and into a bigger world.

It ain't going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is.


Posted by: -bc- | February 3, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Beets: dice em, toss them with olive oil, lemon juice and Montreal steak spice then roast them in the oven. When they're tenderish pull em out and let them sit (they will turn almost black). Sprinkle with cheese (parmesan chunks or something from a goat) if so desired. Yum.

Posted by: qgaliana | February 3, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Or, roast beets, slip them out of their skins, and make a layered salad of thin slices of beets, chevre, red onion, broad-leaf parsley (prettiest if you use both red and gold beets alternately) and dress in olive oil and red wine vinigar. Sprinkle some toasted pinenuts around the plate. Serve with a garlic baguette crouton slice. Oh, yes!

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

What's for dinner? CqP, I fear I shall disappoint. I had a late lunch (pastrami and swiss on rye), and so am going to try to skip dinner altogether, having only a piece of pumpkin pie to tide me over. May have a cup of tea. That's about it. If I get peckish long about 10 p.m., as often happens, I might tackle a honeybell orange.

You see, the thing is, there is leftover spaghetti and meatballs in the fridge, and I am trying oh so hard to be good. E'en as I type this, I can hear it calling me...

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | February 3, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm against roast Beats. I just feel that anthropophagy is wrong, no matter how you rationalize it, even with post-War hip urban poets.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 3, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

But, as Weingarten has let us know, never forget that you've eaten red beets within 48 hours, lest you get a fright of a morning.

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

SciTim makes a good point. There are few things better than day-old ferlinghetti and meatballs. Hot buttered kyger is quite good, and I'm especially fond of pommy vega with a corso dressing and a sprinkling of gorski. To drink, of course, a nice white Sohmers Zwerling from Napa Valley, or perhaps a vin diprima from the Rexroth vineyard..

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | February 3, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

The horrors qgaliana and yoki are describing are exactly what I have to face every fall, when the 3-for-1 veggies specials are on. You know, when the 10 lbs of beets-carrots-potatoes special for $10 is on.

It's not only the non-burning morning fright but the colour of the stools as well. Gawd, it just tells you there is something that ain't right with beets.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again.

Anyone remember "Hubble 2" and how NASA wanted to let the "Hubble" crash & burn until the public (that's us) shouted a big NO so they flew the repair mission that has resulted in exciting new findings and research?

If "O" wants to be known as the education President as reflected by his budget, then he needs to tell his "bean counters" that this is not another "Tang" mission but the first step on the road to Mars.

Whose grandchild will be so inspired by their education & the Moon mission that they become the first human to walk on(or return to)Mars?

Kirk & Spock, your phone call to the White House is ready!

Posted by: mikeconville | February 3, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

@shriek: *Snort*

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Beets! After nearly a half century of hating them I've become a fan. Say what you will, they are tasty. Can't wait to try the methods qgaliana and Yoki.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 3, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

*thinkin' 'Mudge needs a new keyboard or sumtin'* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 3, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Beets: They're not just for breakfast anymore.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 3, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

"Obama has squandered the great wealth of our nation on the idle poor and the idle rich—funds that should have gone to innovative programs.
Posted by: Jerzy"

Obama has been in office for 1 year. Though his disclaimer that he inherited problems is geeting a little old, it is true that he is only the recipient of the great loss of jobs, wealth, financial instability begun under those Great Globalists Carter & Reagan and made worse by Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II.

It wasn't Obama that cheered the shifting of manufacturing and good jobs to China. It was the Elited who would get immeasurably richer selling out the US worker and Carter braying like an idiot about the more US industries China got the more prosperous hence more Democratic and caring about human rights the Chicommies would be.

Reagan gave us the idiocy of supply side economics, but also the whole push to "unshackle Wall Street, the banks, and insurance companies from those silly FDR era regulations" and allow them to be Free in a Land of Freedom Lovers to show our system of capitalists being self-regulating was the best in the world.
Bush I gave us the New World Order, Clinton did as the Elites wanted creating two bubbles that collapsed in our faces, then the Hapless Dubya..

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | February 3, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

I like beets too and they fit in well with the football season.I used to freak people out by eating beets the night before a Ravens game and peeing purple the next day.What a great conversation piece stounding in a crowded bathroom on game day with 30 or 40 of your closest friends,waiting desperately in line to go.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 3, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

You know I adore you, greenman, but, oh my! TMI. Way TMI.

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Scrambled fresh eggs here, with baguette and green grapes. My eggs have lebni, cheddar & mozzarella (cleaning out the refrigerator).

I'm fond of pickled beets and would like to learn to cook beets. I'll try some of these fine suggestions. Perhaps if I roast some and don't say it is beets (or say it is Beats) Ivansdad and the Boy will eat them.

I wish I could stay for the bingo. Next time. I've got songs to sing, then bylaws to revise. Don't pity me, I volunteered. Of course perhaps that is cause for even greater pity.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 3, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

You are truly evil greenwithenvy.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Lisa Simpson: "We got beets!"

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I won't touch that Kinkaid article with an eight-foot gorilla, TBG.

The tatting article, Yoki, was interesting. I thought I knew what I didn't know. But I was wrong.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me the answer to "who lost the moon" is fairly simply, although it doesn't equate to a person.

George W. Bush deficit spent to the max during economic bubble years, and also committed us to returning to the moon.

The economy came crashing down around him in 2008, creating a situation where more deficit spending pump-priming is needed but there's no elasticity left in the budget.

In hard times the space program makes an easy target, especially the manned space program since a reasonable chunk of space scientists feel that manned space theatrics get undeserved priority over other modes of space exploration.

So thank Dubya, boom-and-bust economic cycles which are shorter than the development time of a manned lunar program after decades of neglect, and thank those space scientists who see manned space flight as a distraction from pure science.

Me, I go for the inspiration value of the space program, especially to young people, and I too lament the cutting of this program.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 3, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Interesting situation. Pity that NASA now seems to be rudderless and without a defined goal.

But is Obama doing what Kennedy did in the 60's? i.e shift the goal posts?

Sure the Chinese may get to the moon, but the US did it 40 years why enter into a new race? Irrespective of when China or anyone else gets there, they will be some 40 plus years.

Is the goal now Mars? Will Obama's scheme (which seems rather fuzzily defined) work? I don't know, but I'm willing to listen to astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin, who supports Obama's concept and elaborates further (anyone for a one-way ticket to Mars? - not as far-out as it sounds)

Maybe all that's needed is to define the goal clearly and state..

"We're going to land a person(s) on Mars before 2030..."

And fund it adequately - those who can't see the benifits of a well funded space program have myopic vision.

The space program creates jobs and technology spin-offs but more creates inspiration.

I've been watching it for over 50 years now, since that first night in 1957 when as kids we went outside to gape in awe at Sputnik. Then in 81 the first shuttle..and now the ISS.

So USA lead the world again in space...or become a has-been nation.

DD (Australia)

Posted by: sardon | February 3, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

The space program was the challenge of the 60s sardon. Things have changed.
China is a capitalist state with a strong dictatorial stream, with an entrenched political elite that is reaping the benefits of their entrepreneurial underlings. They have the financial means of space exploration, but maybe not the technology, yet. But again, if you are the most brilliant mind in a million, there are more than a million guy/gal just like you in China. So they may get there anyway.

I'm not a big Kaletsky fan, but he has some points. The world will recalibrate and the US/Canada and Europe poles will get smaller. We got to be smarter.

The New Jersey Jets should serve asparagus salads and Asperges à la polonaise to their fans. The smell in the washroom would remind everyone that it is important to be green.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid to you.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 3, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

This headline and deck on the front page crack me up...

White House defends terror suspect's handling

Administration treated alleged Christmas Day bomber too lightly, first by reading him rights, then granting him civilian counsel, GOP says.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I've always thought that the space program needs to balance its big-engineering and pure-science sectors (otherwise known as manned and unmanned), and that neither will be healthy without the other. The science arm provides a high standard for defining and articulating focused purposes in consultation with a larger community. Moreover, my impression is that space science, historically, is a decent example of efficiency, having produced inspiring results with surprisingly modest investments, though I hasten to add I'm no expert in this sort of analysis. On the other hand, human spaceflight gives NASA a grounding and identity apart from mainly serving university scientists. It also provides a conspicuous civilian presence in space. A great many astronauts may have held military rank, but NASA is a proudly civilian agency. I'm not making a very tight argument here, but I think the idea of trimming NASA down to research satellite support would be really short-sighted. All those people who travel to Cocoa Beach wearing their jackets covered with crew and mission patches are, I suspect, proud of the science that NASA does, but they come to see human beings go into space. And I suspect, also, that they do write to their congresspeople.

Posted by: woofin | February 3, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I know TBG, they should have 24ed the b@stard. Kicked him in his charred balls until he told them what his real name was (not the BS name in his passport based on which the W admin gave him access to the US on a visa).

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Oh Sh!t...

851 PM EST WED FEB 3 2010

851 PM EST WED FEB 3 2010











Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

You b@sterds. You are really hogging all the snow.
That snowblower in the garage won't get faxed anywhere on the East Coast.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

You need to be plugged into the Teacher's Weather Warning Network. We've known this blizzard was coming for two days already. We just got back from the grocery store where we stocked up. We were trying to beat the rush tomorrow, but the lines were already bad. And they were nearly out of french onion dip.

Then we went to the liquor store and stocked up some more. We got a bottle each of jack, amaretto, schnapps, and a six-pack of hard lemonade. That should last us through the Super Bowl. As long as nobody comes over.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Chuckie K was banging the "coddling terrorists by treating them like criminals" drumbeat nearly a week ago:

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh I knew it was coming, yello. But the NWS only issued the official Winter Weather Watch late this afternoon and until tonight was still waffling over whether or not it would really hit us squarely with snow, not a wintry mix.

Of course, it's still a Watch and not yet a Warning ("don't make me come back there!").

I'm stopping at the store on my way into work tomorrow. Thanks for reminding me to make the liquor store part of the plan.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

The undies bomber is being treated the same way that the shoe bomber was treated under the Bush Administration.

This sort of talking points hypocrisy is just so frustrating.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 3, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

I always thought there was something fishy about a wildly unpopular president, out of ideas, suddenly proposing a "visionary" manned lunar expedition leading to a manned Mars expedition...particularly when scientists in the field were calling instead for more unmanned probes and money for telescopes and other measuring devices.

Let's call the Constellation project what it was--a political football--no, a Hail Mary pass--by a despised political leader casting about wildly for ANYthing to fire up the public imagination. Now that he's gone, his successor, facing up to the real problems Mr. Bush left behind, lets the air out of this balloon as expeditiously as possible.

Yeah, it'd be cool to go to the Moon again and then Mars...but, oh well, adults are running the show again, thank God.

Posted by: dr_dan | February 3, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Exactly my thoughts, dr_dan.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Well put dr_dan and probably true.

TBG, I am sorry you are facing another storm this weekend and ordinarily I'd offer to take it off your hands. However, I have an important hair appointment Saturday and need snow free roads. I do not wish to be mistaken for one of the wild animals in Costa Rica next week! How'd the Bingo game go?

Posted by: badsneakers | February 3, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm quite sure the Moon program managers were somehow relieved when it was abandoned. Being tasked to do something without the resources to do it ain't fun. As great as it is to be made the boss of an Uber-interesting project when you know you are heading for a collision in the wall it ain't fun.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I like pure science, just like I like art for art's sake, except I like pure science better.

With one "s", by the way, pure science become purse science. I discovered this by making a typo.

However, at some point you've got to prepare yourself for a possible encounter with Yoki brandishing a limb of blackthorn. Do you a) offer him or her a Sloe Gin Fizz, b) run away as fast as possible, or c) have some pork and sauerkraut while you think it over?

I'm for c)

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 3, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Yoki? I'd say a) AND c), but hope she prepared the pork and sauerkraut.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Just watch your salt and cholesterol level Douglas, they are the silent killers. Even the lovely Yoki isn't worth dying for. But just barely.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Good luck with the weekend weather, you VA/DC/MD folks. We are looking for rain/freezing rain, which will just be messy and not pretty like snow.

I am trying to be grateful for the El Nino pattern, but it's getting more and more difficut. The ground here is saturated, and let me tell you, our red clay makes mud like you would not believe. It's not a happy circumstance when part of the backyard is a construction site and said mud is all over the driveway.

Jack, I saw that there was a bad fire in your neck of the woods. Wiring in a house built in 1913, yikes.

Posted by: slyness | February 3, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

OTOH, the El Nino pattern here leads to this:
The warmest January on record. Woo hoo!

Wonder why the weather service is always shouting?

Posted by: seasea1 | February 3, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, slyness, but rain and freezing rain means the next day you can get out and about.

Can you tell we're tired of the snow here?

Posted by: -TBG- | February 3, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Well at least I learned Yoki's gender!

Seemed to me the Hubble repair was a great day for manned space flight, though I note that the "pure robotics science" folks say we could have floated ten Hubbles for what that cost. I dunno.

I've been having intimations of mortality now for 10 years, so I took out the pork and broke it up, drained the kraut, let the fat rise in the pan with the juices and put paper towels to good use blotting the fat off the top.

I'm not averse to sacrificing a few trees if I can keep my coronary arteries clear for an extra week.

As to salt, well, I've given up adding it at the table. This is my concession to my doctor and it's all he's getting from me. I suspect that I make up for this by adding more when I cook but if these things are looked into too closely, they lead to Prozac. And if astronauts were on Prozac, they'd say "Frozen O-Rings? No problem! Beam me up!"

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 3, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm a very inclusive lover Douglas, you never know.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 3, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Shout out to Sara--do you still have a blog, and if so, remind us what the link is? Nice to see you back on the A-blog.

I think I agree with you about the moon stuff, and some others who have posted as well. I heard an NPR story recently about the five-years-ago Christmas tsunami. There is still a lot of work to do to rebuild from that. That's without starting on Haiti, which needs to be rebuilt better than it was, and may be in for another earthquake at an unknown time in the future--and New Orleans isn't fully recovered from Katrina. For that matter, my neighborhood still has scars from Hurricane Wilma, so I know there's work to do all over. Looks like we're living in a fixer-upper, one that can use all the resources we can muster for the foreseeable future. Attention should be paid to our Mother Earth, while the moon can probably serve best as inspiration to our poets and dreamers.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 3, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the food moments. SD -- thank you for being in the beet-recovery support group with me.

Frosti, I LOVE the smell of beets. And, I have been known to wear a perfume that is simply the smell of tomatoes. But, the fullness of earth in my mouth is simply not delish to me. Now, I do love my root veggies. I have a parsnip in my possession now. Shall make a soop if it, after roasting it, with lots of garlic and onions and a twig or two of some carrot.

Bracing for the snow. Am a Montana girl after all. Shall start chili in the AM.

Back to the knowledge farm; must make some hay while the brain synapses can fire...

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Only if you have time to waste:

Posted by: kbertocci | February 3, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

"Inclusive lover" made me laugh, SD.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 3, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Jon Stewart just did one of his classic "catch someone making a contradictory statement" bits with John McCain and the move to get rid of DODT. I won't summarize here, but if you get a chance watch it.

Have been trying to stay off kit, but with kb pointing out superior uses for large sums of money I feel compelled to out myself as someone who doesn't really care if we ever have human space travel. I fear, however, that we won't turn to making our home planet livable either. If I weren't a confirmed apatheticist this would keep me from sleeping well.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 3, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh, ya'll are just too darlin'.

I would opt for b) and c), but that's just me, isn't it? I am, after all, a Celtic warrior-woman, and brandish a blackthorn limb whilst tucking into a grand plate of food.

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 3, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

there you go

Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

I got the info on Amerigo Vespucci's reporting on tree-inhabiting dragons of America at a lecture today by Skidmore College history professor Erica Bastress-Dukehart. It seems he really did see dragons falling from the trees during a cold snap.

One of the lecture's points was that European explorers tended to find what they expected to see; in this case, dragons.

One of her other points was that everyone should see the mighty Waldseemuller map of the world from 1507, at the Library of Congress:

Right now, you can also see a grand Jesuit map of the world from a century later. It was published in China using Western and Chinese sources.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 3, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

more nonsense, 'cause it's late, and we may have a litter of havs in the next day or so. could be one of those nights...

Posted by: -jack- | February 3, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

I've carefully considered my Scots ancestry, and how folks like me might deal with an invading hoarde.

(I know that no one asked me to do this, but I just couldn't stop myself, hoping that an Academy Award might lie at the end of this path).

If I wanted the hoarde to come on in, I'd grab a corner piece of my baked macaroni and cheese, because it would hold together while being waved about, and still be tasty. (The secret? Put swiss and provolone in there - swiss and provolone are the Pattons of the macaroni army).

If we wanted the hoarde to flee, I'd fry shrimp for them. No matter what I do, when I fry shrimp, they're horrible.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 3, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of unfriendly nature, a kiteboarder was evidently killed today by sharks in southeast Florida. This is an extraordinary rarity.

More pleasantly, in town, an old colony of amaryllis bulbs is about to flower, mangoes are flowering, laurel oaks beginning their annual leaf dump. Red maples fruiting.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 3, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | February 3, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

everybody's doin it. old, old video of the good commander. the lyrics are nsfw, but the music sure is fine.

Posted by: -jack- | February 3, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

dave, i think that you and i may be the only ones that use flower, fruiting and bloom in the proper botanical manner. not that it matters, but hearing someone say bloom when they should say flower is almost as bad as the nails on the chalkboard torture.

Posted by: -jack- | February 3, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Warmed by the thought of puppies anywhere but especially those in a boodler's bosom.

Oh Jack, I just gave you beesums.

With that, I return to the breach of knowledge for ten minutes more and then shall call my puppy who is six, for it is a one dog night here in town.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 3, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

DaveoftheCoonties wrote, "European explorers tended to find what they expected to see".

Carl G. Hempel, who was no mean student of Kant, told undergraduates like myself that people approach experience with cookie-cutters.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 4, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

beesums. *snort*

Posted by: -jack- | February 4, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse


folks, put on yer dancin shoes. this is from a brief tour of europe the band did, and was one of those impromptu shows they put on just because they could. pig is in fine form.

Posted by: -jack- | February 4, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Here be Capybaras

Local folks with unusual-size rodents from South America. Were there no tooth-and-claw predators, over the eons, for these enormous creatures from our southern hemisphere? There is a slide show with five pics that acompanies the article. Also another site on the web with many more pictures of this capybara resident in Buda, Texas.

Posted by: laloomis | February 4, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Great music, song, jack.

Posted by: Yoki | February 4, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

I bought a novel 3 years ago. The last couple of years, I tried reading it a few times but never go pass page 1. Last week, I found a magnifying glass in the stationery cupboard. Now that I can magnify the Times New Roman font 9 to 12, I can finally go beyond page 1. I hope the book is interesting. The title is Atlantis Found, by Clive Cussler.

Posted by: rainforest1 | February 4, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Yoki | February 4, 2010 2:56 AM | Report abuse

The new plan for NASA will get us to the Moon sooner for the simple reason that the old one, Constellation, was never going to get us there at all. It is so far over budget and behind schedule that it would take $3 billion more per year just to enable a bare bones Moon landing by 2030 and that assumes also destroying the Space Station in 2016 to provide more money. Of course, without the Space Station, Ares I would have nowhere to fly to for at least a decade. At $1 billion per launch just to get crew to low Earth orbit, why bother to launch it at all? Without the extra $3 billion, Constellation was not going to get to the Moon until the 2030s, if ever. Were future Presidents and Congresses supposed to pay for 10 to 20 years of obviously pointless make work?

Let’s look at the economics. One broad conclusion from the Augustine Committee findings is that under the current unit costs for launch and space systems, NASA could never ever afford Lunar exploration by humans, much less a Lunar base, much less a Mars mission, inside a budget with a ceiling anywhere near $20 billion inflated. So, unless you believe in Congress providing $30 or $40 billion NASA budgets, NASA astronauts are never going to Mars under the traditional way of doing business.

The only way to greatly reduce unit costs is to greatly increase volume. New technology can help if you design to cost, but not enough. You need the volume to motivate the technology development anyway. Now, government can't provide the needed volume inside those pesky budget ceilings, so big increases in volume will have to come from growing commercial markets. In other words, NASA is never going to explore the Moon or Mars unless large commercial markets develop first. The new plan is a giant step towards enabling commercial markets. Obama is proposing to do the one critical thing we need to make large scale exploration possible.

Under the new plan, the Moon is still on the destination list. We get there when we have cut the costs enough and recruited enough partners to make it affordable. In the mean time, we begin exploring the Solar System while growing a true commercial space sector to increase business and cut costs. And we get to keep the Space Station, too. This isn't the end of US human space flight, it's the beginning of opening space to more Americans than ever before.

Posted by: ISSvet | February 4, 2010 3:01 AM | Report abuse

A good graph of the budget:

Posted by: yellojkt | February 4, 2010 5:43 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Hello, Sara, been a long time, good to hear from you.

butlerguy, loved your post. Perhaps you should stop saying "can't" and try saying, "I will". Give it to the One that made Europe and all places. He's been known to do "miracles".

Badsneakers, I got a good laugh from your post. If I remember correctly, you're a beautiful lady, no way will you be mistaken for an animal.

Kbert, good to hear from you too. Hope life is good for you and family.

As for the kit, too, too, deep for me, but I thought the line, why do we have to land somewhere, pretty much said it all. The idea of space travel, and the ability to do that, and re-enter earth's amosphere successfully, sounds like a challenge, but also exciting. And those that talked about the economic times made valid points also.

Long day yesterday, didn't get home until late, and really tired.

Mudge, Scotty, Slyness, Yoki, Martooni, Lindaloo, and all the gang, have a great day.

Posted by: cmyth4u | February 4, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all, hi Cassandra! Good to see you up and about on a Thursday morning. I hope you slept well.

I like what ISSvet says about growing a public/private venture to keep the costs reasonable while advancing science.

Much to do today, must get started.

Posted by: slyness | February 4, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

good morning, boodle. coffee is on, and of the roper strength. Cassandra, I hope you're feeling better. Hey, sara. good to have you back. heavy weather headed up the coast beginning tonight. no pups yet. krispy kremes to go with the coffee...

Posted by: -jack- | February 4, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

SCC: proper. trust me. it's strong.

Posted by: -jack- | February 4, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

An important message for those of you about to experience a large snowfall, what not to do when combining sledding and rockets.

I am so surprised this didn't work out as planned - yikes.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 4, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, please don't remind me about ancient wiring arrangements... *SIGHHHH*

I will, however, be constantly visiting various weather Websites today to remind myself about tomorrow... *hehehehehe*

*feeling-fairly-caffeinated-and-hoping-Sara-makes-it-two-days-in-a-row Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 4, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

Funny link, dmd. Who ever would have thought that guy's rocket plan would go so wrong? Gunpowder, match heads and gasoline make a perfectly safe amateur rocket fuel. Whoda thunk?

I liked ISSvet's post. I hope he (?) knows what he's talking about, and hope his handle is a clue to his expertise.

This burg is in full-blown pre-blizzard panic mode. The forecast is now 12 to 20 inches of snow, our third major storm of the season (where the norm is either no snow at all, or maybe a minor dusting or two). They keep moving up the start time, from tomorrow afternoon, to noon, and now it is supposed to start in the morning. That being so, I may just take the whole day off. Anyway, D#2, her hubby, and 4 grandkiddies are all coming up from Virginia Beach tomorrow to spend the weekend. I'm not sure what the odds are on my ability to be snowbound with that gang. And we have major furniture-moving chores with D#3's apartment downtown, too. Oy.

Thanks for the coffee and donuts, jack.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 4, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I am dreading this next snowstorm with an intensity normally associated with major dental work. These snowstorms are beating me down both physically and mentally. And did you know that when you are taking high doses of Sodium Naproxen alcohol consumption is contraindicated?

Meteorology is a most merciless science.

Of course, all this has led me to an epiphany. I now enthusiastically support the establishment of lunar colonies. Don't care what it costs.

For on the moon, you see, there is no snow.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 4, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

All I can say after reading that link, dmd, is that it is rare for any schemes conceived of "after consuming an unknown quantity of alcohol" to come to a good end.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 4, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

RD_P, don't forget there's plenty of regolith to shovel up there... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 4, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

The forecast is now predicting an ice storm from noon to 4 p.m., followed by 24 hours of snow on top of it.

This storm is coming out of the southwest, which is traditionally where we get the really horrible ice storms in this region. Ice storms coming up out of the south are just awful around here. A four-hour ice storm will bring down tree limbs and power lines all over the region (whereas a foot of snow would do very little damage).

If this forecast holds, we're in for it bad.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 4, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Oh dear. I go out for a day and your weather falls right apart.

Here is hoping you are stocked up on sources of water, rich warm victuals, good books, candles, batteries and beverages of choice.

And shovels, and salt/sand combinations so when you go out after, you don't hurt yourselves.

Take care. Be warm.

Posted by: --dr-- | February 4, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I too appreciated ISSvet's post. My own earlier post about "balance" doesn't mean I was in favor of continuing down the GWB track. That wasn't balance; it was a rhetorically inflated stopgap. Whatever the detailed merits and demerits of Obama's plan, it at least aims at sustainability and the long term while maintaining human spaceflight. Those who favor nothing-but-science have always been around, and so have those who think all our problems "here on earth" should be a showstopper. In my view science thrives best as part of a general exploratory push by society. "We don't need to go there" could soon enough be followed by "we don't need to know that." A thread once dropped is hard to pick up again. I don't know where to draw all these lines. I personally am not especially interested in colonies on Mars and shopping malls on the moon, and those who are kind of baffle me. But the appeal of sending a few intrepid people to Mars and back, someday, and having some kind of long-term presence on the Moon, that I do see, if for no other reasons than to pre-empt more militaristic pipe-dreamers, and to enable science that we do not now anticipate.

Posted by: woofin | February 4, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Funny how the snow that is so beautiful around Christmas time now is just a royal pain in the rear. It seems we will get a glancing blow from the storm, worse down here in the southern area but not (I hope) what you in DC will have.

Granddaughter sitting this afternoon. Maybe they will show me how to play Wii.

Posted by: badsneakers | February 4, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

New kit! With pictures!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 4, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Looking foward to the release this spring of the CAGW's (Citizen's Against Government Waste) annual Pig Book. Here's a link to CAGW's website with links to the Oinker Awards (remember last year when *Democrat* and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada got a Porkosaurus Award?...if you thought the Blogosaurus is an odd creature...), a searchable database, and a list of pork per capita by state.

A closer look of CAGW's pork per capita by state reveals that the states in the top 10 don't shuffle much--Alaska and Hawaii at numbers 1 and 2, respectively, for the past two years, followed by others in the top 10: the Dakotas, West Virginia, New Mexico, Vermont. Seeing Alaska at the top of the list for two years makes me think of ABC's story by Jon Karl, along with the missing details Karl's reporting failed to mention, about how all the pork for the project to prevent flooding in Napa, Calif., ended up primarily benefitting the Napa Wine Train and ultimately pork-wise, Alaska.

And here's an interesting blog post with the CAGW logo near the title of the blog, "The Swine Line." This fellow says it's time for Obama to stop saying the dog ate his homework in terms of Obama's campaign pledges and subsequent inaction to cut wasteful government spending. There's even a link back to a very recent article in the Washington Post about the deficit study group.

Since by husband worked from 9 a.m to 2 a.m. yesterday--a 17-hour day, I caught Gail Collins op-ed as it was posted late last night at the NYT. There is a pigeon museum called Wings of Wonder in Oklahoma City. Don't know if Oklahoma Senators Coburn or Imhofe either proposed or received any government earmarks to support this noble *cough, cough...height of severe allergy season here* educational endeavor.

Posted by: laloomis | February 4, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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