Beyond the Cusp

January 30, 2012

American Moon Base; Newt says Yes, Obama No

Many have probably forgotten that one of the first pieces of business which Obama made a priority was to redirect the primary task for NASA. President Obama killed the funding for a return to the moon and for the Moon Base while assigning NASA to establish a Muslim outreach program to facilitate an Islamic positive connection to the Space Program. Meanwhile, during one of the most recent of the virtually uncountable Republican debates, Gingrich stood firmly in favor of the United States establishing a full time manned and operating Moon Base. This is not an article granting or denying an endorsement of any candidate, I just figured these different positions on the future of the Space Program gives me a chance to write on what I would like to see the United States accomplish in the future.

One thing I know with great assurance, if any country is going to build and manage the first Moon Base, the United States is probably the most likely to share their accomplishment with the rest of the planet and I personally doubt such could be claimed by almost any other nation. On the other hand, should the first Moon Base belong to China, some experts claim they would not be willing to share their accomplishment and would use it to claim sole rights to the Moon. If there does exist even the slightest of possibilities that such is true, then the rest of the people should hope and pray that the United States manages to accomplish this feat first. But, with the huge and ballooning debt the United States is generating, how could they afford such a project that is estimated to cost upwards of billions of dollars. There are answers that would use the most basic of human drives to accomplish building a Moon Base, greed.

The route I envision would grant the companies who worked with government to establish a working and permanently manned Moon Base with naming rights and initial priority in placing their interests on the base. We could see one or more of the fast food companies contributing towards such a venture for the right to have the initial exclusive twenty year lease for operating a restaurant on the base, or whatever period of time which is determined to give them sufficient initiative to take advantage of the advertising and sole proprietorship as an enticement. My bet is that Motel 6 and Hilton would be in line to have the first vacation resort on the moon and Six Flags would probably be interested in establishing a park both on the Moon and on a space station, a real space wheel style space station complete with rotational gravity.

There are other considerations as well. There would be benefits for many manufacturing companies to bid for the rights to be in on building the Moon Base and a space station. Also, I would bet that DOW or other similar manufacturer would be interested in being able to establish a research and manufacturing plant on a space station in order to have a zero gravity laboratory. There are also the mining, mineral, and energy rights that could be placed for bids. With the many different private company investments with government agreeing to match donations dollar for dollar, this would reduce the government outlay by half. Many might say that my idea is a bit fanciful, but it does have a historic corroboration. The British East India Company was granted exclusive rights by the crown of England and the Dutch East India Company was granted a twenty-one-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. Both companies made great profits off their exclusive contracts and similar would be available to those companies with the foresight to take the step into the next great horizon of human adventurism, space. It starts with a Moon Base and a large and comfortable space station replete with building bays for the construction of exclusively space-going craft. Such craft could be used for mining the Asteroid Belt, another place where the company having the initial exclusive rights will make a potentially great profit. It was such government-private contracts that fueled the age of exploration where the European governments spread their reach around the globe and it will take a similar age of contract and opportunity to spark the initial steps into space. Once we get started, then who can even begin to imagine where such efforts will lead. Space is rather large and it has to be our future if mankind is to guarantee our survival.

Beyond the Cusp

October 13, 2011

Obama and NASA Call to Hire New Astronauts

For reasons that escape this writer, President Obama has approved NASA to hire for a new class of astronauts. Since President Obama has taken the reigns over NASA, the Space Shuttle has been retired, something that actually made some sense. But the plans for a Moon base have been scrapped, definitive plans for a manned trip to Mars has been relegated to a mere phantom of a possibility, and the design and production of a new heavy-lift system has been relegated to the purview of private enterprise. The only part of the call for new astronauts to be trained by NASA is the date the classes are scheduled to begin, sometime in 2013. My bet is this class too will face cancellation should President Obama win reelection. Space does not appear to have much appeal or place in the President’s designs. President Obama, if pressed on the subject, would probably make the claim that in the current economic and fiscal atmosphere, he is saving the funds from NASA and applying them to more pressing requirements. I find such grandstanding to be both ridiculous and ignorant.

The first point that needs to be understood is all about appearances. I will bet that virtually every time any reporter, politician, expert, or any of those who believe that our space programs are simply a waste of funds, when speaking of the NASA budget use actual dollars, which has not been higher than $20 Billion in its history. Of course, when normal people hear a number like we can save billions of dollars that are currently being wasted in the NASA budget, this sounds great. But, let’s treat the NASA budget numbers as they treat those programs the politicians like and refer to the percentage of the budget consumed by NASA. I have asked people this question often as I think we invest too little on our space program, and the average guess when asked for a percentage has ranged from 10% to as high as 20%, and once in a while somebody will actually claim that it is merely 5% of the budget. My response is always the same, “If only.” Then I get to inform them that since 1975 the NASA budget has never exceeded 1% and that most years it is even lower at an average of about 0.75%; that’s right, a mere 3/4th of 1% of the budget. Another way of referring to it is as negligible. Yet, for reasons of picking on an easy target that will usually never get much resistance is the space program and since they get to say billions of dollars, it sounds like they are making a serious efforts.

So, now that we have traded the truth about the NASA budget and realize that they use the dollar amount as this is what they use when making something sound like it is lots of money, and when they wish to make some expenditure seem smaller, they will use the percentages, which these figures bears out. So, why has President Obama slashed the NASA budget and cancelled the plans for a Moon base and thus pretty much nixed any Mars manned program. President even went further and has made the number one mission for NASA to share efforts with the Muslim World. Perhaps it would be easiest to simply give you the truth from Mr. Bolden, President Obama’s pick to head NASA, who said: “When I became the NASA administrator, he [President Obama] charged me with three things. One, he wanted me to help reinspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” There you have it, our space program is now centered to make the Muslim World feel it has accomplished great things while no longer seeking to do great things for America and Americans. Perhaps this is why the call for the next class of astronauts is not to be convened until 2013, after Inauguration Day I would bet. This is simply unacceptable and a disgrace to the United States and her people.

Beyond the Cusp

August 17, 2011

Is the World Coming Apart at the Seams or Simply Too Much News?

With the explosion of the 24/7 news cycle and the proliferation of political talk shows we are inundated with news from places that a few decades ago nobody had even known existed. The fallout of needing to fill every hour with new stories to avoid the news becoming a constant rehash of a few stories all day and all night, these information outlets have perfected grabbing the news even if it comes from Timbuktu (an actual place originally spelled Timbuktou located on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert a short distance north of the Niger River in Mali, Africa). The thought had been to use Shangri La except there have not been any great news items coming out of this wondrous and fictitious place located high in the Valleys of Mythical Himalayan Utopias, as one might expect. But there is still more than sufficient news coming from the far reaches of the earth, and beyond if you also subscribe to some scientific journals covering the whole of the cosmos. The real problem is that despite having within one’s grasp all the news in and around the world, only the most horrific and shocking seem to get into the limelight. This eventually leads many who follow the news too closely to want to scream incessantly in the hope that somebody can make it stop. Unfortunately, nobody can or even has the will to make it stop, there’s money in that there bad news reporting.

Sometimes, when watching or reading about the happenings around this world you get to thinking that you actually have a good life, especially compared to most of those in the news. There always seems to be starving masses due to famine, drought, honestly vile and evil rulers, and just about any other reason imaginable, and all of it brought to you in high definition on your flat screen TV. There is always some feel good story but even some of those have a dark side. One of this type I read compared former Egyptian President Mubarak’s rule and trial with that of former Iraqi President Hussein. The conclusion of the story was that they were very much alike, and both knew exactly what their trial was intended to do, place all the blame on their neck and tighten it there permanently with a strong rope. That should be sufficient to keep many out of politics, especially the kind where you just have to take your share of the money off the top and live well above the people whose needs you are supposed to be taking charge. Talk about mixed emotions and coming to a tragic end.

Still, there just seems to be so much pessimism and ugliness in the world today. I am fully aware that it has probably been there all along and it is just getting more notice and reportage now than ever before. But the result is a world that seems heading full speed for a cliff in an old convertible. I sometimes expect the words “The End” to scroll across the television along with the credits after the evening newscasts. Perhaps they are saving that for the very last newscast announcing the arrival of the Apocalypse. Come on now, tell me that would actually surprise you if it appeared next week on CNN or Al-Jazeera English. I’m surprised that we have only seen such covered by Discovery and National Geographic channels, or wherever it was they had the Signs of the Apocalypse Special. Is that really all that different than the real news we get inundated with on a daily, if not hourly, basis? No, not really.

Editorializing about the news can often be almost as uplifting as the news itself. There is that unfortunate little element of commentary in that you actually should read about the subject you are going to write about or you end up with an article much like this one, a “what if” article. Fortunately, all you need to write such an article is either a decent imagination or a touch of insanity, I claim the latter as it is easier to prove. What is the truthful disappointment about the news is that a few times people have tried to have a show or newspaper that specialized in only good news. They all bombed. Now that is some bad news as what does it say about us that we refuse to accept good news and relish in watching the worst of the worst every day, day in and day out. The old adage of “If it bleeds, it leads” is so unfortunately the backbone of the 24 hour news cycle. I guess I should be glad the coverage of five hour slow speed car chases has run their course and people finally got bored of them. Talk about boring. Which is less interesting, watching the white Bronco being chased by twenty police cars and swat vehicles all going a blistering 24 miles per hour or a rerun of last week’s golf channel highlights reel?

All told, I have a feeling that the world is rapidly spinning to one humongous disaster and that time is getting short. I doubt it is the actual Apocalypse, but a solid trial run might be in our immediate future. It should supply a real good fright that is intended to get our attention and hopefully nudge the rest of us awake to implement some needed changes before everything goes down the drain. We see country after country falling over the brink into insolvency only to be resuscitated by a healthier country. The end lesson of this game is that there are not enough healthy economies to carry the failing ones. We see escalating tensions and violence breaking out all over the globe for many and varied reasons, or sometimes for no apparent reason other than to break things and grab some stuff for the rioters, the ultimate in organized five-finger discounts. There are numerous armies and other military style groups around the world today using the World War II Nazi salute and they are using it because it is the World War II Nazi salute and they believe Hitler had a great set of ideas, often especially about the Jews. I don’t know about you, but that scares the bejabbers out of me. The only thing I can predict honestly at this time is we are in for an intense and very likely destructive next six to nine months, and then we get a reprieve in the United States as everything will suddenly be about the Presidential election. I never thought I would look forward to 24/7 campaign coverage, but just maybe.

Beyond the Cusp

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