Beyond the Cusp

February 18, 2019

Going Where no Man Has Been Before and NASA

 

Yes, we know that is the introduction to Star Trek, but it also defines what NASA was supposed to accomplish. We also note that it has been almost half a century, since December 7, 1972, that NASA was not even capable of sending a man into space beyond Earth orbit. The Space Shuttle was not space exploration and for almost a decade NASA could not even launch Space Shuttles. For the most part, the United States is reliant upon Russia just in order to place Americans onto the Space Station, the ISS. Further, the Space Station did not turn out to look anything like what was envisioned in movies such as “2001,” (see pictures below). We have come upon an unexpected blessing of a new director for NASA being a man of vision and the drive to accomplish. How, you may ask, did we come upon such a man. Well, it was due to the Congress finding that a man of integrity and one who despite being quite conservative and a Republican was willing to work with anybody with a good idea. He desired to work for the betterment of the people who elected him and the entire nation as well. He thought for himself and had an independent spirit. The Republicans attempted to defeat him in consecutive primary elections but the people knew a man of integrity and kept this marvel. They finally found something he would grab ahold of and they could get him out of the Congress, so Jim Bridenstine became the head of NASA. There were his detractors who claimed he had no backing or experience to hold such a post as he was not a bureaucrat and definitely not a paper shuffler who could produce reams of reports while doing nothing.

 

Actual International Space Station and The Space Station We All Expected

Actual International Space Station
and
The Space Station We All Expected

 

So, let’s see exactly how unqualified is Mr. Bridenstine. He is a graduate of Rice University with majors in Economics, Psychology, and Business, and has an MBA from Cornell University. He is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and was a Naval Aviator in both the active duty United States Navy and the United States Naval Reserve where he flew the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft (image below) as part of a carrier air wing. While the E-2C Hawkeye is not exactly a spacecraft or one of the more fancy aircraft, being part of a carrier group and taking-off and landing on an aircraft carrier does require quite a bit of skill even with a prop aircraft. Landing at night, the carrier is no more visible or appear any larger no matter what one is flying towards it to land. Further, he has the degrees which make him exceedingly qualified for any management position. He is already making progress and has shaken things up a bit which sometimes is the fastest means of shaking out the cobwebs and injecting a little excitement. Jim Bridenstine has taken ahold of the directive to return to the Moon and do so while remaining with an outpost firmly and stretched it to also include doing the same on Mars. Where in Congress his clear thinking and independent voice was pretty much quashed in the cacophonic din of egoistic partisan bickering, in NASA it is his voice which will determine their direction and the alacrity with which they accomplish their tasks and it will be his voice alone with no distractions.

 

E-2C Hawkeye

E-2C Hawkeye

 

The White House announced that Bridenstine was President Donald Trump’s preferred pick to head NASA. This choice was quickly criticized by both Republican and Democratic politicians, saying that NASA should be headed by a space professional, not a politician or a Trump ally. The first thing is Jim Bridenstine was not a Trump ally so much as a clear thinking person who was not tied to any rigid political fervency. But as Jim Bridenstine resembled a square peg in a house full of round holes, he was approved if for no other reason than this removed him from Congress. Those who rose against him could not point to any lack in his qualification beyond their distaste for him and that he had never been out in space. Neither had most previous administrators of NASA ever been in space nor finding somebody who would have met that qualification would have limited the field. Having an MBA as well as a bachelors degree in three areas, Economics, Psychology, and Business, would all assist Jim Bridenstine in heading NASA. Knowing economics might assist with cash distribution and minimizing costs; add business to this and these become probabilities which time will be borne out. The final degree in psychology will assist in the most difficult area of management, people skills and knowing how to motivate people to have them reach goals they initially may not have thought possible. Jim Bridenstine is an affable person who has a warmth about him which while assisting him to become a member of Congress, will also assist his efforts to get the most out of the people working in and with NASA. So, the United States may have struck it rich with a man with the credentials who is familiar with flight as a pilot and who works well with others and he is the take-charge kind of person who has great dedication to any task at hand. An aside, before making Aliyah, Jim Bridenstine was our Congressman and had our support in two elections, so we are also a bit partial and believe in the man.

 

What is wonderful to see is the United States finally returning to the original NASA goals and mission, space rather than low-Earth orbit literally Shuttling supplies and people to the ISS. NASA was to be about the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has plans to reach the moon and this time to build a permanent manned station on the Moon. The plan then is to reach out to Mars which could very easily be launched from the Moon base. This would make reaching orbital position and then launch outward far easier despite the fact that the modules would need to be taken largely from Earth to the Moon. One could hope that a permanent space station, which is in the same orbital position as the Moon being on the opposite side of the Earth orbiting at the same speed and path as the Moon, will come to pass. This could be equipped with a space dock where interplanetary craft, and hopefully interstellar craft could be assembled. Another station within the Asteroid Belt could be a location where spacecraft could be built using the Asteroids for the raw materials necessary. This would relieve the necessity of lifting materials from Earth. Granted, until specialized production facilities for such items as circuit boards, computers, cameras, lenses and other specialty materials and objects, they would remain Earth bound. These are concepts for the future and once there are bases and orbital stations, then commercial enterprise will kick in and accelerate space conquests.

 

We hear so many people claiming, and quite loudly, that NASA is not necessary and space exploration and exploitation should simply be handed over to private enterprise just as the New World was colonized and opened up by private enterprise. The problem with this presumed analogy is that it is quite inaccurate. Initially, the New World was explored by governments which set up colonial bases with ports, repair facilities and where ships could be refitted and stocked for a return trip. The governments had to initially provide the support facilities before private enterprise took the picture the rest of the way. The Spanish and Portuguese had ports of call in the Caribbean and South America while the French and English had ports in North America. These colonialists also built or took over ports in Asia as did the Dutch. These ports were a necessity along with the protection provided by the presence of national forces, militaries in these cases. In space there will be the need for the same things with nowhere near as much military as long as the nations of the world can find some means of cooperation. Were space exploration and exploitation left to private companies and individuals, then there would be a great deal of waste adding billions, if not trillion or more, of dollars as each enterprise would need to construct their own base. Think of air travel. Does each airport serve merely one airline or do multiple airlines use the international airports. If the airports were built by each carrier, there would be tens of airports around each major city and air traffic around cities would become excessively dangerous as circling airports could have the paths intersect making for very dangerous air space in and around cities. Instead, government builds the airports and they serve everyone equally according to the fee they pay. Private airlines build their own terminals onto major airports when they have a large service area there but the central hub and the lands are all governmental. Exploration of space will be no different. We do not need to have multiple Moon Bases with one built and used by SpaceX and Elon Musk, one built and used by Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos, one built and used by Sierra Nevada Corporation and Faith and Eren Ozmen, one built and used by The Spaceship Company run by Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, one built and used by United Launch Alliance and Tory Bruno as well as those by other nations and soon the Moon and its orbital path would get quite crowded. With one per nation which is going into deeper space, the Moon will appear to get smaller and smaller just as the Earth appears to have become with air travel placing the entire planet reachable in under a single day compared to taking months to simply cross the Atlantic Ocean a mere century ago.

 

One might hope that numerous nations could agree to build such stations for their use instead of each having their own platforms. This would actually simplify future space travel making it safer. Should numerous nations agree, or if even the entire planet could reach a standard docking system, then should one craft have complete failures of systems from propulsion to any other problem, with everyone using the same docking systems, any nation with a craft in the proximity could become a rescue craft and assist or take on as passengers the crew of the stricken craft. Were every nation simply continue, as it now appears will be, each designing their own docking systems with no regard to matching other spacecraft, which will make any rescue either impossible or additionally difficult requiring space walks outside the craft, always far more risky than if docking were possible, major problems will ensue. Cooperation and coordination when it comes to space and efforts by man to leave Earth and explore becomes essential and is completely logical as when one is in space they notice there actually are not lines demarking the borders of nations as we see on maps and globes. We are not fools and realize that the odds are greatly against the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and others including private companies are not going to have a very high level of cooperation initially. With time they will all reach the same conclusion, space ventures initially are going to be expensive and without at the least some universal system applications starting with docking systems, the cost in reputation and human lives will force cooperation. It will be similar to the origins of the phrase, “I’ll be home with my bells on,” which originated with early horse and mule drawn freight wagons. The drivers would decorate their harnesses with bells which would warn on passages, especially narrow mountain passages, that there was another wagon in the area and by the loudness, one could tell if they were approaching or moving away. When one got into an emergency or became stuck and required assistance, the custom was to give the other driver some of your bells. Thus, arriving with your bells on meant a trouble free trip and if you had more than your own bells on you were celebrated for your having provided needful assistance. Needless to point out, bells are not going to work as well in space as they do on Earth, something to do with lack of atmosphere and sound waves not working in a near vacuum.

 

But, the good news is NASA is back into the space business and is done with being simply the highest-flying earthbound aircraft, which is all the shuttles actually amounted to, very high-flying gliders. Jim Bridenstine was a good choice for the job of heading up NASA and will pay dividends until some political change ends up removing him from his post which will likely be to the detriment of NASA. It would be really nice if the politicians, as far as NASA is concerned, take up being as nonpartisan as was Jim Bridenstine and like he, simply judge if things are working well and if so, don’t try to fix it. This has been part of the problem with NASA over the years as when the White House changes hands, not even necessarily parties, just a new President, the person heading NASA is all too often used as a political appointment to repay some donor by appointing them or somebody they chose for the President. Whenever a business or operation changes the leadership, there is a disruption which more often than not sets things back six months or more as everyone learns the new rules and expectations coming from the leadership as when the leaders are changed, all too often they reorganize the departments and change many things just for the sake of presumably showing that they are accomplishing things the former leader was not. Unfortunately, just because you are now doing something the former leader was not doing does not necessarily mean that you are actually accomplishing your job, it just means you have altered the focus and did so potentially away from completing the tasks at hand.

 

Jim Bridenstine has talked about working to integrate with other nations on establishing the Moon Base as well as Mars exploration with humans going and returning from the Red Planet. Jim Bridenstine recently was speaking before some NASA employees about the future probably just so it could be posted online, so we thought it might be nice to share with you Jim Bridenstine’s future of NASA. We just hope that his excitement is contagious and that NASA once again will lead the world going forward and farther until we all start to think of the Star Trek lead for the show, “To go where no man has been before.” Of course, that meant no normal man and obviously did not apply to Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

 

 

Needless to add, we are not expecting to find Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, Horta, Gorn or any of the other many races from Star Trek. As for finding other life, that appears to be inevitable. As for intelligent life, well, let us just say that is highly unlikely until we find some means of efficiently within a reasonable time of traveling the great distances. With any amount of luck, there will be an inventor who will accomplish what Zefram Cochrane did for the Earth by inventing the first warp-drive. Be the means a warp-drive, a hyperspace dimensional driver or any of the other various proposed star-drives which would propel and decelerate man across the galaxy and perhaps some day beyond; for now, we think that the Moon and Mars are great steppingstones to the Asteroid Belt and from there the outer planets and their cornucopia of moons and moonletes then to the Kuiper Belt and the Ort Cloud (assuming it exists as theorized as we have yet to detect it beyond it being the theoretical origin of long-term comets). What is out there beyond the new horizon, a horizon which expands by distance cubed, (distance)3? So, the only advice I would give NASA director Jim Bridenstine would be to the stars and do not let anything hold you back.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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June 15, 2018

Who Will Win the Actual Space Race?

 

There is this very comfortable but equally fallacious solution to getting man into space is to leave it to private enterprise. The argument often goes along the line such as the East India Tea Company and other private enterprises which were very important to the settlement by Europeans of the New World. We love this way of describing the way the New World was conquered as it also makes our argument better than any other story. The reason is obscured by wishful thinking. These companies which assisted with the settlement of the New World were all dependent upon governments first establishing settlements with docks and infrastructure for housing and serving the shipping companies. Under this concept, some government or world collaborative effort would need to first build a working space station (image below) with rotational gravity making it livable by masses of people without the difficulties of zero gravity. There would be the need of a space dock capable of permitting the construction of the space vehicles which would be used to “conquer” space. The most advance of these docking stations with its own space station should necessarily be built close to the Asteroid Belt so as to permit the use of asteroids for raw materials instead of stripping the Earth. The nation to first establish such facilities will be the one most likely to win the real space race. No nation can safely believe that should any nation construct such structures in space that they would be willing to share or allow others to use these expensive facilities. So, what would it take for the United States or others with a governmental space program?

 

Space Station Double Wheel from Stanley Kubrick Arthur C. Clarke 2001 A Space Odyssey

Space Station Double Wheel
from Stanley Kubrick Arthur C. Clarke
2001 A Space Odyssey

 

The first thing we need to talk about is exactly what does NASA really cost. One ugly reality is that when ever the Congress debates spending cuts, the first agency placed on the chopping block is almost always NASA. An even uglier secret is how the NASA budget is represented to the public; NASA is spending is almost twenty-one-billion dollars and we have almost nothing to show for all that money. What they do not tell you is that since 1975 the NASA budget has rarely risen above one percent of the total budget and currently approximately a whapping half-of-one-percent of the total budget. That miniscule percentage of the budget is why they give the number in dollars; simply because you will be shocked by the word billions, as most people do not realize that the total budget is over three trillion and heading up and up. They could triple the NASA budget and it would hardly make any difference in the total budget. So, with this initial establishment that the NASA budget is a minimal part of the total budget and Congress could be honest and allow NASA the funding they really require if earthlings are to leave the solar system within the next century. Basically, the question is how quickly does the human race desire to make war on the planet all but eradicated because once one nation has established their presence permanently in space, they will have the capability to dictate to every other nation. The return on the investment financially and the defensive level provided any nation who has a solid footprint in space is one of the reasons along with the economic boost such a program would provide for why we suggested strongly that Israel build a launch facility and invest in space for the continued future of the nation and her people (suggested location on the map below).

 

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

 

For those of us who have perused space, science, physics and cosmological educational and entertainment lectures, classes and other presentations on YouTube, you have probably run across the now infamous quotes from Ben Rich Lockheed Skunk Works CEO.

“We already have the means to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in black projects, and it would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity. Anything you can imagine, we already know how to do.”
“We now have the technology to take ET home. No, it won’t take someone’s lifetime to do it. There is an error in the equations. We know what it is. We now have the capability to travel to the stars. First, you have to understand that we will not get to the stars using chemical propulsion. Second, we have to devise a new propulsion technology. What we have to do is find out where Einstein went wrong.”

Assuming that Mr. Rich was extrapolating on concepts and what is possible in the near or not too distant future, we need remember that the spy plane SR-71 was a Mack 3+ (some claim Mach 5) craft build by the Skunk Works and flying by 1964 and was designed before President Kennedy declared that the United States was going to the Moon within the coming decade. So, we might need take Mr. Rich at his word. But no matter what the reality, technology is now capable of placing a space wheel in orbit around the Sun closely behind the Earth, build a space colony on the Moon (though personnel would require regular rotation due to the low gravity or become incapable of leaving the Moon and returning to Earth), place a colony on Mars (also requiring rotation or the station would need to be self-sufficient) and place another space wheel and construction dock near the Asteroid Belt. These are the minimal requirement for establishing a permanent space presence for the planet and the question will be whether this is committed to as a planet or will it fall to a single nation or groups of nations. But it all stands on a government, or the people from a nation, making the decision to invest in making these space colonies and stations a priority. As for the United States, perhaps we should put this into a basic equation. Would being the undisputed and irreplaceable leader of planet Earth and the Solar System be worth five percent of the budget? If that sounds reasonable, realize that this would be a nine to ten fold increase in the current NASA budget and would make the Moon colony and space wheel attainable within ten to fifteen years. Once these are in place, the remainder of the Solar System is simply a few more steps away. Once the Asteroid Belt becomes available for mining, which ever nation has permanent mining colonies and stations, perhaps one reachable with a launch ever three months to rotate people to and from each point, there would be so much gold, silver, platinum, rare earth materials and potentially unknown treasures to make that nation wealthy beyond all measure. That is not to mention the immeasurable amounts of nickel, iron and other more common elements which would be useable for the construction of large craft developed for potential inter-stellar travel. The Moon colony could pay for itself through mining Helium-3 (He-3, also written as 3He) useable as an energy source which scientists have simply drooled and dreamed of being able to use to power the Earth almost completely pollution free.

 

Helium-3

Helium-3

 

So, the final question is which nation will be the first to invest in taking mankind into the future. Will it be the United States or will the public fail to follow through because there is no actual race that they are able to see. Trust that there is a race and there is one nation ready and willing at this time of winning that race, and it is not the United States. For a set of charts showing the developed space programs from around the globe, click here. The simple equation is which government or group of governments will make the necessary investment and which will be the first. Will it take the realization that perhaps Russia, China, Iran, United States or some dark horse such as Israel or maybe Mongolia has taken a large lead to push the rest to take the race seriously. The answer is that it will be whichever nation decides they are going to invest in their and the human race’s future and desire to be the one who leads the world forward. The one promise we can foretell is there will be a number of nations who will be crying, “If only we had known, we would have acted smarter.”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 18, 2017

Republican Party Committing Electoral Suicide

 

It seems there are two Republican Parties today. One is the elite, loyal guard who are what one might call the core of the presumed power structure. The other are the ones who win despite the party mostly ignoring their needs and election campaigns where they receive minimal help but run populist campaigns knocking on doors and speaking at every church, synagogue and every society which will allow. The power structure have campaign chests which if theirs and the Democrats’ were combined, the United States could probably put a good sized dent in the national debt. They are reelected because they have much of their district or state in their pocket and all the media give them good coverage always speaking respectfully of them. These long-time Congressional denizens also make up the core of the “Never Trumpers” who are making life near to impossible for the President. With the party split like this, it is not difficult to see a disaster in the making. And now the Republican “Never Trumpers” have decided that their opposition to the President surpasses the good of the Party. They refused to work with President Trump on repeal of Obamacare and are now rising for a fight over Tax Reform. When President Trump decided to pass the controversy over the repeal of President Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to Congress rather than acting unilaterally, they decided they would refuse to act. Facing such stubborn refusal for cooperation from his own Party, President Trump did what he was all but forced into, he made a deal with the Democrat Party and now you should hear the howling. Those very same “Never Trumpers” are accusing the President of treason against the Party. But that is politics as usual, push somebody away and refuse to work with or even listen to them and then when they decide to work with other politicians who promise to be more receptive, then they are a traitor and are compromising your position and chance for reelection.

 

These head games and power struggles within the party are toxic, nothing less. The voters watch what is happening and eventually they are sickened and turn away. The Republican Party cannot understand why they can never hold a majority in the Congress for more than a couple of election cycles while the Democrat Party can do so often for decades at a time. One can only wonder if the Republicans ever take a moment from their internal squabbles to watch the Democrats in Congress. When there is a vote on any major legislation where the Democrat voters have shown a preference, the Democrats invoke Party solidarity and almost the entirety will vote as one. The Republican base of support gave a voice of support and preference over the past six years since Obamacare was passed that they wanted it repealed. The Republican base has always supported tax code simplification and lower taxes. They have always supported fewer regulations. President Trump has made a ruling that for every regulation enacted, that department must retire two regulations. President Trump has repealed numerous regulations which were invoked by Presidential edict by President Obama by using the identical power to revoke them. President Trump agreed to permit the Congress to consider three separate means to choose between to repeal Obamacare, and they chose none of them largely because the Republican Party could not enforce Party unity while the Democrats were the epitome of Party unity. Then they threatened an entangling argument over tax reform and rate lowering just because President Trump needed it and they hate President Trump and believe he is a false Republican. President Trump has tried to represent the Republican conservative agenda but apparently, that has not been good enough and that is why they are opposing exactly the things they had promised they would work on to their constituents.

 

Never Trump Republican Core

Never Trump Republican Core

 

Of course, they are playing the usual games and each taking a turn to vote for everything while in the end voting against them all so when asked they can claim they supported the exact things they defeated. We have explained this game before where they have more than one of the same bill so each can vote for one while voting against the others thus defeating important bills but being able to say on the campaign that they voted for the best version of the legislation and it was not their fault it failed, it was those other Republicans. They make it so they can all have the same excuse and depend on nobody being able to understand the backhanded dealings they use to deceive their constituents. That has become the whole new game, fool the voters into believing that you are doing as they desire while serving to enlarge the government and give more power and wealth to the top five percent, and both parties are playing the same game. The difference is that the Democrats are at least slightly more honest as they purport to serve the ever greater government, the Republicans are supposed to be for limited government. For those old enough, this can be confusing as in our youth the Democrats were for less government and the Republicans were for more government. We guess that is also part of the political cycles. There are all forms of political cycles. There was a time when the Republicans voted as a block much of the time and the Democrats were the party of the loud arguments. That was back when the Democrats wanted smaller government. Apparently, if you desire to make government smaller, then you argue because everybody wants to make government smaller by taking from the other places while keeping all the government which enriches your voters. The problem is to make government smaller, you have to take away from somebody and the best method would be to have everybody volunteer to surrender something such that everybody invests in a smaller government. But it will never work because then there will be arguments that one only lost fifty jobs and my district would lose two-hundred jobs and that is not fair. When you are a politician, you can demand that everything be fair as long as they are more fair for you and yours.

 

The Republicans were given a mandate by those who elected Donald Trump to be President. They stated four or five basic things that they insisted be accomplished. They demanded Obamacare be repealed, taxes be lowered, regulations be repealed, government be shrunk, and that the Republicans work together and accomplish this immediately if not sooner. This has not happened and unless it does before the end of the year, then the voters will be very upset. There is a reason why the Republican Party does not dominate the Congress year after year. It is not because they do not have the voters potentially. The problem is that the Republicans have upset so many voters who have let their registration slip away and never returned to the voter rolls. Their actions have even sent such a distracting and fractured message that some conservatives have simply never registered believing that it really does not matter because no politician ever actually represents true conservatism. The Republicans just have this ability to appear as if they are in a constant state of confusion leading to indecision followed by the inability to accomplish anything of consequence which their voters demand of them. This leads to frustration for their voters and this also leads to them turning away from political news and stop voting. Part of the problem can be represented through the Congressman who represents the first Congressional District in Oklahoma, Jim Bridenstine. He won a populist primary to win his first term by walking much of the district going door-to-door meeting the constituents. When he came up for reelection after winning by a near record vote his first term, the Republican Party should have rushed and supported him but instead they ran a Party functionary against him in the primary elections. Jim Bridenstine defeated this Republican challenge in an embarrassing and overwhelming manner and has served to the current time. Jim Bridenstine now leads President Trump’s list to become the next head of NASA which makes sense, as he is an Air Force veteran and also has a degree in administration. Perhaps this is yet another Republican conspiracy to replace him in Congress. How is that for a wild conspiracy theory. Perhaps it is the Republican secret plan to lose the seat to the Democrats, except this would be next to impossible. On the other side, a Democrat from this district would be more conservative than a Republican from Massachusetts.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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