Saturday, November 27, 2010

About Krugman

I have written about Krugman, so I decided to read his book.  It is The Conscience of a Liberal, which he wrote in 2007.  The first two chapters are in the can, much more to go before I'm finished.   A preliminary statement here, he does appear to be quite persuasive at times.  But I am definitely going to be a hard sell.  When I am ready to write more, I'll get back to it.  Until then.

Big Brother is Watching

I've noticed that the ads on this blog have been tailored to fit the content of the posts. Somebody at Google must have decided that's the best way to get readers of the blog to click an ad is to do it that way. Pretty ingenious. Since most of the blogmaster (that's you Greg) posts recently have been about the space program, the ads have taken a governmental twist. I don't know about you, but the I.R.S. ones make me nervous. The ads for depression cures may come from my posts, since I ain't Little Mary Sunshine most of the time. In order to spice up the ads, I've considered telling some dirty jokes, just to see what the outcome could be. Viagra ads most likely. Possibly even Victoria Secret. woohoo. Well anyway, if somebody has a comment about this post, do us all a favor and say something somewhere in it about crotchless panties. Thank you very much.

Makeshift lunar lander using materials from the ET

 Let's assume that you could get the ET to L1.  How can the materials from the tank be used to set up a Moon base?  

Here's the internals of the tank again.  From right working to the left,
there is the liquid oxygen tank,
then the intertank,
followed by the big liquid hydrogen tank.

Let's start with the oxygen tank.  It's the smaller of the two propellant tanks and it looks like a convenient shape.  Could this tank be fashioned into a lander of some sort?

If it were possible, attach legs and rocket engines to the bottom of this tank.  There are some big rocket nozzles at the bottom of the big hydrogen tank.  Detach those and reattach them to the oxygen tank.  Use the intertank as material.  Use the hydrogen tank as a solar furnace, melt down and/or cut the metal needed for the legs and attach it below and/or around the rocket nozzles at the base.

How could that be done?  Make some cable out of the intertank and a harness to tighten up the entire assembly into one tight package.  The harness for the cable would span between the top of the cone of the oxygen tank down to the leg assembly.  At the cone, it would be a circular ring where the cable could fit.  The "leg" assembly could be just the round intertank with spaces cut out of round cylindrical shape of it.  Cut out the middle of the intertank and with all the spaces cut out, you could have room for the rocket nozzles to fit into that space.

There would be enough space between the rocket nozzles and the intertank to give clearance at the lunar surface.  If the nozzles are too big, maybe you could use just one of them.  You would need a way to secure the nozzle to the intertank and that assembly to the oxygen tank with the cable and harness system described. Hook up the rocket nozzle to some smaller fuel tanks that may be fashioned out the remaining material, or brought up from Earth.  

If this contrived contraption worked, it would be left on the lunar surface and serve as the first piece of a lunar base.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A study in wasteful government spending

A guest post from Joseph Friedlander on the NextBigFuture blog asks an interesting question:  "What was the best way to use the Saturn V to reach the Moon -- in retrospect?"

Maybe you don't want to argue with success, but who knows?  It seems that merely being happy with a successful outcome does not produce the optimal results.  You could even pose this question:  "Does anybody give a damn about optimizing results?"  He mentions that we could have had a hell of a lot of hardware in space or on the Moon right now if we played our cards right.  But we haven't so we don't.

Here's something that I didn't know.  The S-IVB booster was impacted into the Moon on the Apollo 14 mission  It was to check out the Moon's interior structure using the impact as energy source and the seismometers put there by Apollo 12 to record the impact.

Lot's of hardware right there.  And it made it all the way to the Moon.  Plus the lander and the astronauts and they made it back.  Looks like this rocket may have been overkill.  If the spending was optimized, we would have an entire new industry now and a lot of high paying jobs for Americans that do not exist, thanks to this wasteful spending.

Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft - Washington Times

Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft - Washington Times

Fighting the last war

People seem to get caught up in the history of things, and those same people want to repeat the very same things that were done before.  For instance, military strategists got caught up into trench warfare model and thus they were the ones who built the Maginot Line.  When an actual war came, Hitler's armies raced around it.  Even though trench warfare worked in the first war, it was doomed to failure in the next.

When I read Krugman's stuff, I get the same feeling.  Now we are in the midst of the same phenomenon that was visited upon us in the past, allegedly a great depression.  To Krugman, the way out of that depression needs to be repeated again today, hence the trench warfare analogy.  Let's just spend our way out of it.  It certainly worked the last time.  Or so we are led to believe.

The trouble I have with Krugman is that his analysis doesn't focus on causes and effects.  Or if it does, it pretty much follows the liberal model.  Which is income distribution.  If you accept that cause, and then you accept the effect.  That is, the rich take from the poor, so the way to prosperity is through income redistribution.  Raise taxes and spend like crazy and we win the battle against depression.  How does raising taxes produce growth?  How does it produce victory over the enemy called depression?  Does taxing away wealth makes a country prosperous, or does it just postpone the inevitable collapse?  If no solution to the lack of growth is found, no amount of redistribution will prevent a slide into a deeper hole.

Well, Krugman has a Nobel prize and the cachet that brings.  Who am I to disagree?  But if Krugman is the general, his trench strategy has failed.  His strategy seems like the strategy of a Maginot Line: we need more and better trenches.  Never mind that the trenches have been overrun and would have been in any case regardless of how many were built. It doesn't take a Nobel prize to see that this general has lost this battle.

It doesn't take a Nobel prize to see that debt is at all time high.  Going deeper into debt only digs a deeper trench.  Taxing people with already strained budgets is not likely to generate more revenue.  Clearly, the strategy is missing revenues in order to pay for the spending.  Debts don't get paid by borrowing more.  They get paid by spending less and earning more.  Nothing that I have seen from Krugman mentions this.  Just more trench digging and deeper trenches.  More spending and more redistribution and that will put people to work and everything will be fine.  But not economic growth.  Meanwhile, the enemy goes around us and we are getting beaten because we can't pay this debt.

Hopefully, the new generals are better than the old.  Or we could be facing Dunkirk soon.

Krugman is not alone

At least Robert Scheer over at Huffpo, agrees, Obama is a big of a right winger as Bush.  Get this quote:

The assumption of both the Bush and Obama administrations was that what was good for the banks would be good for the general economy, but just the opposite has happened. 

Obama just isn't progressive enough, drat him!  He isn't doing enough:

The result, he noted, is "the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy" that had been broken by the banking regulations imposed during the New Deal in response to the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's sensible regulations were gutted by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and tragically Obama has failed to restore them.

I think Obama has done enough here in terms of regulations.  Maybe too much.  But some explanation has to be found for the lack of results.  We need higher taxes, that's it.  More of the old time religion of the New Deal.  But the New Deal never did get the economy going.  But it was good politics, at least for awhile.

Jobs Party

Sometimes I read the Huffington Post.  I'll make a few comments there too, from time to time.  One idea that keeps cropping up is this idea of a Jobs Party.  I suppose it is a reaction to the Tea Party.  Maybe the left is mad enough at Obama and his lack of progress on the jobs front to either force him to the left, or to break with him altogether.

Evidently, one of the Jobs Party ideas is to raise taxes way up there again, to the rates that were in effect during the Eisenhower years.  How does Eisenhower fit into this, by the way?  This so called progressive tax schedule was implemented as a part of the New Deal.  I think the Eisenhower years were remembered as especially prosperous.  These folks want to link that era and its tax schedule to a proposition they hope will be a winner at the polls.  This redistribution from rich to poor is hoped to work in the same way that it did during those nostalgic years.

I am not persuaded that a punitive tax is necessary nor desirable.  No doubt that certain "rich" people got a lot richer while the rest of the country suffered.  Take those on a case by case basis.  It is doubtful that all rich people are guilty just because they are rich.

We do need a growth policy though.  The only way out of the financial mess is either by growth or by default. There are no other possibilities.  This income redistribution says nothing about growth.  In the end, all it would do is to spread the misery.  Without growth, the misery of debt and bankruptcy will only increase.  A growth policy will enable the economy to service the debt and create new wealth and new jobs.  This should be doable without imposing a punitive tax.

An example of guilt tripping

Over at Huffpo, there's this article by Jonathan Weller in the Business section.  It's supposedly about deficit spending.  Somehow, it veers off into racial politics.  Weller is putting forth the notion that the only reason that deficits are a problem is that the money is being spent on people of color.  Therefore, in not spending it, you are a racist.  This isn't stated quite so explicitly, but it is easily inferred from the article.   I suppose the attempt is guilt tripping the white folks so that they won't stop spending money on those who are not like the white folks.

In sum, deficits are code for government taking sides in a tribal war, with the one good tribe -- the real Americans 
Ah! The real Americans are the white folks, I suppose.  And to be worried about deficits is just codespeak for making tribal war against the colored folks.  If you disagree, you must defend yourself from the charges of racism.  Nice trick.  But I am not falling for it, thank you very much. 

Lunar Polar Volatiles Explorer Mission Concept Study

A proposed mission to survey for what's inside of those permanently shaded craters on the Moon.  Water is expected to be found amongst other things.  Silver, for example.  Silver is useful for making solar panels.  The lunar craters could be rich in useful materials such as this.

I only scanned the document.  I did find a price tag of over a billion dollars for such a mission.  No wonder people think this stuff is expensive.  In this case, it certainly seems so.  Yet, at a billion dollars, the confirmation of significant amounts of water and other useful materials could justify using this resource to further the exploitation of space resources.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fuel depot at L2

Over at the Bad Astronomy and Universe today forum, I saw a thread about going to Mars.  I'm doubtful about a Mars mission.  Someone mentioned in flight refueling and how that makes a Mars mission plausible even with smaller rockets.  Well, that is interesting.

The idea is to put a fuel depot at the L2 Lagrangian point (on the far side of the moon away from Earth).  This is called the gateway to the solar system.  It would also give you easy access to Geo orbit as well as lunar orbit.

I wonder how the big ET tank could fit into this?  Would it be in the way, or could that idea be integrated into this somehow?  Could you get that big tank all the way out there?  Or would it be better in lunar orbit?  A big station would seem useful for manufacturing facilities as well as help in getting to and from the lunar surface.  You could use this as well as the L2 depot, it would seem.

Now if you refill this depot from lunar water, how interesting would that be?  Or you could refill from NEO's.  That might be even better.


It would be easier to get the ET to L1 instead.  Leave the fuel depot there, and then take the ET to lunar orbit.  Use a tethering system to get back and forth from the lunar surface.  If the ET is in polar orbit, that would make it more accessible to water in permanently shaded craters.  Mine the lunar water from these craters and take them back to the ET.  Launch from the ET to get back to L1 fuel depot.  Now:  is this all feasible, or is it a fantasy?

Tethers have been tested in Earth orbit with not much success from my impression.  But in a lunar gravity field, maybe they would work better?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  You could wait until carbon nanotubes become more available, and then hope that will work.  Or perhaps conventional materials would work now.  I just don't know.

Now some of my reading on rotovators suggest that one of these could fling payloads out with plenty of velocity.  But would you want to use it?  And what would be the drawbacks of using one of these setups?


I did some comparisons with the Apollo program and the Shuttle program.  My calculation may not be correct, but I think that the ET can get to L1, maybe even to lunar orbit.

Now, that doesn't mean it is capable of doing this, but it may be possible at least in theory to do it.

Pardon me while I speculate

All of these posts about space.  What's the point?  Perhaps you can see it as a kind of inspiration.  Where it may lead, who knows.  Perhaps its all just idle speculation.  Just the same, I like doing it.

Having read Mining the Sky, Platinum Moon, and numerous pdf's on the subject of space mining, I am of the opinion that it is mostly a human problem that prevents it.  Some may argue limitation due to economics or technology, but I think that these problems can be surmounted.  No, what the real problem is, is this: how do you get people interested in this as a real possibility and how do you get them to do something about it?

So pardon me while I speculate on how to do this.  Maybe you can have as much fun with reading it as I get from writing about it.  So, here I go again.

Let's look at the Space Shuttle external tank once again.  This is a great resource that got completely wasted in the service life of the shuttle program.  As was shown in my discussion of the NASA pdf, the external tank could have been used to 1) launch and retrieve satellites without rocket power by using tethers 2) melt down metals and manufacture new useful items using concentrated solar power 3) provide ample life support and 4) serve as a more or less permanent space station.  From this discussion, one could use an external tank to incrementally set up a recurring mission to the moon for the purpose of exploiting its resources.  What more would it take to do this?

Let's see:  using a sky hook facility from the space station, you could capture a single stage to orbit vehicle that could bring supplies and crew to the station.  From the station, you could launch missions to the moon, get samples and return to the station.  Then you return finished goods back to Earth along with crew in the same manner they came.  I realize this may not be feasible with modern technology, but why not look into it? If you can do space elevators, then a sky hook should be an easier project, I would think.

Who decides on these missions?  Does NASA decide on its own?  Does the President decide?  Congress? What would it take do this as an experimental mission?  I don't think that it would cost that much.  It might actually be a quite reasonable mission.  Even if it failed, it may yield useful information.  Why not do this?


The shuttle at liftoff weighed about 5 million pounds.    The orbiter itself fully loaded weighed 240,000 pounds.  The external tank weighed in at 69,000 pounds.  If you count the orbiter and external tank as payload, that's about 300,000 pounds of mass that can be orbited in space.  Or about 150 tons.  Repeat that over a hundred launches of the shuttle and you can see how much of a waste it was.  The point is that they could have had something really humongous up there by now by doing nothing more than launching these things over a hundred times.


Checked into carbon nanotubes.  They have a way to go yet, so it looks like the tether idea is out for now.  But the tether idea might work in lunar orbit.  Just need to get an ET up there.  Don't know if this is feasible, but guessing that it is.

Happy Thanksgiving

Like so many other aspects of life these days, the Thanksgiving holiday is a target for politics.  Rather than to go into detail about this myself, let two different accounts of the original Thanksgiving story speak for themselves.

The first link is from and the second link is from Rush Limbaugh's website.  The US history site's story is much more sparse in details than Rush's.

However, it was Abraham Lincoln's proclamation that made this day a national holiday.

I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
A thought occurred to me while reading that.  Could someone someday try to get this holiday banned on the basis of separation of church and state?  I'm sure that the turkeys would be grateful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Al Gore Mea Culpa: Support for Corn-Based Ethanol Was a Mistake


Recycling the ET

Since the approval of a derived shuttle heavy lifter is a done deal, let's continue the study of using the external tank beyond its initial role of holding fuel for liftoff.  I did some looking into this possibility many posts ago.  It turns out that there was a NASA generated pdf for anyone interested enough to see what studies have already been done on this idea.  I downloaded it and am now in the process of reading it.  I think the point here is that the idea of doing this is not at all far fetched.  It has been considered.  Evidently, somebody in policy making circles decided not to pursue this avenue when this was produced in the early eighties.  But since the external tank is still going to be available for this as a possible use, perhaps these ideas should be revisited.

In the actual shuttle configuration that this pdf studied, there was significant amount of fuel left at Main Engine Cutoff (MECO).  There were ideas on what to do with this of course.  One conclusion is that the external tank could be put into Earth orbit indefinitely.  As for what could be done with it while it is up there, several options were considered.  Here are a few ideas in line with what I have written about before:

a) use of ET for tethering techniques
b) use of ET mass as shielding
c) use of the ET as a "strong-back" to support a space station concept

The report points out that the ET will have to be modified somewhat to made more useful in space.  These modifications are to be kept to a minimum.  Among these modifications are:

1. an attitude control system
2. access ports to the interior of the tanks in the ET must be made accessible
3. handling attachments to facilitate movement and various connections for devices
4. a way of altering the geometry of the ET  (proposed study)
5. better tools, equipment, facilities to exploit the potential of the ET


Here are some applications of tethers to enhance space station (ET) capabilities
1. De-orbiting the ET and booster the orbiter ( with shuttle this is obsolete)
2. Lowering orbiter and boosting ET or payloads  ( also obsolete )
3. Controlling ET drag and prolonging orbital life ( now this is interesting, can quadruple ET orbit life)
4. Adjusting reentry zone of a decaying ET  ( safety measure )
5. Lowering orbiter, raising space station and payloads, and generating power (power?)
6. Rendezvous with satellites and debris collection ( question: could these be launched, then captured?)
7. Orbiter rendezvous with space station ( same question as in 6)
8. Applications with advance materials tethers ( since this report is 30 years old, this is relevant)

In the last application (#8), much longer tethers may be possible with materials available today.
here is a list of applications using longer tethers
a)  apparent gravity of .1 g or more for personnel throughout a mission
b) single state to tether vehicles ( answer to #6, 7)
c) reentry velocities low enough for hot-structure reentry vehicles ( huh?)
d) release of payloads from LEO into GEO transfer orbits without rockets ( a great deal if possible)
e) tether base transportation between lunar surface, orbit, and escape ( ditto)

Update: of course, the above is not all that can be done with the ET.  Significant amount of use can be made of the materials and structures that make up the ET itself.  Here is a schematic of a solar furnace that uses that liquid hydrogen tank of the ET.

The amount of heat that this furnace could generate could melt all the aluminum in the tank.  The aluminum could then be reused for other purposes, even rocket fuel!

Very interesting quote from p. 107
       "...They can provide the means by which we learn to develop growing manufacturing capability off-Earth in the immediate future and do so economically.  The ET's can be an inexpensive, readily available resource base (350-1100 tons/yr) for use in Earth orbit rather than being wasted."

Keep in mind when reading the above quote that this was written nearly thirty years ago.  If it was true then, it is even more true today.

The thought occurred to me that, before in situ resources recovery from the moon or asteroids is even considered, this plan should be executed first.  The reason that the external tanks themselves are an excellent site for in situ resource extraction.  It would be a great place to try out the techniques.  A good knowledge base could be built on this alone, not to mention the other uses for which external tanks could be used.

In addition to the above updates and comments by me, there was even more to this report that is of interest that I haven't even gotten to yet.  For example, an external tank would be a good place for space habitat, or in one recommendation, it could be used as refuge in case of a disaster in space.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review of Platinum Moon

I really don't want to do this, but in order to be honest, I have to be a little critical of this book.  One criticism that I saw on another review said there wasn't enough character development.  I don't think I saw that, but what I did see was not exactly well stitched together story.

For one thing, the characters aren't used to full effect in order to move the plot along.  There is this one character, named Frog, whose appearance in this story doesn't really fit exactly.  She's a pilot, like the main character, Anders, but not on a mission like his.  Her character is an interesting character to know, but what does anything having to do with her matter to what happens to Anders?  Anders and Frog meet by the end of the novel, but by that time, the story is winding down.

Anders has two other characters that accompany him to the surface of the moon.  But you don't know, since the story doesn't tell you, is that the two people are romantically involved.  By the end of the book, you find out that they are getting married.  Big surprise for me.  I didn't have a clue.

Anders and his wife don't get along and are divorced.  That plays a part in the plot.  But Frog doesn't fit into this at all.  She might have, but she doesn't.  Anders own character may be a little too good to be believed.  He is a crack pilot and a good father from what we can see.  Many of his countrymen think he is a traitor, I suppose that a chink in his armor.  But the story shows that this a subjective point of view, not necessarily shared by everyone.  He comes off well.  Maybe a little too well.  I really don't believe this character.

As far as the plot itself, several opportunities to heighten the suspense are missed.  There is one spot where if something wasn't caught in time, it could have led to disaster.  You can see this, but what you don't see is how it all got resolved.  This is just skipped over as if it wasn't very interesting to know.  There could have been others, but I guess I won't mention them.

In short, the idea for the book was of intense interest to me.  That is why I bought the book  If I had not been interested in the idea of mining the moon in the first place, I probably wouldn't have bought the book.  If I had happened across this book somewhere, and began reading it, I don't think I would have finished it.  The story wasn't gripping enough to keep interest.  Hate to say that.  But it is the truth from my point of view.

Korea is still there

Every once in a while North Korea likes to let the world know they are still armed and dangerous. Several months ago, they killed several dozen of their southern neighbors by sinking a S. Korean war vessel. Today they sent hundreds of rounds of artillery fire to blast a South Korean island. Scores of homes were reportedly destroyed. The death toll was set a 2 and 17 wounded, but that number seems small for the amount of property damage inflicted. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is standing up and shaking his fist and warning the North to stop or they'll really be in trouble. GRRRR.It's the tried and true old trick from Kim Jong-il. He does this everytime he needs something from the South. A form of extortion, that almost always sees the US or South Korea paying him to stop. Credence for this, is the response of China (puppetmasters of the Kims) calling for new 6 party talks. This is code for get out your checkbook you running dog capitalists. Some reports have claimed this second round of agression in a short period of time, is due to the apprenticeship of the beloved leaders' successor and coincidently his son, Kim Jong-un. Little un is learning how to throw tantrums and get stuff from the grownups. Taught by the master his little Papa. It's a dangerous and foolish game they play, but so far they've mastered it. -- SpaceX Receives FAA License to Return Private Spaceships From Earth Orbit -- SpaceX Receives FAA License to Return Private Spaceships From Earth Orbit

Finished Platinum Moon

Not much to add to what I have already written.  One thing though.  Everything I
have written on this subject is in that book.  But, until I started reading up on
this stuff, I didn't know much of any of it.  What I am saying here, is if you want
to know what's the basic story in this book, all you have to do is read all the
space stuff posts.  It isn't exactly the same, but the general themes are there.
And that's about it.

This doesn't mean the end of these type of posts, though.

I have written before about wet workshop or dry workshop- terms that describe
the remodeling of the interior of a rocket after it has expended its fuel, and
while it is already in space.  With respect to the external tank that the new
Direct launcher will use, lets find a way to utilize that- don't throw it away.

There should be missions which practice this technique in space.  For example,
refashion the big fuel tanks into smaller tanks.  Then you could use these smaller
tanks and also free up some space inside the big external tank for other uses.  You
could also reuse the rocket motor.  A refueling module could refill the newly
fashioned tanks which would be connected to the rocket motor.  Then you'll have more
mission capability than before.


How could smaller tanks, which used the matter derived from larger tanks, be made
in space?  Being no expert in these matters, and just speculating, here's a scenario:

Cut the large tanks into manageable pieces.  Using molds brought from Earth and
a metal press, stamp out halves of a tank.  Then weld the halves together to make
a full tank.  The metal may need to be heated up so it will be soft and pliable
and will stamp easily into the mold.

Given that the original tanks are very large, plenty of metal is available.  Many
smaller tanks could be made in such a fashion.

Refilling a small tank should be easier than refilling a fricking huge one.  By
making a lot of small tanks, you ease a logistical problem of how to refuel in

New Features

I like the new features. The link to Drudge Report is convenient since I visit both Boots and Drudge every day. The joke links are cool too. Keep up the good work, bud.

Platinum Moon

I am reading this book right now.  I'm about half finished with it.  Interesting ideas here.  If I may offer a thought, even though this may have been written or said somewhere else before, I'll say that art begins where science leaves off.  This book is a novel, it is not nonfiction.  But a lot of this book has high technological plausibility and is often consistent with current developments, yet not entirely consistent with reality as it stands today.  As it is a novel, not a report of actual developments, it is a work of art.  But the art involved consists of the storytelling, for the most part.  The technologies presented provide the setting for the story.

Is there a purpose to the story?  If there is a purpose, one may demonstrate the plausibility of something like this happening for real.  It wouldn't take all that much to try what is being tried in the book.  That's my opinion, and for the most part, what I have been writing about a lot in this blog.  It is also why I bought the book and why I am writing about it here.

It appears that there exists a widely held belief that manned spaceflight has to be expensive.  Anything like space mining would therefore seem too far fetched to be taken seriously.  If this book could serve as an educational tool to inform people of this as a real possibility in our future, and that we may be much closer to doing this than anyone thinks, then perhaps the story here could serve that purpose.

I plan on finishing the book today.  When I do, I'll have more to say.  Until then.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Been busy so far today

More housekeeping on the blog.  I have subdivided the blogroll and updated it to include more blogs.  The subdivision works out roughly as political blogroll and a high tech blogroll.   I found some interesting sites and have implemented some ideas.  I have added a few links to joke sites, for example.

This blog (QuantumG's blog) is now on the blogroll (see left )  He mentions a novel called "Platinum Moon" by Bill White, and also mentions an extensive review which I am checking out as I type this.  I have to disagree with this quote from the review:
The Apollo program cost a Super Power a super-sized fraction of its GDP to employ a vast army of engineers and technicians to build and operate a wide array of gigantic facilities, rockets and spacecraft.
As I mentioned in this post, the government is spending only a tiny fraction of its budget on space.  Now correlate this fact to what Wayne Hale (formerly with NASA) says:
Lots of fancy viewgraph charts.  Big changes, imaginary promises, no more money. No bucks, no Buck Rodgers.
The government asks of NASA more than what it is willing to provide funds for doing.  When it fails, NASA gets the blame.  Its almost like somebody wants it to fail.  Why do so many politicians demand the impossible and why do the people let the politicians get away with failure to provide a realistic chance for success?  A realistic plan is needed and a realistic plan for funding needs to be provided and then a commitment needs to be made to do it.  Otherwise, you are setting up the program for failure.

Update:  just finished reading the review.  Platinum Moon may be worth reading.
Update 2:  I am going to order this book, read it, and maybe review it.  If I review it, I may cross post it on Amazon.

Bond yields

How can bond yields go much further down than where they are?  Ten year bonds have been under 3% for long stretches since 2008 and are currently under that now.  What happens if the yield approaches zero?  It is a time value of money question.  Why lend money out at all if you get no return for it?  The only reason could be safety, but there are other ways to be safe, is there not?

If safety cannot be provided, then there aren't any reasons at all for buying bonds.  If it won't even provide safety, it is pretty much worthless.  By the same token, if someone borrows money, then they have to be able to pay it back with interest.  Otherwise, why should a lender take the risk?  It is all a matter of common sense.  

But when you start talking governments, common sense just might go right out the window.  Somehow, people with a little bit of power think they can repeal natural laws.  What goes up, must come down.  Congress may disagree with this inconvenient truth, but there it is.  No law can change that.

You can do just so much quantitative easing.  At some point unknown, lenders will stop supporting the system because it violates any common sense.  You need confidence in getting paid back.  Failing that, lenders will stop buying bonds.  Yields must go up.  But if the Fed wants to drive yields back down, it will only accelerate the process.  I think the reason is that if nobody wants the bonds and only the Fed will buy with funny money, then the debt will be seen as worthless.  Confidence is shattered.  They won't hold their bonds, nor will they buy more.  They will sell what they have and bond yields will start rising.  They will rise until the yields are high enough to reflect the risk, then the selling may stop.  The Fed will be helpless to stop this.

We are not at that point yet, but we are getting closer.  The government will have to get serious about getting its financial affairs in order, or this will get ugly.

The Fed is between a rock and a hard place.  Congress and the people have to help them out.  This means stuff has to be given up so that the government can pay for it.  You can't print your way out of this.  The only way out is to grow your way out, or just manage a decreasing store of wealth.  To encourage the former means a growth policy.  Failing that, the choice is for the latter and that won't be pretty.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Obama is a right winger?

I don't know what to say about this one.  It's strange, even for Krugman.  He's saying that Obama is a rightie.

The left must have decided to pressure Obama to move more to the left.  I suppose calling Obama a rightie is supposed to be enough of an insult to get him to see the light.  When looked at like that, it seems more of a visceral argument than an argument based upon reason.  Get a grip.

Son of a gun, it's already in the pipeline

From the new site I registered with earlier today is this link, which brought me to this link.  The thing I was suggesting may already be in the pipeline.  Well, not exactly.

It won't be a sidemount.  It will stack on top of the external tank.

Here's a story on how this (called the Direct Movement) came about.  Another page here
with some more info.

Popular Mechanics story on Direct in Jan. 2009.  Obviously, I was in the dark about
this.  Oops.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

I just joined this forum and got a link which led to this video (posted on YouTube).  It's called Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum.  Can't recommend nor not recommend as of yet.  To see anything there, you have to register, which is what I did.

Some more thoughts on open source

Here's a quote from Keith Curtis' book "After the Software Wars".
"At Microsoft, we had it beaten into our heads to fix bugs: a bug meant an unhappy customer, and a bug that affected just 1% of users meant that there were millions of unhappy customers!  Software that doesn't work is not worth anything."
For anything open source, bugs may be an issue because no one has a proprietary interest in the product.  That's a strength of proprietary software ( or anything else of intellectual property origin ).  He goes on to point out the bugginess of Linux distributions and how necessary it is to address the bug issue with respect to the future of Linux.

Perhaps the thing to do is to nip it in the bud from the start. Nothing gets in the codebase until it is fully vetted.  It must get a seal of approval and that seal has to be earned.  No point in doing anything if it isn't right.  Better to start on the right foot than to end up on the wrong foot.

Don't reinvent the wheel revisited

I didn't know this before I wrote the original post- that the shuttle external tank reaches 98% of orbital velocity.  With a little more power, it can get into orbit instead of being sent back to a fiery doom during reentry from space.  So, why not use this as a resource as opposed to wasting it?  That's what I was writing about before, so I'll return to that subject again.

The Augustine Commission considered a Shuttle derived system as one of the possible heavy lift vehicles that will replace the Shuttle.  With a little less mass, as would be the case without a shuttle to put into orbit, the Shuttle derived system could reuse its external tank.  Since the tank already has 98% velocity with more mass, the reduction in mass (from not having to lift the shuttle) should make virtually the entire system  reusable.  But not as it is.  Once it arrives in space, it will need a little work to set it up as a permanent facility in space.

The external tank can be remodeled into a useful bit of machinery that could save a lot of money and do something useful.  Instead of putting extra rocketry on its sidemount, it could carry equipment and supplies that would be transferred to the inside of the tank so it can do the remodeling job.  How can you do that?  Well, I think that it would take a few modifications to the external tank in order to make this possible.  You would need to make a large door at end of the tank so that stuff could be put inside the tank after its launched into space.  Think of it as a hood and/or trunk type setup.

Each subsequent launch would add more equipment and supplies, but not a duplicate of what was sent earlier.  Instead, after the first tank was finished, launch the next tank into space.  Transfer the equipment that was no longer needed on the first, and equipment from the second is tranferred to the first for further work on the first.

In such a manner, an assembly line could be set up in space which would build a fleet of large habitats in space for future missions.  All that would be required after construction of one habitat is for a crew to come up in a separate vehicle and transfer to the large habitat.  Not only would the big external tank be a habitat, it would still have a large powerful rocket that could take it on missions back and forth.


Robert J Samuelson

I meant to read his book, The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence, but never did get around to it.  I noticed something recently though, and it got me to thinking about this inflation/disinflation scenario that seems to be playing out.  Look at this chart:

Its a chart of the ten year bond yield since the Kennedy Administration.  Notice the upward slope until Reagan becomes president, then the downward slope since.  Clearly, something changed at that time.  One thing that definitely changed was the income tax code.  Other changes were deregulation and free trade.  

My take on this is that both trends are evidence of something wrong.  The former trend depicts an inflationary environment, the latter depicts a disinflationary one (at least at first).  Yields have gotten so low that, with the yield at less than 3%, it is lower than the historical growth rate of the US economy.  Something about that doesn't seem right.  The time value of money should be higher than what it is now.  The time value of money is reflected by the yield on the 10 year bond shown here.  The market is saying the time value of money is now lower than the historical growth rate of the US economy.  If I am not mistaken, this is symptomatic of a problem.

If I were to guess, it may well mean that the market is saying the US economy can't grow anymore.  If I am right about this, then the only way to reverse the trend is to do something to get the economic potential for growth back.  If that doesn't occur, then the bond yields may go down to zero.  That can't be good.