Speaking of Russia, they appear to have thrown in the towel in their competition with SpaceX. As I told some people in the UK this week, people who think that they need to be in the launch business to be serious players in space are thinking in 20th-century terms. The future lies in figuring out what to do on orbit with cheap launch, orbital assembly, and affordable satellite technology.
This is good news. We finally have one, and he’s the first in a long time to have his head screwed on straight with respect to private and commercial spaceflight. And (despite the fact that was a stupid criticism of Obama space policy, which had nothing to do with it, despite Charlie Bolden’s idiocy) he will never say anything about “Muslim outreach,” regardless of what news outlets he gives interviews to.
I’m back in the states, (back to Florida for a couple days, then back to CA on Friday), and I woke up to this story from Sarah Hoyt over the latest mau mauing of the left against a sane SF writer.
I grew up reading SF in the sixties; I don’t know what happened to it. The Left apparently has to corrupt and rot everything it touches.
Is it “Sputniking” the U.S.?
I don’t know, but our procurement and R&D policies are pretty badly bolluxed up.
I flew back to London yesterday from Bratislava (cheap non-stop flights from there, compared to Vienna) and I woke up to see that Vice-President Pence has announced a fairly significant policy change:
Space situational awareness data is currently provided by the Defense Department through organizations like the Joint Space Operations Center. The new policy, Pence said, would free up the military “to focus on protecting and defending our national security assets in space” by giving those responsibilities to the Commerce Department.
“This new policy directs the Department of Commerce to provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use, based on the space catalog compiled by the Department of Defense,” Pence said.
The policy will also support partnerships between the government and private organizations for sharing space situational awareness data, technical guidelines and safety standards. “That will help minimize debris and avoid satellite collisions during launch and while in orbit,” he said.
This would not be the first time that Commerce has taken over a potential regulatory role once considered for the FAA. At the National Space Council’s February meeting, the council approved several recommendations, including those that would give Commerce responsibility for licensing “non-traditional” space applications, something the FAA had long been advocating to handle.
There are some interesting implications to this. A little over a third of a century ago, there was a bureaucratic battle over which federal agency would do launch licensing. In a meeting with Ronald Reagan, Transportation secretary Elizabeth Dole made a better case for her department than Malcolm Baldrige, then Secretary of Commerce, did for his, and the DoT got the job, which was later codified in the Commercial Space Launch Act, with the Office of Commercial Space Transportation reporting to the department secretary (first head of it was Courtney Stadd).
In the early 90s, under a “streamlining government initiative,” VP Al Gore demoted the office, putting it under the FAA, something that many (including me) criticized at the time, and for which we have been advocating reversal ever since (including a recommendation in my book). Now it would appear that not only the FAA, but the DoT itself, has lost a turf war (and I don’t mind).
But more interesting to me is the implication for an ultimate U.S. Space Guard. SAA was one of the primary drivers in advocating such an organization, as Jim Bennett described in The New Atlantis. The Coast Guard was at one time under the Department of Commerce, and the seed of this new organization could in fact grow into a more comprehensive one, perhaps with constabulary powers, and even over time uniforms and an academy.
And good riddance.
An interesting interview with Gary Taubes:
In the science in which I was raised—physics and chemistry, the hard sciences—the last thing you want to do is get an assumption accepted into the theory of how things work without rigorously testing it, because then people will build on it and it will grow and infect the whole thought construction. You end up with, I’m going to beat this metaphor to death, but sort of a house of cards. And there will be no way to go back on it. In a field like nutrition and obesity research, you’ve now got these enormous institutional dogmas built in that I and others are arguing are simply wrong. How do you get the institutions to change their belief systems?
The British Medical Journal is running a series on nutrition policy, and their way of dealing with it is by assigning writers from these different belief systems. So I’m a co-author on an article on dietary fat, along with the former head of the Harvard nutrition department who thinks I’m the worst journalist he’s ever met and who does a form of science that I consider a pseudoscience.
It’s just nuts.
All of a sudden, they’re no longer rare.
Isn’t technology great?
And who does it hit hardest? China. Boo fricken’ hoo.
We must restore it.
It’s nuts to think there was some benign past in which the climate was ideal. The only benign climate is one that we’re wealthy enough to deal with.
SpaceX is raising half a billion for development. It sure would be nice to see some initial hops a year or so from now.