Archive for February, 2010

Constellation Program = RIP

The Obama administration recently pulled the plug on NASA’s Space Shuttle replacement plan, commonly referred to as the Constellation Program (CxP). This was a half baked concept hatched by the Bush administration a couple of years ago. CxP is also something I’ve been a critic of since its inception. However, now that the program has been mercifully euthanized, I do feel a tinge of sadness seeing all the great hardware headed to the scrap heap. Again, this is just another example of the old Bush administration’s mind-boggling ineptitude. CxP really lacked innovation from the start, which would have been critical for sustained momentum. To the casual observer, the program seemed quaint. It was often dubbed “Apollo on steroids” by Bush officials, which didn’t help the wow factor either. But what really sank the program was ballooning cost. Bush sold the program as an economical replacement to the current Space Shuttle; however overruns quickly started to spiral out of control once the project was under way. Before I go any further, I should point out what CxP actual consisted of:

  • Ares I (rocket)
  • Ares V (rocket)
  • Orion (crew capsule)
  • Earth Departure Stage (EDS)
  • Altair (lunar lander)

The Ares I rocket was designed to carry the Orion capsule into orbit while the Ares V was intended to carry the Altair and EDS. The Ares I had already been successfully tested by the time the program was canceled, but many of the other CxP components were still being developed when everything got axed. So how will NASA get our astronauts into orbit once the shuttle is retired? For the short term, NASA will have to rely on Russia for rides into orbit. Of course the hope is Elon Musk’s SpaceX will eventually be ready to put their Dragon crew capsule and Falcon rocket into service, but as I’ve written before on this blog, I’m skeptical SpaceX will ever be able to pull this off. It’s too bad we can salvage the Orion component of the program and develop that to completion. I think if we modify the Delta IV Heavy rocket in parallel to a scaled down Orion program, we would have a decent shuttle replacement. Of course with Federal deficits being what they are these days, my predictions are NASA will not have a manned space in five years simply because all the options, including using private firms, will simply be too expensive.

Add comment February 18th, 2010

My Australian Doppelganger

One of the reasons I signed up for Gmail a couple of years ago was for the chance to get a personalized email address, i.e. “ned.howard” instead of something totally random. But what I didn’t anticipate was email intended for other Ned Howards. I don’t get a flood of these misdirected messages, but they do hit my inbox from time to time. The highest volume appears to be intended for some fellow Ned Howard in Australia. My twin seems to be leading a far more adventurous, outdoor-centric life then mine, since I’ve received many messages from his friends offering photographic evidence of his many exploits down under. From the emails I’ve received, I’ve been able to deduce the other Ned appears to be young, well off, and an employee of the Australian government. Here is sample text from a recent email:

From: XXX XXXX <XXX.XXXX@development.tas.gov.au>
To: “XXXX.XXXXX@gmail.com” <XXXX.XXXXXX@gmail.com>, XXXX XXXX <XXXX.XXXX@fpa.tas.gov.au>, “ned.howard@gmail.com” <ned.howard@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Feb 8, 2010 at 6:23 PM
Subject: moula

Hulla hulla hulla,

Well well well three holes in the ground..

I’m back at work after a long weekend and it bites really.. Wishin for some muzza river loving, good aussie wine, workin’ hard at being lazy, no bite on the line.. my kind of paradise – a river and some bloody wine..

I’m not sure what “muzza river loving” constitutes, but the Aussie wine sure sounds good. Maybe this was a fishing trip? The rest of the message is related to car rental details that I’ll keep confidential (why don’t people use secure email?). It’s interesting to note my Australian counterpart is as often referred to as “Nedley”, which is funny because that’s the nickname many of my friends use for me. And just like Crocodile Dundee, these real life Australians say “bloody” a lot.

I should email all these people back and let them know I’m not the Ned Howard they’re looking for. But sometime these random emails are the highpoint of my workday and it would be sad if they slowly died off.

Add comment February 11th, 2010


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