Thursday, May 22, 2008

Judicial Perversion in Texas, Phoenix Takes Its Shot 

In case any of us have forgotten where the serious perverts are:

My Way News [AP]- Texas seizure of polygamist-sect kids thrown out

The appellate court in Austin determined today that sexual abuse of children is okay with them, as long as it can be cloaked in some sort of pretense---no mater how preposterous---of a religious belief. 

Phoenix polar mission closes on Mars:

Spaceflight Now [Harwood-CBS] | Destination Mars | Phoenix lander nears its martian destination

Phoenix Mars Mission - Home

The Phoenix polar lander is apparently a collection of hardware from an earlier canceled mission and leftovers from LockMart's ill-conceived and poorly implemented Mars Polar Lander.   Despite months of careful expectation control, JPL-NASA and LockMart personnel must be grinding their teeth as they wait to see if they forgot anything this time.   Phoenix is due to land Sunday. 

The news conference on NASA-TV included an actually reasonable answer to one of my questions about the mission---why are they sending a fixed lander to Mars, instead of a much more productive rover?   Evidently, the polar terrain is sort of repetitive.   The lander is hoped to excavate several trenches into the Martian terrain to verify orbital observations of persistent water ice, and to check the soil chemistry.  It would be interesting, if it happens, but then my expectations are under control.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

---Earthquake Aftermath in China 

My Way News [AP]- China quake death toll could rise to 50,000

Terrible images continue to pour out of the region of China devastated by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake.  It seems like only a pitiful few of the thousands feared buried under collapsed buildings are being found alive.   The possible failure of a critical dam and blocked roads continue to complicate rescue efforts. 

My Way News [AP] - Myanmar cyclone death toll soars above 43,000

Unlike the government of Myanmar, which appears determined to actively thwart efforts to provide aid to the millions of survivors at risk after low-lying areas of that country were hit by a cyclone, the government of China seems ready to accept aid, and has been unusually candid in allowing information about the scope of the earthquake disaster to be reported to the outside world. 

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Monday, May 12, 2008

---Some Other Questions, Con'd: Faith 

[There was something I had to learn about this subject before I could finish it.]

Romans 3

21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3

23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Faith? It is one of the most common and unifying themes in the New Testament.  Hebrews 11 famously uses the word "faith" 27 times as the author chronicles its role in building the foundations on which our Salvation in constructed.  Our Salvation is said repeatedly to depend directly on it. But what is it? Why is it important? Why does it work?  [ Instead of downloading the "Salvation program"---read this-say this-confess that-pray this--- into prospective Christians with a tract or a New Testament markup, why can't we tell people what it means?]

Jesus says:

John 14

12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

But why are we, as the writer of Hebrews says (Hebrews 11:1-3), "...sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  What is "the Law placed in our minds and written on our hearts" (Jeremiah 31)?  What makes us not only agree with what Jesus said, but want to be like Him---to do the things the way He did and even more?

Jesus says:

Matthew 13

45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The merchant in the story didn't need to "shop around some more".  He knew when he saw the priceless artifact that he had found the treasure of a lifetime, worth more than everything else he owned.  Faith is when we see what Jesus said and did, read about the example He set for us, and hear about the price He paid to bring us safely home to His Father's house, and we want to claim that Treasure more than everything else in the whole world (Philippians 3:8). 

We want to set aside---repent of---all the other things we have tried that have failed us so badly over and over ,  and accept God's Way, which has been proven repeatedly  to be for our benefit (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).   We don't need to "shop around for the wisdom of the world's other great belief systems", because know we have in Jesus the Whole Truth, and through access to the Holy Spirit of The God Who Actually Exists (Ἐγώ εἰμι ), we have the Power which puts it into effect in our lives.

But wait! There's more! 

Ephesians 4:15

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

A child sees a famous or heroic older person and wants to act like them, and someday grow up to be like them.  We see how Jesus lived, and what He said, and we---Spiritual children---want to grow up---Spiritually---to be like Him! 

So here's what you have to know to receive Salvation:

John 3

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Hurry up and join the family (John 1:12)!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008


[With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke, who isn't here anymore to defend his work---seriously]

According to Michael Griffin, the "future" begins in 2010.  It won't be pretty.

Back in the dark days after the Columbia tragedy, a lot of us were hanging around the alt.sci.space.* newsgroups.  In the midst of all the rather silly suggestions for "fixing" the Shuttle---things like pulling a giant sock over the External Tank, or painting it with something or other---was this peculiar suggestion that we just go back to building somewhat upgraded Apollo hardware.  It was a sort of nostalgia for the last time that a manned spaceflight program seemed to more or less work and accomplish a meaningful goal.  I thought the notion had faded away over the months with all the giant socks, and conspiracy theories, and other malarkey.  It wasn't the only case in which people later wondered if NASA had been taking notes....

Whether that is the case or not, we now have the whole Ares-Orion-Constellation thing going on.  In the long recent lineage of manned spaceflight vaporware---X33, X34, International Spaceplane, and probably a few I've forgotten about---NASA's marketing concepts seem to be going stale, to have begun to lack even the SSTO kind of imaginative spark.  I have begun to wonder if they're even trying anymore.

But enough about me.  It has been difficult to find anyone actually independent of the NASA community who has anything positive to say about this "program".  They certainly aren't coming from the GAO:

Challenges in Completing and Sustaining the International Space Station

Issues Surrounding the Transition from the Space Shuttle to the Next Generation of Human Space Flight Systems

Ares I and Orion Project Risks and Key Indicators to Measure Progress

The GAO is being very polite, but it amounts to saying that the "Shuttle Successor" is vaporware.  All the classic symptoms are in the report.  Problems listed include: 

---NASA has started to sign contracts for billions of USD without finalizing the requirements.  Some people may have been surprised.

---The major components of the Successor system are "interdependent".[without final requirements, a change in weight requires changes in performance, and pretty soon you start bringing the writers back to have another go at the next round of manned spaceflight "imagineering".  ]

---There are "knowledge gaps" in all of the major components---I would have just said they didn't know what they were doing, but I'm unprofessional that way.

---Most troubling of all, NASA has no facilities available which are adequate to test the spacecraft or its major components.  They are supposedly going to fly an Ares/Orion on a suborbital test flight next year, apparently to see if it flies apart or anything.

For some outside analysis of the GAO findings:

Report critical of new Ares 1 rocket | floridatoday.com | FLORIDA TODAY

Then there are the less-polite comments, from outside the government:
Naked Emperor? - Transterrestrial Musings [I haven't looked in on Simberg's weblog in over a year, for some reason.]  

From this and some other sources, we can find the criticisms of the Shuttle successor program which would make most sensible people need a prolonged nap, or maybe a mild sedative....

It is apparent that Michael Griffin originally sold the Ares/Orion/Constellation to Congress as a way to re-use existing Shuttle components in a new way to do human space exploration to the Moon, Mars, and some other places like the ISS, maybe.   The 2004 report on the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, or ESAS (http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=4164), in response to President Bush's exploration "Vision" requirement, refers to an SDLV (Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle).  But that wouldn't have been enough feature creep or requirements meddling for the NASA management:

---Are they going to use the existing Shuttle 4-segment solid propellant boosters?  Um...no.  The Ares and Constellation will require a redesigned 5-segment booster with an extended carbon-composite skirt extension.   They have no real working plan to produce the new booster, and no adequate way to test it and its acoustic, vibration, and flight  properties. [the 5-segment design will suffer major design problems due to vibration on ascent.]

---Are they going to use the liquid-fueled Shuttle Main Engines?  Ah...no.  They have decided to resurrect the J-2 second-stage engine from Apollo so they can make the single-use second stage cheaper...if anyone actually believes that.

---Well, are   they going to use the Apollo J-2 engine in the Ares second stage? Well...no.  They are going to fiddle with it and come up with a virtually all-new design called the J-2X---which---they have no adequate means to produce, and---no really good way to test.

A number of these sources describe various problems NASA would have if it ever tried to make actual man-carrying spacecraft to do actually useful things out of the current successor concepts:

--- The current engineering numbers show that the proposed booster design will impose even more severe vibration on the spacecraft structure and crew than the old 4-segment boosters.  [one of the comments to the above Simberg rant quotes unnamed astronauts as likening the current SRB ascent vibration to "..a long running train wreck..".  Another comment quotes an unnamed structural engineer as likening the proposed Ares/Orion craft to "a piece of spaghetti (1st stage) pushing a balloon (second stage) with a lead weight on top (Orion)"]

NASA professes to be "unfazed" by the GAO's report on the new booster design's vibration problems:

NASA unfazed by auditor's findings | floridatoday.com | FLORIDA TODAY

Then we get to see what they propose to do about the vibration:
Ares I Thrust Oscillation mitigation options head into trade study - NASA SpaceFlight.com

These include sets of liquid-fuel reaction motors arrayed around the aft booster skirt and pointed upward, to actively counter vibration moments---and/or  various contraptions made of rails and springs to sort of passively damp out the vibrations from various places in the structure.    Why should they be worried? 

---As mentioned earlier, nobody knows how to make a one-piece heat shield using the Apollo-era technology anymore.  One proposed "solution" has been to adapt the tiles from the Shuttle's TPS, which have worked so well in the past.

---Not surprisingly, the weight of the Orion capsule continues to creep up.  Simultaneously, projections for the performance of the Ares booster are creeping down.  Proposed vibration solutions all add significant weight, also causing a downward trend in available payload.  One of the first casualties of the weight problem has been the landing bag system required to land the proposed capsule on land.  They would have to go back to ocean recovery.

How did manned spaceflight get into such a dead-end mess?  Simberg has another prolonged, and probably at least partly correct, rant on the subject:

The Fundamental Problem - Transterrestrial Musings

But NASA's "fundamental problem" is that its most important "payload" is some marketing.   Its Administrator frets publicly about the projected five-year gap in American manned missions between the retirement of Shuttles in 2010 and the supposed debut of Ares/Orion, and wheedles to Congress that NASA needs more money to extend the Shuttle's service or otherwise shorten the "gap" to four years. 

Both gap lengths are, or course, fiction, like "completion" of ISS, the Ares/Orion/Constellation, trips to the Moon and Mars, and the "Vision" in general.   The Shuttles will retire---either peacefully or through another catastrophe.  Soyuz will fly until the stress of its new role as sole provider causes its own catastrophe or the crumbling Russian Federal space program finally collapses like the government that created it.  China and maybe a few others will piddle around for a while until the futility causes them to lose interest, and then we'll be left with a few forlorn reconnaissance robots around or on some planets, while our attention is diverted by other problems.  Eventually, nobody will have time to care.

NASA long ago vigorously suppressed or fired anyone with the "vision" to dream of or implement a future for space exploration, and likely replaced them with a few lawyers and some marketing professionals, both of which are far more urgently needed in the standard government model for success.  

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---Even More Details of Soyuz Re-entry 

Ok, so this year's attempt to present anti-Christian graffiti as news in time for the Easter season has pretty much fizzled out, so we're stuck with meddling in space news instead.

More information on the latest Soyuz TMA re-entry incident, and analysis of the implications for NASA's manned spaceflight plans:

The space blame game - Cosmic Log - msnbc.com[Boyles]

The Real Soyuz Problem - Looking Past the Smoke and Flames - NASA SpaceFlight.com[Oberg]

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My Way News - Myanmar death toll could top 10,000, foreign minister says

The reported death toll in Myanmar (Burma) from a catastrophic cyclone continues to rise by the hour, with thousands more missing.  There are now fears that 10,000 people may have died in one township alone.  The government is despotic and paranoid, but it now appears that they will allow outside aid to relieve the suffering.  Prayer and support for the relief efforts are indicated.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

---Some Other Questions 


Galatians 3

23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Faith? It is one of the most common and unifying themes in the New Testament. Our Salvation is said repeatedly to depend directly on it. But what is it? Why is it important? Why does it work?

----in progress---

---the Plan?

Matthew 5

17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

I’ve heard comments, both recently and in past years, that God had to somehow “experiment” on Israel, or use the Old Covenant as some kind of “learning experience” before He could arrive at the solution to our Salvation in Jesus. I continue to insist that the whole story of the Law, the Prophets, the Histories, the Gospels, and the Letters of the Apostles represent one miraculously coherent Plan to bring us safely home to our Father’s house.

Through God’s Plan, we were given the leadership of Moses, the strength of Samson, the Godliness of David, the wisdom of Solomon, and the steadfastness and faith of Elijah and John, so that a few would see what was missing in their examples, and yearn for it, and finally recognize it in Jesus when He appeared.

Those of us who have come along later can also see what is missing in our lives and in the things our world gives us in place of justice, and wisdom, and strength, and for examples of how to lead our lives, and discard them all in favor of the whole Truth of Jesus Christ.

---Integrity? and/or a failure to communicate?

I tried---really tried----to have an argument with some proponents of science a few weeks ago. They were complaining that since they couldn’t take religious thought seriously, they should be allowed to take public oaths on their “personal integrity”. I got the same ad hominem reaction I always get when trying to argue with proponents of Catholicism, Islam, and various other belief systems I’ve been confronted with over the years. I’m too old and tired to deal with it anymore.

The comparison isn’t entirely fair, of course. Science is actually good for something, in the right context. It produces a consistent, candid, systematic outlook for evaluating the physical world around us, if used in conjunction with a little personal humility. Unfortunately, the illusion of power it tends to promote in less stable personalities leads to its use as a sort of “religion replacement therapy”.

The catechism of this scientific pseudo-religion allows its users to ask “how”? “when”? “where”? but never, ever “why”? Even when Einstein allowed himself to speculate about the subject of God, he went “all Spinozan”, and decided that God was indifferent and needn’t intrude on his thought experiments.

This terribly un-scientific outlook cripples its users by forcing them to rely on their own extremely finite integrity and understanding in confronting an infinite reality. I wish I still had the energy to argue with people who aren’t listening anyway. Utter futility is good training for personal humility.

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