An engineering student’s Blog

” …All of this. All of this was for nothing – unless we go to the stars.” – Infection, Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski

How to turn economic worries into the Second Renaissance

There has been a lot of talk about a jobless recovery to one of the deepest recession since the depression.  Well America: If you want jobs – how about pushing the current administration to open up the new frontier, while we still have the opportunity.  Yes, initially that will require some government spending to catalyze new technology and industry – this is what NASA was founded for.  What would result if the cost of launching people and hardware into space was reduced to the critical point where people treated spaceflight like we do airlines and global travel are treated today?

What you would have is a second renaissance, a space based industrial revolution that would cause a huge expansion of economic activity. Jobs would be in high demand on the new frontier and at home building the capability to get them there – just the same as it was when the U.S was expanding to the pacific and the new world was really beginning to open up to more common people.  This is why I am cautiously optimistic about the Obama administrations new NASA plan, and the FY2011 budget.  It seems like a step in this direction.

What I’m concerned with is the lack of a clearly defined destination, when the Augustine commission clearly stated, “the ultimate destination for human exploration is Mars.”

And the lack of interest in the option to extend shuttle flights to reduce the gap and to use shuttle derive technology to develop a nationally operated HLV until the private sector develops a reliable and robust alternative.


Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Space

Miles Obrien to testify before congress tomarow on “Enhancing the relevance of space.”

Follow Miles at

I spoke breifly with the 26-year broadcast news veteran and former CNN science, aerospace, technology and environment correspondent over twitter w00t

From and

milesobrienI am testifying before Congress tomorrow. Subject is “enhancing the relevance of space…” Would love your thoughts.

engstudent@milesobrien good luck tomorrow. Is what NASA can do in the future within the scope of your testimony or just how its received by the public

engstudentThis 140 character limit is killing me!

milesobrien@engstudent both i think

engstudent@milesobrien If NASA could show incremental milestones in S.E.(space exploration)

engstudent@milesobrien I think this would help the most with keeping the publics short space attention span + a major event every say 4 years can help

engstudent@milesobrien again best of luck tomorrow – ill stop spamming you now. CNN should never have to let you go.

milesobrien@engstudent not spam at all…thanks


Okay very breifly – hope he does well in futhering the cause of the next frontier.  No preasure

Filed under: Politics, Science, Space

DIRECTs AIAAs Houston section Interview

Ross Tierney answers questions and masterfully summarizes the STS derived DIRECT Alternative including what lead to the latest iteration, Plume-induced flow separation, PIFS which heats the base of any rocket accellerating thru the atmosphere.

Read the well illustrated AIAA Houston Horizons Summer 2009 Report :: Revisiting a DIRECT Approach here, it begins on page 8

Or Continue to the text bellow.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Politics, Science, Space

The Change We Need

This is taken directly from the premier issue of the Mars Society’s official journal, the Mars Quarterly.

The Change We Need

As the year 2008 moves toward its close, those of us concerned with the human future in space are faced with both a crisis and an opportunity. On the one hand, the situation appears to be dismal. The U.S. budget deficit is running at a record level of $500 billion this year, with all signs pointing toward an incredible trillion dollar red-ink blowout next year. Our new President, while not an outspoken opponent of the space program, has no track record of support for it either. So, if budgets need to be lashed, NASA – particularly the Bush administration’s Vision for Space Exploration – could easily end up on the block. This is all the more the case since NASA
unwisely chose to devolve the VSE from its original formulation as Moon-Mars-and beyond vision to a Moon only program, thereby depriving it of all popular support or scientific justification.

On the other hand, the displacement of the Bush crowd from policy making positions provides an opportunity to reformulate the space program into something much better than the Lunar dead-end that the VSE had become. Spending the next generation working on an “Apollo on geriatrics” return to the Moon would have been an enormous waste. Now we have a chance to escape that fate. During the election campaign, Barack Obama criticized the American space program, saying it was no longer inspiring people the way it had done in the 1960s. His point is well taken. But is the answer for an uninspiring space program cancellation, or transformation? Do we simply abandon the timid goal of a return to the Moon, or bravely embrace the challenge of humans to Mars?

Calling for the initiation of a bold space program in the face of current economic crisis may seem totally unrealistic, but the fact of the matter is that it is in the toughest of times that the greatest of deeds have been done. It was the Lincoln administration, faced with a rebellion that threatened to destroy the nation, that initiated the visionary project of building the transcontinental railroad. It was the Roosevelt administration, faced with a fascist onslaught to enslave humanity, which initiated the greatest scientific mobilization the world had ever seen. It was the Kennedy administration, faced with imminent threat of nuclear war, that launched us on our path to the Moon. With respect to the space program, the situation remains as it has for the past three decades. NASA needs a goal, and that goal should be humans to Mars. This is so, because Mars is where the science is, it is where the challenge is, and it is where the future is. But with respect to the nation, the issue has reached its critical moment.

We are faced with, as Obama has said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the fierce urgency of now.” Because now is the time when we decide whether we are going to rise to the occasion or not. Is the dream of an unbounded future going to live, or will it die, snuffed out by a defeatist acceptance of the age of limits?

“Do not go softly into that good night.”

It is in times of darkness that the torch needs to be lit. It is in times of fear that the flag needs to be raised. A humans to Mars program would help mobilize our economy, at a time when it needs to be mobilized, and inspire millions of youth to develop their minds. But it would do more than that. It would raise the flag, the flag of courage, and hope, and the pioneer spirit. It would say to the world, and to ourselves, that we will not accept defeat. That we remain a nation whose great deeds will continue to be celebrated in newspapers, and not just in museums. That we as a nation are not old, but young; that we are living not at the end of our history, but at its beginning. It would say, in no uncertain terms: “Yes we can.”

That’s the change we need.

Robert Zubrin is the President of the Mars Society.


Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Space, , , , , , , ,

Transparent Stimulation, check. Economic Crisis as distraction, check.

This website will detail the history and application of the recently signed into law, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

I’ve been waiting for some time now in a sort of “show me” mood since the election. Its my humble opinion that this is a step in the right direction. And regardless of the outcome of the political efforts to reach across the aisle and work with minority republicans, “bipartisanship”, it showed, I think, a degree of maturity I have not seen in a while. Even if they made dozens of concessions to please republicans including a large tilt towards a still unproven method of stimulus – 288 billion in tax relief – in exchange for a less than hand full of GOP votes, that is even if it didn’t work as well as democrats and the administration had hoped, it may have prevented the moral justification to fillibuster and prevented the bill from being signed within the first 3 weeks of the administration. The only tax relief I was looking for was an expanded tax credit for new home buyers since I plan on buying my first house this year, originally proposed to be 15000 was trimmed, or should I say HACKED, to 8000, it was previously 7500. But hey, I was going to buy a house weather or not there was a tax encentive for it. Not exactly proof of the ineffectiveness of tax relief but here we are. Its not going to be the deciding factor of people entering the market for a new, or thier first house.

Now if the administration can get to work on the housing and financial elements of the economic crisis while this stimulus act works to keep the ship above water, things should work out. I’m still waiting for the administration to name the new NASA chief and see how theyre going to change things in the space program. I hope – they have a look at the Mars Direct plan or derivatives of it to begin the manned exploration of the red planet and inspire a new generation of explorers, scientist and engineers as the Apollo program did. Its been said that for every dolar invested in the space program the economy gets 7 or 8 back, if thats not stimulus Ill eat this keyboard. Obama doesnt need to go far to ask his new Secretary of Energy about the benifits for investing more in science, basic research and an inspiring, ambitious space program.

Im currently reading “The Case for Mars” by Robert Zubrin. And I’m again simultaneously ashamed and delighted. Ashamed I have not picked up this book before – published in 1996 – it has changed a lot of how a Mission to Mars would be effectively formulated. And delighted at the simplicity and practical nature of the plan – the idea is, as I currently understand it, to go the way all exploration has been effectively done, by living off of the land and radically reducing the cost of the mission by engineering the solutions needed to utilize the Mars environment rather than shipping everything needed for the mission with you. Rocket fuel, water, essentially all of the raw materials required by a technologically advanced settlement is all there on the red planet just waiting to be used by those with the skills and knowledge needed to engineer the solutions.

From the Preface :: “The key to this plan is the mission’s ability to use Mars-native resources to make its return propellant and much of its consumables on the surface of the planet itself. It is the richness of Mars that makes the Red Planet not only desireable, but attainable.”

I highly recommend the book so far to anyone interested in space exploration.

Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Science, Space

Just how bad is the Economy

found these 2 graphs at the Swampland blog at TIME.

Scarry enough – lets just say its bad no matter how you look at it and a stimulus of some sort is required – preferrably a stimulus that works (:


Nancy Pelosy has interesting staticians

Nancy Pelosy has interesting staticians


TIME compares the last 6 reccessions, WRT percentage of job loss from the begining of the reccesion

TIME compares the last 6 reccessions, WRT percentage of job loss from the begining of the reccesion

Filed under: Economics, Politics

A beautiful day

It may not be possible to say it better than the way this song expresses it.

Filed under: Politics

CNN dumps science – scientist probably dumped CNN a while back.

CNN drops reporter Miles OBrien who I remember covering a few science segments and shuttle launches in a competent way.  He will be missed.  I bet CNN won’t miss my bump in thier neilsen ratings when I switch to other sources.

Filed under: Politics

A New President in the morning – not a dream – a reality in America

Appearently I was wrong about my early estimate – it would seem 538 was also wrong, in fact we were both wrong about the same state of Indiana swinging to McCain – they projected a 349 ev victory for Obama.  With this exception they called the election dead on and I will be going to thier site for analysis of future elections.  Although it hasn’t been called yet, North Carolina gave Obama a squeeker like Indiana – Missouri gave McCain a squeeker in that state according to this mornings tally – giving the final number of 364 – 174, or with that singular, still undecided electoral vote in eastern Nebraska 365 – 173.  Again, I thought Indiana was going to swing towards McCain, but it gave a solid blue north east to Obama.

Another interesting look at this is that 62,423,875 votes went for Obama and 55,368,713 votes for McCain giving Obama a win by over 7million votes or 6%.  117million voters turned out on election day, according to current numbers this morning. 

But enough about the numbers – Americans turned out because as McCain acknowledged, Obama inspired millions to participate in our democratic process with a hopeful, intelligent message.  And for the first time since I’ve been paying attention America choose wisely.  A campaign reveals a lot about the character of the candidates, Obama stuck with his message of hope and refused to engage in the character attacks, and fear mongering that defines old-school politics.  McCain – not so much – he promised not to, in his own words, “take the low road to the highest office.”  Last minute robo calls here in Miami targeted the irrational fears of Cuban Americans and of Latin-American by saying Fidel Castro endrosed Obama, and that Obama would remake America into a Communist, Socialist state.  The sad point is that thru the tone of McCains late campaign and the emails and flyiers being circulated by them here, he already had the fearful-irrational vote.  To attempt to expand it in the last 24 hours was not constructive and smacked of desperation.  In the north-east – different strokes for different folks – McCain saturated the airwaves with the hacked up sound bites of Rev. Wright the controversial polmec for the Church Obama attended, and once revealed rejected.  Old news and disappointing to say the least.

I’m glad the vast majority choose to vote with thier head on, and vote with thier imagination and higher ideals – rather than succumb to thier fears to ellect another mediocre leader who can’t even hold true to his own word before even getting into the office – I’d hate to imagine what kind of leader McCain would’ve been if he had won.

The President Elect’s Speech

Before the speech – Obama thanked his supporters and volunteers in an email:

I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.
We just made history.

And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.
I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.
We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing…
All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,

Filed under: Politics

Its Over : Obama is our next President.

MSNBC called Ohio for Obama before 930pm EST – with Pennsyvania and new Mexico McCain has virtually no chance of geting to 270 EV.   And at this point as the vote continues to be counted – Florida, Virginia and North Carolina are very likely to be called soon for Obama.  If Colorado and Nevada go to Obama as expected that will mean a 353 to 185 Electoral vote victory.

Goodnight and enjoy everybody.  Its over.

Filed under: Politics



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