Drunk Astronauts

Apparently getting loaded is an occasional remedy to space sickness by some:
A panel reviewing astronaut health issues in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest has found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk.

Of course what this story does is it blasts a big gaping hole into the crowd that has been saying for years that "regular people can't go into space... People aren't fit enough! NASA wouldn't have the screening process it has for nothing."

I've always suspected that line of argument is bogus. NASA's astronaut selection process has always seemed to me to based on somewhat arbitrary requirements that seem to serve more the cause of filtering people out than in finding the most qualified candidates. A full 1,000 people apply to be astronauts every year. They're lucky if one of them joins the Astronaut Corps.

If NASA is willing to put drunks on the shuttle it makes you wonder whether there are a lot more of that 1,000 that could really have been strapped to the side of rocket just as well as anyone else.

A Horrible Day In Mojave

This is disastrous:
(AP) MOJAVE, Calif. An explosion on Thursday killed two workers and critically injured four others at a Mojave Desert airport site used by the pioneering aerospace company that sent the first private manned rocket into space, authorities said.

The blast at a Mojave Air and Space Port facility belonging to Scaled Composites LLC released nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, into the air. Haz-Mat teams were on the scene as a precaution and fire authorities said the scene was safe. All the victims worked for Scaled, the Mojave-based builder of SpaceShipOne, the first private manned rocket to reach space.

I'm sure the folks at Scaled are going through shell shock right now. And by the sounds of it most of all company owner Burt Rutan.

No one at Scaled needed this. Anyone that would dare suggest that the company as a whole or Rutan himself was somehow intentionally negligent in terms of safety isn't being fair. This blast will no doubt halt the development of Space Ship Two for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and lead to countless losses by Scaled in increased costs.

That's the shear economics of this type of tragedy - so no one better think that somehow it was intentionally willed by anyone at Mojave.
"We were doing a test we believe was safe. We don't know why it exploded. We just don't know..."

And that's the kicker here: no one knows anything. There are no technical details to hash out as far as I can see. All we can do is sit and wait until Scaled investigates just went wrong.

My sincerest condolences go out to the families of the victims - probably people that were ultimately committed to Burt Rutan's vision of space travel for everyone. Today they just gave their lives for that vision - Let's hope they are the last for a long while.

The Highway to Slavery

Is paved in government meddling:
President Mugabe said the government had been forced to intervene with price controls last month after an "astronomical" rise in the price of basic goods, and would remain committed to them to try and stabilise the economy.

Inflation is approaching 5,000% and shops in Zimbabwe are running out of the most basic commodities.

"Our economy continues to face challenges arising from the illegal sanctions imposed by our enemies," he told MPs.

All this had led to shortages of foreign currency, as well as erratic energy supplies, he said.

Mugabe's political cannonballs are well shot. Because of western dependence on sanctions as a means of diplomacy Mugabe has been given a political beating stick to which he can mightily hammer against the rest of the world.

In reality the bad situation in Zimbabwe is partly Mugabe's fault, and partly the west's.

The west's embargo has no doubt led to shortages of supply of basic goods inside the country rising prices and inflation. Mugabe's land reforms on the other hand have done much worse. It has destroyed the right to property in the country shaking confidence in people's basic right to own and live on their own property. The wealthiest land owners have fled the country taking their knowledge, experience, and strength with them.

And now Mugabe comes along with price controls. If there weren't already shortages in Zimbabwe they'll be ones now that's for sure. Instead of dealing with the fact that their isn't just enough "stuff" for everyone, they want to set fixed prices. Bully for them. Now instead of prices controlling demand nothing will.
The proposed empowerment bill stipulates that no company restructuring, merger or acquisition can be approved unless 51% of the firm goes to indigenous Zimbabweans.

It says "indigenous Zimbabwean" is anyone disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on race grounds before independence in 1980.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), says that Zimbabweans have become wary about nationalisation.

"Zanu-PF took 11m hectares of land from members of the white community, but what did they do with it?

"They distributed it among themselves, so the land reform programme became a vehicle for personal aggrandisement. So everyone in Zimbabwe is sceptical," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

And as with all state interventions into the economy promising large benefits to all - it really means large benefits to the ruling powers friends and relatives.

It's time for the rest of the world to admit it: sanctions don't work. They didn't work in Iraq, they won't work in Iran and surely not the Zimbabwe.

Space Inflation and Billionaire Jaunts

Space tourism company Space Adventures Inc is having some inflation problems of late:
Each person spent roughly $20 million to $25 million for their multi-day stay at the ISS, flown to the orbital outpost and returned to Earth by a three-seat Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

But the days of prices that low are over, Anderson said in a July 15 telephone interview with Space News.

"Actually, it's $30 million now. For the next couple of seats, that's the price," Anderson said. That cost hike, among several factors, is due to the falling dollar - the ruble has appreciated some 50 percent against the dollar, he said. Another factor is simply the overall cost of inflation, he said.

"It is still the most economical and reliable, safest way to get to orbit," Anderson said of the venerable Soyuz.

The question is for how long? Just how long will it take before there are competitors in the space tourism marketplace?

It's obvious despite the doom and gloom of some that there is a real and true market for space tourism. Space Adventures even sees future 100 million dollar lunar jaunts for billionaires.

But before those scrupulous willy nillies out there go nuts at the suggestion that Billionaires actually spend their hard earned money on ridiculous adventures that are nothing but gluttonous indulgences I would ask them to consider that those billionaires may have ulterior motives:
"Coupled with the physical thrill is the sense that you are in some way pioneering ... you are committing yourself to a frontier, a commercial one, where your journey can make a difference and make more ambitious trips possible for future passengers. Out of such an industry should come more economical ways of getting cargo and astronauts to orbit for serious exploring, out beyond low Earth orbit. Even with the risks, it is win-win," Jones told Space News via e-mail.

And that's my guess about why many of those millionaires and billionaires are really forking off so much money: space pioneering.

Think about it, why would they be willing to give up so much of their money? This isn't an investment, it's an expense. There's no way to recoup these costs. And many of these yokels are probably committing a good chunk of their total worth to this industry.

Most of these guys that have gone up so far were space nerds as kids, and I bet most of them see this not just as a chance to fulfill a long held dream, but as a chance to help progress humanity to the point where everyone can afford one of these trips.

And as to why is it important that humanity get to the point where we're a space faring species? Two reasons: we can't have all our egss in one basket, and without challenges humanity has a way of turning inwards and destroying itself.

The miracle of testing before the problem...

I wonder if the Air Force apologized to Lockheed Martin for initially blaming this failure on them:
A hydrogen propellant valve in the Pratt & Whitney RL10 Centaur upper-stage engine caused the placement of two classified National Reconnaissance Office ocean surveillance spacecraft into the wrong orbit after launch from Cape Canaveral June 15, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., now says.

Testing of the valve is ongoing as I write this.

My immediate question is why wasn't this testing done ahead of time?

Calling all Statist Religious Conservatives...

The next time you want to give Christian Libertarians such as myself a hard time for actually daring to believe in the Free Market Economy I suggest you watch the "Call of the Entrepreneur":
The movie's message is that entrepreneurs are creators of wealth, Wall Street financiers are enablers of economic progress, and the villains of the world are people like the Communist leaders in China and American religious leaders who rail against capitalism.

I've already pre-ordered a copy.

Death and Taxes...

Giving the state the power to kill someone seems to be a no-brainer to the Pope:
ATLANTA (AP) - Citing a parade of witnesses who have since recanted, the Vatican joined supporters of a condemned and urged Georgia's governor to commute his sentence.

Troy Anthony Davis had been scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the shooting death of an off-duty police officer, but he received a 90-day stay from the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The letter to Gov. Sonny Purdue from the Vatican Embassy in Washington arrived Monday, the same day the stay was granted.

``In the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I am respectfully asking you to commute Troy's sentence to life in prison without parole,'' wrote Monsignor Martin Krebs, the office's charge d'affaires.

The Pope's intervention in this case is fairly significant. When it comes to the death penalty the Catholic Church teaches not that there isn't a moral justification for the death penalty that is valid, rather that one doesn't exist at the present time.

For the Church the use of force is justified in self defense. And in history the use of the death penalty may have been the only way to prevent a violent person from continuing to be violent.

In today's day and age throwing someone away in prison and locking away the key is a reasonable proposition. So the justification of self-defense becomes pretty lame. The last time I checked there wasn't an epidemic of prisoners escaping prisons, so the argument in favor of capital punishment effectively becomes mute.

Besides the church's position there is one more reason to oppose the death penalty: giving the state the right to decide who will live and who will die should be terrifying to everyone.

I don't trust the Dalton McGuinty's of the world to make those decisions one ayota.

Ron Paul Dreams...

I'll admit it: I'm a Ron Paul fan. I don't agree with him on every point - NAFTA for one - but he's quite the consistent principled Congressman from Texas.

Regardless of what you think of him, this you tube video has to be the best I've seen for a while...

The rest of the Republican candidates for President that are probably more likely to win this Presidential contest from hell would do best to take note of just how successful Ron Paul is on the internet and why.

Drumpdrops in the vacuum...

Harper's decided to exert Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic. It's aboot stinkin' time.
"Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty in the Arctic; either we use it or we lose it...And make no mistake this government intends to use it. Because Canada's Arctic is central to our identity as a northern nation. It is part of our history and it represents the tremendous potential of our future."

It's also a basic function of the state to defend Canadian terrority against would be aggressors. The former Liberal government's obsession with ignoring foreign ships laying claim to Canadian territory was puzzling to say the least.

It was an embarrassment for the this great country to say the least. One that former Liberal MP Bill Graham tried to rectify in all honesty.

BC's "Liberal" government has posted a record surplus. Just goes to show what happens when you cut taxes, reduce the size of government and get the government out of our lives. At least that was what marked his first term in office that laid the groundwork down for this record surplus.

That is noteworthy since his second term in office has been more characterized by government expansion and meddling:
"In 2006, the budget planned for debt to grow by $1.7 billion to help finance public building projects..."

BC went into debt to fund public projects? Somehow I doubt that money was well spent - it hardly ever is. And with the push to spend government pork on the 2010 Olympics somehow I think it'll only get worse.