Saturday, February 13, 2010

Skepticality with Dr. Phil Plait.

I don't want to paint . . . 

Phil Plait was the guest on Skepticality.  Swoopy seemed to be on her own this episode.  Plait spoke about many things including his decision to leave the JREF, what it means to be a skeptic, the apparent recent good news in the battle against the anti-vaccination movement, and in particular interest to me about the President's proposal about the future of N.A.S.A.  I have rather mixed feeling about the President's plan.  The President is proposing canceling the Constellation Program which is to return return men to the moon around 2020, and be used as a platform to travel to Mars and near Earth orbit asteroid.  This program, which is running behind schedule and over budget, is slated to begin operations in four or so years.  Therefore, with the retiring of the shuttle fleet at the end of this year, the U.S. will have to hitch a ride to space with the Russians to get to the International Space Station.  The President's proposal would end the Constellation Program including its Ares rocket program and the Orion manned vehicle.  Instead, the Administration proposes to increase spending for science/robotic probes, advanced engineering projects, and spend money on private sector ventures to get men into space.

I do not pretend to have the right answer, but I have concerns about the President's plan.  The good stuff is that I am all for more money for more and better robotic exploration.  The more things we have probing Mars and observing the Universe, the happier I am.  I am enthralled with the idea of ultra-cool new rocket technology.  My issue is killing Constellation.  On the one hand, I am still upset that I cannot book a flight to the moon on PanAm ala 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I am all for private sector growth in space.  My concern is that currently there is not a clear private sector company that can take up the task.  There is SpaceX with their Falcon series of rockets and Dragon manned vehicle.  They are very optimistic about their prospects, but they need to be to encourage investment.  If the private sector was more along the line and more proven, then I would be all for handing it off.  However, to place your bets in this regard for the future of the country's manned flight and probable heavy lift is quite a gamble with the nation's future space legacy.

I would have preferred seeing the President flying down to Houston, Alabama, Florida, and driving to Goddard to take names and kick some ass to get Constellation back on track.  At least N.A.S.A. would have some consistency which it has not had since the late 60's and maybe early 70's.  This could just be another tack on the wondering ship of N.A.S.A. only to change again in three or seven years when the next administration takes office.  Plait lamented that since Obama's plan will have to run the Congressional gauntlet it may not see the light of day, and just be a big watered down mess.  I agree.  I would prefer either the new plan is either pushed with full vigor, or Congress completely blocks it and sends down Representative so and so, and Senator so and so to Texas, Florida, etc. to kick some ass and take some numbers to get things back on track and then fund the damn thing.  I am all for compromise when it makes sense, but you cannot build half a rocket, or expect any organization, governmental or not, to get anything accomplished when the bigger picture plan changes every four to eight years.

I hope I am wrong.  I hope in six years I am writing what a dope I was to question the President's new plan of action for the United State's space program, and that the U.S. is back in the manned space game.  I am not holding my breath.

Enough procrastinating, time to paint some more. sigh.


Finished painting for the day.  Painting blows.  When are the robot helpers coming to the rescue?

Just starting listening to the SGU with special guest Rogue Brian Dunning.  I am stunned.  (I am quite serious.)  I am stunned that Dunning did not keep his references for his initial Skeptoid episodes.  Maybe I am just a anal, but as a skeptic who values the evidence why wouldn't you not want to keep your notes?  Nobody is perfect.  We have all made d'oh mistakes.  The show started in 2006, when mass media storage was cheap, and lots of notes took up little room on a hard drive.  I thought he was going to say how there was a fire, or divorce, or his drive was fried by lightening.  Instead, he deleted it all to save memory.  We're not talking my Mac Classic SE or whatever it was called in 1990 with 40 whole megabytes of storage.  It was 2006.  If I was not a listener to the Conspiracy Skeptic, I would wonder if Dunning was a woo mole.  His Skeptoid research is good.  Almost too good you might say, and you skeptical sheeple just don't see his obvious mistakes (to me) that a woo following just would make -not keeping his notes.  Yes.  It is all very clear.
(I kid.)


  1. I was kind of glad I listened to this show. The Constellation program excited me and when I heard Obama killed it I was like "WTF?" It left me shoe gazing for a few days. Phil's take made me feel a bit better. I don't like that the space program has to go back to the drawing board for manned space flight. But, meh, maybe something good will come of it. Maybe I was just lulled by Phil's ever present exuberance.

    But then I'm not a citizen. Just a lowly Canadian looking from down up here ways. Of course if Lady Whitehall has a nice friend into Canadian dorks, well, I'd not say no.

  2. I hope Plait's optimsim is well placed, but I have my doubts.

    Canada gave us the Canada Arm and Canada Arm 2 for the shuttle and ISS. We are all in this together.


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