Saturday, August 30, 2008


Pray for New Orleans. She has strengthened into a category 4 storm and has yet to go over Cuba proper. The Radar image above is taken from the Cuban Institute of Meteorology. and was accurate as of 1600 Eastern Time US.

The image below is from Key West ans is approximately the same time. There is a very well defined eye which is indicative of strength. She is expected to make landfall sometime Tuesday.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Space Station Access News

US-Russia chill threatens NASA space program

by Jean-Louis SantiniSun Aug 24, 3:01 PM ET

The chill left on US-Russian relations by Moscow's military incursion into Georgia could spell problems for future US access to the International Space Station, US experts said.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will become dependent on flights to the ISS by Russia's Soyuz spacecraft when it retires the shuttle fleet that has long ferried US astronauts into space in 2010.

NASA will only get its successor space vehicle, Orion, planned for a revival of trips to the moon, ready for flight in 2015 at the earliest.

That leaves the needs of US astronauts visiting the ISS vulnerable to the possibility of a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow after Russia's powerful military overran much of Georgia two weeks ago in the dispute over South Ossetia.

"If recent Russian actions are any indicator, a technical excuse to completely block US access to the ISS for geopolitical reasons would fit nicely into the Kremlin toolkit," Vincent Sabathier, an expert on human space exploration at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told AFP.

Sabathier noted that not only was the short Georgia war a serious thorn in relations, but also the US determination to set up in Poland and the Czech Republic its missile defense system, which Russia calls a threat to its military.

"Almost immediately after the Czech Republic signed an agreement with the US to place missile defense tracking radar in its territory, oil supplies through the Druzhba pipeline to the central European country were reduced to a trickle... ostensibly for technical reasons," Sabathier said.

The end of the three-decade-old shuttle program leaves NASA with at least a five-year hole on which it will have to pay Russia's space agency to deliver and retrieve US astronauts and cargo to the ISS.

That depends as well on the US Congress voting an exemption to a 2000 law that bans US government agencies from opening contracts with countries like Russia that are considered aiding Iran and North Korea, which the US has labelled supporters of terrorism.

Even before the Georgia fighting erupted on August 8 there was opposition in the Congress to such an exemption, and now that has likely increased, according to Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

"In an election year, it was going to be very difficult to get that waiver to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to an increasingly aggressive Russia," Nelson said.

"Now, I'd say it's almost impossible."

Nelson, who supports allowing NASA to contract the Soyuz, said that without the exemption the US could find itself in 2011 with no access to the 100-billion-dollar space station -- largely paid for by the United States.

Because the ISS needs someone aboard all the time to keep it going, the situation, Nelson said, would mean leaving the station to "degrade and burn up on rentry, or with us ceding it to those who can get there."

NASA's chief Michael Griffin told AFP just days before the Georgia conflict erupted that it was a "great concern" that something could happen to make Soyuz unavailable.

"If anything at all in that five years period goes wrong with the Russian Soyuz, then we have no system to access the space station."

But after the Russia invasion of Georgia, NASA downplayed the political risk, saying it has a long history of cooperation with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Goergia on my mind, or Great Minds Think Alike

I have recently blogged about the relationship between the tensions in Georgia and the access to the International Space Station. NPR the past few days has featured several stories that have highlighted this tension and it appears that Great Minds Think Alike. Apparently I am not the only one worried about this problem and probably not the last.

Aparently this comes at an interesting time for us. Every so often the Congress must certify a waver of the law which requires non-cooperation with nations that supply Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles to so-called "rouge nations." Russia must recieve a waver in order for the United States to participate and use the Soyuz to access the ISS. The waver comes up for consideration on September 30.

We can make a statement now and know what we need to do in order to either accelerate the Constellation program, legenthen or retain the Space Shuttle in service, or exercise both options.

The other option that might be considered is cooperation with the European Space Agency in their CSTS. The timing may be fortutious since the Europeans are considering finalizing their proposal in a conference later this year. Things are comming to fruition and we may either solve this problem or retain the status quo and continue the threat that I forsee with access to the ISS.

I will include here the transcripts of the NPR reports and the links to access them.

Tensions With Russia May Hurt NASA Program

All Things Considered, August 15, 2008 · The ongoing conflict between Russia and Georgia, and the strain this has put on relations between the United States and Russia, could have implications for whether or not American astronauts get to travel in space after NASA ends its space shuttle program.

NASA is planning to mothball the aging space shuttle in 2010. The agency is working on a replacement spacecraft, called Orion, which will be able to travel to the international space station and also the moon. That won't be ready until around 2015, however.

NASA was planning to fill that gap in American space travel by sending its astronauts up to the orbiting station on the Russian space agency's Soyuz spacecraft. Now, some members of Congress are worried that NASA isn't going to get the political support the agency needs to do that.

"The challenge we have is that for approximately five years, the plan — which is a very bad plan but is the only plan that NASA and the administration and Congress have approved — is to be dependent on the Russian Soyuz vehicle to get people to and from the international space station," says Tom Feeney, a Republican congressman from Florida, which is home to the shuttle. "And so now, with the political realities with Russia invading Georgia, we have a new wrinkle thrown in."

The wrinkle is that NASA needs Congress to act soon if the agency is going to be able to buy flights to the station after 2011. That's because Russia needs three years of lead time to build new space capsules. And to make a contract with the Russians, NASA needs a special waiver from Congress.

"The waiver is required because under U.S. law, any country that provides weapons or nuclear capabilities to countries like Iran, North Korea and Syria, is prohibited from getting American technology or entering into any contract for American technology," Feeney says. "It would be illegal for NASA, unless [it] had a waiver, to actually contract to use the Soyuz to get to and from the space station."

Feeney says the House of Representatives was in favor of granting NASA a limited waiver, "but that was before the hostilities in Georgia. My guess is that in the Senate, the attitude is going to be much less friendly toward cooperation with the Russians."

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who spent nearly a week orbiting the Earth on space shuttle Columbia in 1986, says it wasn't easy to previously get support for the waiver. Now, it's even more difficult.

"With the aggressiveness of Russia in Georgia, I think it's dead on arrival," he says. "This tension with the newly energized and resurgent Russia, being run by a man that fancies himself as the czar of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is now going to cause a very serious problem in our American space program."

But NASA spokesman Michael Braukus doesn't seem so concerned. He notes that NASA and Russia's space agency have a long history of successful cooperation.

"We feel that while it's possible that government-to-government issues could have an impact on our relationship, we haven't really picked up any word or any feedback from the Hill that that's what will happen," Braukus says.

He says they won't know for sure until Congress returns to session.

Even if Congress didn't want to let NASA buy more flights from Russia, there's no easy "Plan B." The government could extend the life of the aging space shuttle. But continuing to fly the shuttle, while also building its replacement, would be very expensive.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), head of the House Committee on Science and Technology, said in a written statement that "the administration's lack of contingency planning and its 'penny-wise, pound foolish' budgeting for NASA have put the nation in the position where we don't really have a good alternative to depending on Russia for the next seven years, unless the nation is prepared to start providing significant additional funding to NASA."

He said Russia had proved to be a reliable partner in the aftermath of the space shuttle Columbia disaster, when NASA had to ground shuttle flights during the investigation. He said that "barring a major rupture in the U.S.-Russian relationship across the board," he did not see why space cooperation could not be maintained.

Europe Considers Joining Space-Faring Nations

Morning Edition, August 19, 2008 · Europe's space agency reached two milestones earlier this year. A European-built lab was installed at the International Space Station. Europe launched a robotic cargo vehicle that successfully docked with the station. The European Space Agency will be building more of those automated delivery trucks. And it's also thinking about converting the cargo vehicle into a crew vehicle that could take astronauts into orbit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Soviet roots to the Georgan conflict - from the BBC World Service

Soviet roots to Georgian conflict

Diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall traces the fault lines in the current Georgian conflict back to the Soviet era and finds some ominous echoes of the Cold War.

Russian soldier in South Ossetia
There have been ominous signs of score settling between Russia and Georgia

My first visit to Georgia was in 1977. I was staying with an old lady, the widow of a rather famous Russian artist called Vassily Shukhaev¸ who spent 10 years in exile in Siberia under Stalin.

She came to live in balmy Georgia because, she told me, "I've seen enough snow in my life. I never want to be cold again."

Tbilisi then was chaotic, ramshackle and delightfully wayward after the stifling torpor of Brezhnev's Soviet Russia.

Georgians, to my amazement, blithely referred to "the Soviet Union" as another country, somewhere in the north over the mountains, distancing themselves from it psychologically.

With the Soviet lid still firmly on, if there were resentments, they simmered beneath the surface. It was a long way off yet from the burning knotted frustrations which ignited this latest violent conflagration.

But this is not a eulogy for Soviet times and its duplicitous Cold War slogan, that hailed "Friendship of Nations."

Soviet legacy

Far from it. Because it is in part the legacy of the Soviet Union - that network of autonomous regions and republics still peppering the landscape, which engendered the so-called frozen conflicts.

Like so many Soviet concepts, the idea of autonomous regions, inside the 15 main republics that made up the USSR, was both laudable and devious.


In theory, it gave smaller ethnic groups some autonomy, a structure within which to nurture culture, language and history.

And in the Caucasus especially, each language and culture, whether Abkhazian, Georgian, Ossetian or any of dozens more, should be a jewel to be treasured and protected, especially in our inter-connected world, where bland homogeneity threatens to wash over all of us.

'Moscow's safety net'

But in the Soviet era, the Kremlin's patronage of smaller ethnic minorities was not only about protecting difference.

It was also a deliberate ruse and a political safety net, so elites in these autonomous regions could be encouraged, when needed, to play the part of a Trojan horse, a loyal legion to curb the ambitions of any upstart republic, by ensuring disobedience to Moscow was challenged from within.

This is, of course, what happened when the Soviet Union fell apart. Independent Georgia found that its two enclaves on Russia's border were resisting the new order.

South Ossetia wanted to retain close links with North Ossetia on the Russian side.

Abkhazia feared losing its identity altogether if Georgia's first president made good his threat of delivering a, "Georgia for Georgians."

Even more alarming is the dangerous international fault line opening up

Plenty of blame has been thrown around in the last week, both contemporary and historical.

One of the tragedies of this conflict is that there are now two opposing accounts of what happened - one Ossetian, backed by Russia - one Georgian, backed by many Western countries.

Two contradictory views of events that divide not just political leaders, but ordinary people - the Orwellian inversion inherent in that old Soviet claim of Friendship of Nations finally stripped of its cloaking.

Galloping crisis

But even more alarming is the dangerous international fault line opening up. Only one week on, and this is no longer about Trojan horses and tiny frozen conflicts. The crisis is galloping full tilt towards a wider battle.

Husband and wife in Gori during Russian attack
There are two opposing accounts of what happened in South Ossetia

Already Russia and the West are at loggerheads over the real reasons for this latest violence and where it might be heading.

Russia insists it moved into South Ossetia to respond to a humanitarian crisis.

This is what any civilised country does, say its spokesmen, like Nato attacking Serbia to protect Kosovo refugees in 1999, or the US after 11 September, retaliating for a murderous attack on its citizens.

The United States is now openly accusing Russia of a blatant land grab to punish Georgia for daring to try to join Nato and integrate with the West, to reclaim the Caucasus as its sphere of influence, and to send a veiled threat to other former Soviet client states .

And what is interesting about that, is that it reveals the US too sees this as a battle for geostrategic power, and is marshalling its diplomatic defences.

Already Poland has rushed to conclude negotiations with the US over the controversial missile defence shield Russia had protested so vigorously about.

Ukraine's defiance

Ukraine's President Yushchenko, another Nato aspirant, has sent early defiant signals, that if the Kremlin hopes to intimidate him too, it is not working.

His shot across the bows was to warn Russia its Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol in the Crimea sits in harbour on Ukrainian soil. He has provocatively demanded Russia give notice before vessels leave port.

But Putin's government has already in recent months made noises about the desirability of the Crimea, with its vociferous pro-Russian population, being Russian territory, despite Stalin's gifting it to Kiev.

Ukraine could be the next battleground.

And if it goes on like this a wider East-West split looks inevitable.

Not a return to the Cold War, but it could mark a chilling end to the post Cold War era of collaboration.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

'We are all Georgians?' Not so fast

This is an intereating article taken from the Washington Post. I think it provides a good overview of the conflict in Georgia and what has happend there in recent weeks. Not all sides are innocent in this war and there are some forces at work who seek to have the US get involved in this. There are many reasons and history is one of them why we shouldn't be involved there. However, there are many reasons why we should and energy access is among them.

We are entering into an era where wars will be started to secure access to increasingly scarce resources. These wars will be increasingly bloody and very far away. The energy and resource companies will increasingly see governments as their proxies for acces to wealth and their military forces as their private armies.

Eventually we may see, as has been shown in Iraq in a limited extent, the rise of the robust, well-equipped, private military force. These military forces may act directly on behaf of the companies they are hired to project for for. They will be anserable to no one and be under the control of no government. This has happend before with the British East India Company and will probably happen in the future. However, the British East India Company at least had the British Crown to answer to. Their more contemporary private counterparts will in all likelihood have none.

'We Are All Georgians'? Not So Fast.

By Michael Dobbs
Sunday, August 17, 2008; B01

It didn't take long for the "Putin is Hitler" analogies to start following the eruption of the ugly little war between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia. Neoconservative commentator Robert Kagan compared the Russian attack on Georgia with the Nazi grab of the Sudetenland in 1938. President Jimmy Carter's former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said that the Russian leader was following a course "horrifyingly similar to that taken by Stalin and Hitler in the 1930s."

Others invoked the infamous Brezhnev doctrine, under which Soviet leaders claimed the right to intervene militarily in Eastern Europe in order to prop up their crumbling imperium. "We've seen this movie before, in Prague and Budapest," said John McCain, referring to the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Hungary in 1956. According to the Republican presidential candidate,"today we are all Georgians."

Actually, the events of the past week in Georgia have little in common with either Hitler's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II or Soviet policies in Eastern Europe. They are better understood against the backdrop of the complica ted ethnic politics of the Caucasus, a part of the world where historical grudges run deep and oppressed can become oppressors in the bat of an eye.

Unlike most of the armchair generals now posing as experts on the Caucasus, I have actually visited Tskhinvali, a sleepy provincial town in the shadow of the mountains that rise along Russia's southern border. I was there in March 1991, shortly after the city was occupied by Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades. One of Gamsakhurdia's first acts as Georgian president was to cancel the political autonomy that the Stalinist constitution had granted the republic's 90,000-strong Ossetian minority.

After negotiating safe passage with Soviet interior ministry troops who had stationed themselves between the Georgians and the Ossetians, I discovered that the town had been ransacked by Gamsakhurdia's militia. The Georgians had trashed the Ossetian national theater, decapitated the statue of an Ossetian poet and pulled down monuments to Ossetians who had fought with Soviet troops in World War II. The Ossetians were responding in kind, firing on Georgian villages and forcing Georgian residents of Tskhinvali to flee their homes.

It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. "We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism," an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev, told me then. "It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time."

When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there's plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States may have stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West's ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited.

Let us examine the role played by the three main parties.

Georgia. Saakashvili's image in the West, and particularly in the United States, is that of the great "democrat," the leader of the "Rose Revolution" who spearheaded a popular uprising against former American favorite Eduard Shevardnadze in November 2003. It is true that he has won two reasonably free elections, but he has also displayed some autocratic tendencies: He sent riot police to crush an opposition protest in Tbilisi last November and shuttered an opposition television station.

While the United States views Saakashvili as a pro-Western modernizer, a large part of his political appeal in Georgia has stemmed from his promise to reunify Georgia by bringing the secessionist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under central control. He has presented himself as the successor to the medieval Georgian king David the Builder and promised that the country will regain its lost territories by the time he leaves office, by one means or another. American commentators tend to overlook the fact that Georgian democracy is inextricably intertwined with Georgian nationalism.

The restoration of Georgia's traditional borders is an understandable goal for a Georgian leader, but it is a much lower priority for the West, particularly if it involves armed conflict with Russia. Based on their previous experience with Georgian rule, Ossetians and Abkhazians have perfectly valid reasons to oppose reunification with Georgia, even if it means throwing in their lot with the Russians.

It is unclear how the simmering tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia came to the boil this month. The Georgians say that they were provoked by the shelling of Georgian villages from Ossetian-controlled territory. While this may well be the case, the Georgian response was disproportionate. On the night of Aug. 7 and into Aug. 8, Saakashvili ordered an artillery barrage against Tskhinvali and sent an armored column to occupy the town. He apparently hoped that Western support would protect Georgia from major Russian retaliation, even though Russian "peacekeepers" were almost certainly killed or wounded in the Georgian assault.

It was a huge miscalculation. Russian Prime minister Vladimir Putin (and let there be no doubt that he is calling the shots in Moscow despite having handed over the presidency to his protege, Dmitri Medvedev) now had the ideal pretext for settling scores with the uppity Georgians. Rather than simply restoring the status quo ante, Russian troops moved into Georgia proper, cutting the main east-west highway at Gori and attacking various military bases.

Saakashvili's decision to gamble everything on a lightning grab for Tskhinvali brings to mind the comment of the 19th-century French statesman Talleyrand: "It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake."

Russia. Putin and Medvedev have defended their incursion into Georgia as motivated by a desire to stop the "genocide" of Ossetians by Georgians. It is difficult to take their moral outrage very seriously. There is a striking contrast between Russian support for the right of Ossetian self-determination in Georgia and the brutal suppression of Chechens who were trying to exercise that very same right within the boundaries of Russia.

Playing one ethnic group against another in the Caucasus has been standard Russian policy ever since czarist times. It is the ideal wedge issue for the Kremlin, particularly in the case of a state such as Georgia, which is made up of several different nationalities. It would be virtually impossible for South Ossetia to survive as an autonomous entity without Russian support. Putin's government has issued passports to Ossetians and secured the appointment of Russians to key positions in Tskhinvali.

The Russian incursion into Georgia proper has been even more "disproportionate" -- in President Bush's phrase -- than the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali. The Russians have made no secret of their wish to replace Saakashvili with a more compliant leader. Russian military targets included the Black Sea port of Poti -- more than 100 miles from South Ossetia.

The real goal of Kremlin strategy is to reassert Russian influence in a part of the world that has been regarded, by czars and commissars alike, as Russia's backyard. Russian leaders bitterly resented the eastward expansion of NATO to include Poland and the Baltic states -- with Ukraine and Georgia next on the list -- but were unable to do very much about it as long as America was strong and Russia was weak. Now the tables are turning for the first time since the collapse of communism in 1991, and Putin is seizing the moment.

If Putin is smart, he will refrain from occupying Georgia proper, a step that would further alarm the West and unite Georgians against Russia. A better tactic would be to wait for Georgians themselves to turn against Saakashvili. The precedent here is what happened to Gamsakhurdia, who was overthrown in January 1992 by the same militia forces he had sent into South Ossetia a year earlier.

The United States. The Bush administration has been sending mixed messages to its Georgian friends. U.S. officials insist that they did not give the green light to Saakashvili for his attack on South Ossetia. At the same time, however, the United States has championed NATO membership for Georgia, sent military advisers to bolster the Georgian army and demanded the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity. American support might well have emboldened Saakashvili as he was considering how to respond to the "provocations" from South Ossetia.

Now the United States has ended up in a situation in the Caucasus where the Georgian tail is wagging the NATO dog. We were unable to control Saakashvili or to lend him effective assistance when his country was invaded. One lesson is that we need to be very careful in extending NATO membership, or even the promise of membership, to countries that we have neither the will nor the ability to defend.

In the meantime, American leaders have paid little attention to Russian diplomatic concerns, both inside the former borders of the Soviet Union and farther abroad. The Bush administration unilaterally abrogated the 1972 anti-missile defense treaty and ignored Putin when he objected to Kosovo independence on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent. It is difficult to explain why Kosovo should have the right to unilaterally declare its independence from Serbia, while the same right should be denied to places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The bottom line is that the United States is overextended militarily, diplomatically and economically. Even hawks such as Vice President Cheney, who have been vociferously denouncing Putin's actions in Georgia, have no stomach for a military conflict with Moscow. The United States is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and needs Russian support in the coming trial of strength with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Instead of speaking softly and wielding a big stick, as Teddy Roosevelt recommended, the American policeman has been loudly lecturing the rest of the world while waving an increasingly unimpressive baton. The events of the past few days serve as a reminder that our ideological ambitions have greatly exceeded our military reach, particularly in areas such as the Caucasus, which is of only peripheral importance to the United States but of vital interest to Russia.

Michael Dobbs covered the collapse of the Soviet Union for The Washington Post. His latest book is "One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Life stuff......

Well, things aren't going so well in the neighborhoos kids. I tried to log on to my YouTube page the other night only to find that my account has been "disabled." For what reason I do not know. I received no warning notices, no e-mails - NOTHING! Now I have to wonder what I did that caused the offense that resulted in my banishment from YouTube. I am upset naturally, but then again, given the Viacom probmens of late I can understand them taking a hard line. Still, I should have had some warning. I would have gladly removed any offending videos. Anyway, that's all water over the dam. If any of you here have tried to access my site on YouTube, then you know what is going on.

The car situation is still trying to work itself out. I don't know what I am goign to do as it would take me winning the lottery to get my car fixed, let alone getting a new or used car to replace my car.

More updates later.

Georgia and the International Space Station - Part 2

Georgia and the International Space Station - Part 2

Some new information has come to my attention and this will change the dynamic somewhat. It turns out that our European partners already have a partner for access to the ISS in Russia. Under development are several joint projects between Europe and Russia including an upgraded Soyuz which will be launched from a new launch pad from the French spaceport in French Guiana. The new pad is scheduled to start operations in 2009.

For a time a joint project called Kliper was being developed which was a winged upper stage derived from the Soyuz. Klipper would be roughly equivalent of the NASA Orion/CEV. Kliper is in limbo at the moment as the Russians and Europeans develop a spacecraft called the CSTS which is a capsule-type spacecraft for the ATV. There are various proposals and counter-proposals which are very confusing but the gist of it is that Russia and Europe will eventually have a manned, jointly developed spacecraft in the near future, certainly before Orion if all goes well. Since the ATV is the basis for the European design, the only remaining element needing to be developed is the manned capsule. It already has a proven launch vehicle, so this places development way ahead of NASA and the Constellation program.

What this all means is that the US even more venerable to being cut off from access to space until Orion is online.

The scenario is thus - Europe is now dependent on oil and Natural Gas from Russia and those resources can be held hostage in exchange for freezing the US out of the ISS. The Europeans have no choice. Either they cooperate on Russian terms or they freeze and their industrial capacity grinds to a halt. Thus the Europeans will be placed in the position of freezing us out of our program, the one we invested the most money in. What the other partners in the ISS will do remains to be seen. Japan would probably not cooperate given their long standing disputes with Russia. Other countries might be either shut out or forced to capitulate to Russia to keep their activities on the ISS going. When Russia has the only operational spacecraft to access the space station, given the deteriorating political situation between our two countries, we will in all likelihood be shut out or be charged exhorbinant fees to use the Soyuz or Klipper to access the ISS.

This will force the US to have even more need to develop the Orion even while keeping the Shuttle operational. This may be an excellent opportunity to develop new launch capability for the US. One of the advantages of French Guiana for the Europeans is that the site is close to the Equator which, due to the boost a rocket gets from the faster rotation of the Earth at the Equator, makes it much more advantageous for space launches. Therefore, its necessary for the US to develop a similar capability and the prime Real Estate is one of three places; Guam, Hawaii or American Samoa. Thus, the US would have a launch capability which would make launching Geosynchronous satellites easier. Adding Orion, with its Ares unmanned and manned launch vehicles plus the present unmanned launch vehicles that the US already has in inventory would make the US more competitive in space access and increase the payload capabilities of the US systems. In this scenario, the US would not reuse the Shuttle launch facilities, but instead build an entirely new launch facility at one of the American locations mentioned. Thus the reuse of the shuttle pads would not be necessary with new ones being constructed elsewhere. This might be more expensive, but in the long run more beneficial to the space program.

Another alternative which would allow the use of the assembly infrastructure is to keep one Shuttle Pad, either 39A or 39B configured for the Shuttle and build a new pad for Ares at the site for the 39C pad that was originally supposed to built for Apollo. The new pad would be built for the Ares I and when it was operational, then the pads for the Shuttle could be reconstructed for Ares. Keeping one pad for the Shuttle will leave us able to bring the Shuttle back if necessary in a short amount of time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Georgia and the International Space Station.

With the Russian conflict in Georgia in the News something else has been left by the wayside and must be considered in the coming administration. Russia is our major partner in the International Space Station. Several bad things could happen if the Russians decide to use the ISS as a bargaining tool in international relations.

Russia is being counted on to be the SOLE supplier of flights to the International Space Station once the Shuttle is decommissioned in 2010. When the Shuttle is gone, there will be a 3-5 year period where only the Soyuz capsules will be able to fly to the ISS. One of three scenarios could happen.

One - the Russians cooperate fully and choose not to use access to the ISS as a pawn in international relations in order to project to the world that they are peaceable people only bent on cooperation in space. This shining example of cooperation serves to maintain the status quo in the ISS partnership.

Two - The Russians decline to cooperate and stop all Progress and Soyuz flights to the space station. 6 months later, baring an ESA ATV booster flight, the unmanned, $100 million Space Station runs out of maneuvering fuel and enters the atmosphere and tumbles to Earth in pieces. Another victim of the poor planning of the Bush Administration.

Three - The Russians use this opportunity to SEIZE control of the ISS and deny access to it by US or ESA personnel. The American crewman are removed and summarily booted out of Russia and all cooperation on the project is stopped. Meanwhile, the US is faced with a choice of allowing the de facto control to continue or doing something about it.

What needs to happen.

Well, we could do several things. One of which is to stop development of Orion/Constellation as a US proprietary system. Instead, we develop Orion as a cooperative program with the ESA with the manned Capsule as an element attached to the ESA ATV. This way, the spacecraft could perform both the access to the Space Station and resupply missions and further cooperation with our European partners. One future version of the ATV was a manned "Crew Transfer Vehicle" or CTV which would be attached to the front of the ATV. The Orion capsule could be that vehicle. Since it is already in advanced stages of design and development, we could get with our European partners to intergrate these programs and allow the US to have access to the Space Station in the interium period.

See the following for further information:

The other scenario will be that the shuttle program is kept in service beyond 2010 and continues to fly to the space station, so that we maintain acess to it. This will result in a delay in the Orion/Constellation program as they will need to construct propitary launch facilities rather than reuse the Shuttle facilities as originally proposed. The Orion/Constellation program continues, albeit at a slower pace. This will also require vast increases in funding for NASA as this will not be cheap.

Another sceneraio is a combination of the two. Continue the shuttle program while developing the manned Orion/ATV concept. Make the manned element of the space craft launched by the Ariane 5 rocket and continue the develop of the Ares V to launch the heavy cargo and Altair Lunar Module segments of the program. Intergrate our European partners into the program and make the whole thing an international program. The Russians and Chinese could also be asked to participate as well. Barring the Russian and Chinese cooperation, we would still have access to the ISS in this sceneraio

The more likely scenario is that we do nothing an allow another foolish escalation in a world that is already going mad by the day

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So why are the Russians in Georgia?

Now there are many Americans at this point wondering why President Bush and the world are concerned about events in Georgia. After all, there is no real reason the Russians should be invading Atlanta. Savannah is not blockaded, and refugees are not fleeing to Tallahassee. However, there is another Georgia on the other side of the world.

Located on the western shores of the Black Sea, Georgia used to be part of the old Soviet Union, Russia still considers Georgia a part of the country. They are thinking its inevitable that it gets reabsorbed into Russia proper. The South Ossetia dispute goes back to the disolution of the Soviet Union. South Ossetia contains a lot of ethnic Russians and the dispute was the subject of a UN mission. Unfortunately, the only way to get a consensus of the issue, which is the only way that disputes seem to get solved lately, resulted in the deployment of RUSSIAN peacekeepers in the disputed areas. There is another area around an old Soviet-era army depot in the Northwest of the country which is also part of this as well. Abkhazia is a separate, so-called "Autonomous Region" which Georgia has no control except for a small valley which has been overrun by Russians. The Russian forces have moved beyond the disputed areas and are threatening to cut Georgia in half and cut off its access to the sea.

The problem with this and the reason we need to be concerned is that Georgia is a major exporter of Oil and Natural Gas and its the access to that and the pipelines that carry it to the Black Sea from not only Georgian sources, but from Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Iran. Again, this is another war for oil and the access to it. Georgia is a major exporter of oil to Israel and there is a threat to those sources as well. Israel has major investments in Georgia.

Today, President Bush promised a major US commitment to the region for "humanitarian" reasons. Unfortunately, such missions can get tangled in hostilities, especially when tempers are high. This can end up being bad. I can only hope that wiser and cooler heads will prevail in whatever happens. But, history has shown that its usually not the case. An already overstretched US military may have to resort to the nuclear option in a conflict that should remain local and contained.

Unable to resist......

Well, I heard about this from a friend and thought I might post this here. The following items are actually up for bid on e-Bay Australia. For all those jilted ladies out there......


Once upon a time there was a women who, after 22 years of marriage, found evidence that the soon to be ex-husband, had had 'The Tart' in their marital bed this very afternoon. This low life deceitful son-of-a-person ( I'm all for political correctness) blatently denied that this event took place even though the evidence is irrefutable and is now up for auction on e-bay.

The first tiny warning bells started ringing around about the same time a text message was received by the wife stating 'Where are you darling, I'm waiting'. As the wife had left the soon to be ex-husband at home only a couple of hours earlier to go to work, she thought it somewhat strange getting a message of that ilk from him. After a while curiosity got the better of her and with some trepidation, she decided to go home after telling her boss she had an upset stomach, which was no lie. When she arrived home an hour or so later, everything seemed normal but she couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right. His car was parked in the drive-way where she had seen it earlier on and when she got inside, there he was infront of the T.V. watching a DVD as usual. She explained she wasn't feeling too well and said she was going to lie down for a while. His re-action to this was a bit odd to say the least. 'Why don't you lie down here on the couch for a while and I'll get you a cup of tea', he said. That was her first clue that something really was amiss here. Call him chauvinistic if you want and you would be right because this low-life had never made her a cup of tea in over 22 years of marriage.... so why offer now. Yep, you guessed it, he didn't want her going into the bedroom.... now why was that you may ask. She concluded later that 'The 'Tart' must have been in the process of getting her ass dressed and out of there pronto when she had unexpectedly arrived home. Of course she made a bee line for the bedroom then, with soon to be ex-hubby on her heels and apart from an unmistakable aroma of some cheap perfume resembling nail polish remover hanging in the air, nothing seemed to be different - except for one thing. Oh, you men, you will never understand why we have those, annoying to you though they may be, throw pillows and cushions on a bed and what they mean to us women. They are aesthetically important to our decor and when you see them piled up on a chair in a corner of the room, instead of on the bed where you arranged them a few hours ago, those tiny warning bells you heard earlier were now starting to sound like 'Big Ben'. Walking over to the bed, she started slowly taking it apart whilst the soon to be ex-husband stood in the doorway watching. Initially, when she first took the doona cover off, she was sure he just thought she was going to have a lie down but he was oh so very wrong. After the doona was deposited on the floor, she picked up her pillow, turned it over, checked under where it had been and then threw it on the floor. Then came his pillow, she picked it up and here was where she found the first of the two items up for auction - an empty condom packet. With forefinger and thumb, it was gently lifted from the bed and dangled in front of the soon to be ex-husband's nose. He had, by then, turned a lovely shade of red and you could see his mind was racing,... 'how the hell am I going to get out of this'. He then said the only inane thing he could come up with at the time which was, 'What's that?'. As a couple, they had not used condoms for many years, or at least she hadn't, but surely that didn't mean he could have forgotten what one looked like! For some reason, she continued to strip the bed and when the top sheet was removed the location of the 2nd item up for auction, 'The Tart's' knickers, were discovered at the foot of the bed.

Explanations were needed pronto and would you beleive it, he actually came up with some. They were all a pack of lies and instead of admitting it, apologizing and starting to grovel, this is what he came up with. 'I dropped my phone down the toilet, I didn't want to put my hands down there and I could't get it out with the toilet brush so I used a condom because I couldn't find any rubber gloves'. Well, well, well, that was thinking on your feet eh! She thought she had heard it all now but figured she would see how big a hole he really was keen to dig for himself so she then asked. ' When was that then and where did you get the condom from?'. He replied, 'It happened just after you left for work and I rummaged around and found one in the pocket of an old jacket in the wardrobe'. 'So how is your phone then, is it working?' she asked... 'No, it's stuffed', he replied. 'So how do you explain sending me a text message a couple of hours after I was at work then'. 'What message? It wasn't from me, my phone's not working', he replied but noticed he had gone a funny shade of green as it began to sink in that he had actually sent the text to her by mistake. 'What about these knickers then, what are they doing in our bed and whose are they', she asked thinking to herself, this will be good. She wasn't disappointed, as blatant as lies go, it was a classic. 'Sorry love, I've been meaning to tell you for years but I am a closet transvestite and they are mine'.

10 out of 10 for trying buddy but your out of here........ systematically his clothes were gathered up and thrown out the front door along with 'The 'Tart's' knickers which, after second thoughts, were scooped up and retrieved. YES, there really is a God for it started to rain then. Not just that fine rain which gets on your damn nerves but bucket loads of torrential rain which the soon to be ex-husband found himself standing in whilst calling the soon to be ex-missus all the names under the sun. He was gathering up his wet soggy clothes and the photo she had thrown at him of them outside the church on their wedding day (she thought that maybe a nice touch) when he screamed out for his car keys and wallet. Off she went to get them and with no hesitation, handed them over and told him to get lost in no uncertain terms then watched as he drove away. Dangling in her hand was the key she had slipped off his keyring, to the soon to be ex-husband's 'Harley Hog', his pride and joy - which brings me nicely to the next item that will probably be sold on Ebay at a start price of.99c and of course, with no reserve!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Today marks another sad aniversary as the 63rd aniversary of the Atomic bombing of Nagasaki Japan. Nagasaki was a target thanks to its shipyards and a large torpedo factory. However, it was not the original target of the "Fat Man" plutonium device. Kokura was the original target but was obscured by clouds. Nagasaki was alos obscured by clouds, but there was a sufficient break to drop the device which detonated almost 3 km northwest of the planned target. It did however, damage most of the industrial valley of Nagasaki.

Thanks to a raid earlier in the week where conventional device were used, most children of the city were evacuated. Unfortunately this did not include several groups of POW's and the enormous Christian population of Nagasaki.

Thanks to its status as an open port in the 1700's and 1800's, Japanese Christianity was allowed to only flourish in this area. In between massacres of Christians by various Japanese leaders, (due to the fact that Christianity was perceived to be a tool for western domination) there were churches constructed in Nagasaki, including the largest cathedral in the the Eastern Hemisphere. More Christians were killed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki than all the Japanese emperors ever accomplished.

Eight POWs were known to have died in the bombing. Fortune saved the remainder, working in coal mines deep underground emerging to find devestation.

Thirty-Two Hundred American citizens were also killed. Some were Japanese-American, others Caucasians trapped in the city during the war. Nagasaki's status as a open city also led it to have a large population of expatriate citizens. Large numbers of these populations were undoubtedly killed as a result of the bombing.

Nagasaki is really the forgotten bomb, the one they don't really talk about. However, all of what happened here is bad and should be remembered, lest we repeat the mistakes of that time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Praan - Palbasha Siddique

Bhulbona ar shohojete
Shei praan e mon uthbe mete
Mrittu majhe dhaka ache
je ontohin praan

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
(Repeat 2X)

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
dao more shei gaan

Shei jhor jeno shoi anonde
Chittobinar taare
Shotto-shundu dosh digonto
Nachao je jhonkare!

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
(Repeat 3X)

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
dao more shei gaan


The lyrics are based off a poem.
From Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore (sung by Palbasha Siddique).

“Stream of Life”

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Another Drive By Blog......

Thanks Heather for a nice way to put this.....

Anyway, I havne't been much of a visitor or even a drive by blogger for the past few days. LIfe is starting to get me down, but its times like these that show the kind of person you are. I tend to internalize but then again, I have not had a lot of time to do much.

First off, the inevatable has happened. The Victor/Victoria has reached the end of her useful life. She still runs, but the tags have come due and I need to get another vehicle. For what it would cost to fix her up, I could buy another car in similar condition so it behooves me to get another car.

Meanwhile the expired tags mean that I either a - drive a car with expired tags and risk getting pulled over by the cops (No thank you), or b - get a ride. I have chosen the latter with my brother suppling the wonderful vehicle.

Those of you who follow my blog may remember the blog a LONG time ago about the Neon I used to have. The Neon was sitting in my carport and should have been decommissioned but my brother, in his infinite wisdom and sense of love for the vehicle thought otherwise. So he fixed it up and it promptly broke down again, after which he fixed it.. to a certain extent. Anyway, since I have lengtherned an already long story, I shall trunkate it to say that this is the car I am stuck with. No Air conditioning on what has proven the hottest days of this year. A transmission shift that has to be operated by a magic combination that only works at the whim of the automobile.

The only problem with this arrangement is that since my brother's other car is down, he has to ride to work from me. This is good for him as it gets him to work early since I push him to get ready so I can get to sleep. It leaves me though, with two hours less to do the things I like to do with is play here and blog and comment or just read. So, my dear readers and online friends, I am sorry that I haven't been here as of late and I have no idea how long this arrangement will continue. It appears that with my bad credit, an automobile may be unobtainable in the near future so this promises to be a long month.

Anyway, friends, I hope to be back full time soon and I will try to visit tonight.

Now back to your regularally scheduled programe......

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Joys Of Boys............Girls can do some of this stuff too!

Today I discovered that I can reaccess my AOL mailbox and I discovered a treasure trove of jokes and other things. Among them was this that was sent to me by a friend in Ohio. This sounds like one of Z-Frogs blogs.....

The Joys Of Boys............Girls can do some of this stuff too!

The following came from an anonymous mother in Austin, Texas..

Things I've learned from my Boys (honest and not kidding):

1.) A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a

2000 sq.

4 inches deep.

2.) If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.

3.) A 3-year old Boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

4.) If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 ft. room.

5.) You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.

6.) The glass in windows (even double-pane)doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

7.) When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh", it's already too late.

8.) Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.

9.) A six-year old Boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a

36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.

10.) Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old Boy.

11.) Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.

12.) Super glue is forever.

13.) No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water.

14.) Pool filters do not like Jell-O.

15.) VCR's do not eject "PB &J" sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.

16.) Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

17.) Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.

18.) You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.

19.) Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not like ovens.

20.) The fire department in Austin, TX has a 5-minute response time.

21.) The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.

22.) It will, however, make cats dizzy.

23.) Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

24.) 80% of Men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid.

Women will pass this on to almost all of their friends, with or without kids.

a) For those with no children - this is totally hysterical!

b) For those who already have children past this age, this is hilarious.

c) For those who have children this age, this is not funny.

d) For those who have children nearing this age, this is a warning.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Facts about your Spaceport bartender.....

1. What is your occupation? Security Officer

2. What color are your socks right now? Black. I ONLY have black socks.

3. What are you listening to right now? Sibelius Symphony No. 1 by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimr Ashkenazy conducting.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? Eggs and those flakey biskits with jelly on them. Ummmmm.

5 Can you drive a stick shift? I learned really late in my driving life. I have a tendancy to burn out a clutch. I want to respect the automobile so I try not to drive on a stick too much if I can help it. Besides its VERY expensive to replace a clutch.....

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Sky Blue

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My best friend Stephanie.

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I swiped this from Heather's blog and I like her

9. How old are you today? 44 years and one month exactly today. Not sure if I need to go into more detail than that...... After all, this isn't particle physics.

10. Favorite Drink? I love iced tea... NO LEMON. If I wanted tea flavored lemonade, I would ask for it.... Mc Donalds has come out with an excellent sweet tea that I could live on....

11. What is your favorite sport to watch? Don't watch much sports. I watch baseball only if the Cardinals are playing. I could really go for airplane racing at one time if they had it on TV. No one covers what I like anyway.....

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? No. Still I am starting to get these grey spots in my hair and whenever I let my sideburns grow, I get this "Reed Richards" look with the grey on the ends....

13. Pets? No I don't but I would love to have a cat, but then again, I have so much stuff in my life and I'd want the time to be with my friend.

14. Favorite food? Lately I have fallen in love with Michelinas Lean entrees. I take them to work and they are tasty and have a wide vareity of flavors. .

15. Last movie you watched? At the theaters I saw Hancock a few weeks ago. At home I just watched "The Wind and the Lion" directed by John Milius.

16. Favorite Day of the year? Every day is just like any other....

17. What do you do to vent anger? I find that people tend not to be interested in what I am angry about. I usually talk to myself and vent. Usually I am alone with ym anger.

18. What was your favorite toy as a child? I had a lot of toys that I loved. Nothing really stands out as a favorite. I shouldn't have to think about that really and now that I do if I had a favorite, I would still have it....

19. What is your favorite, fall or spring? Spring because winter's death grip is off the world and new life is begining Also, its warmer. I dislike the cold miserable weather.

20. What was your first job? Working at the Boys Club as a councilor. However, I had a really good job working at Bass Pro as a packer. Just couldn't keep up with the 40 packages an hour they called for. I delivered Chinese Food (cooked it too) for a bit.

21. Cherry or Blueberry? Not usually a berry kind of guy....

22. Do you want your friends to email you back? I think this is one of those e-mail test things, so I really don't expect anything like that. Feel free to leave a comment though.

23. Who is most likely to respond? I hope a few people....

24. Who is least likely to respond? to this? Pretty much everyone who just does blog-by readings ( I’m guilty of that myself )

26. When was the last time you cried? I been crying a lot lately. My best friend is dying of Cancer, my brother is going through financial difficulty and the stress is starting to get to me.

27. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes, a few boxes and some suitcases.

28. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending this? See #22

29. Who is the friend you have had the shortest that you are sending this to? See #22

30. What is your favorite smell? Fresh bread baking. Ever since they closed St. Louis Bread at the mall for that damn construction, I have missed that smell terribly.

31. What inspires you? A beautiful sunrise, a wonderful song or other piece of music, a movie that you wish the story would never end, a place that is natural with green trees and grass , filled with nature. Finally the idea of flight inspires me. The idea that you can take off in a plane and go anywhere in the world that vehicle can go is something that triggers my wunderlust..

32. What are you afraid of? I am afraid of not being able to make it. Knowing I live on the ragged edge of disaster just makes life a bitch. Its a daily struggle to just get out of bed sometimes.

33. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? I guess it depends on my mood. It has to be plain or cheesy. No spicy for my delecate tummy.

34. Favorite car? One that runs and is paid for and works. A car I don't have to worry about.

35. Favorite cat breed? Spayed and Neutered.

36. Number of keys on your key ring? 5 for home, 1 for work three for the car, 1 for the storage room.

37. How many years at your current job? 2-3 years

38. Favorite day of the week? Payday

39. How many states have you lived in? Three, Missouri, Texas and Kentucky..

40. Do you think you're funny? I can make people laugh. Just wish I could do it professionally.

About Me

My photo
I am interested in CNG vehicles because they are good for the environment and aren't powered by dead Marines. I still have a little hope for the world. Read the musings and enjoy.