Monday, June 23, 2008

Potential First Picture of SpaceShipTwo

Well, it seems that FlightGlobal managed to take a picture of a structure that may be a piece of the first SpaceShipTwo, currently under construction at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California.

The structure in question is a piece of a nose section. This appears, at first glance, to be a piece of a WhiteKnightTwo aircraft (which has two similarly-structured nose sections), but key differences suggest that this may actually be the first-seen piece of the VSS Enterprise, the first SpaceShipTwo.

For one thing, the picture shows a nose section as one complete, seamless piece, whereas the officially-released WhiteKnightTwo construction pictures show that its fuselage, including the nose section, is made of two distinct pieces.

Also, there is a prominent structure close to the bottom of the imaged nose section that is not present in WhiteKnightTwo's structure.

Oh, and I guess you'll want to see the picture. Credit FlightGlobal.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Slight Disappointment in Obama

Well, Barack Obama today announced that he is not going to accept public campaign funding, in favor of raising his own money and eliminating spending limits on the campaign. In response, I'm going to prove that I am by no means a 100% jump-off-a-cliff Obama fan by going on a long-winded rant about it.

One of the reasons I originally became interested in Barack Obama was his stated interest in eliminating (or at least lessening) the corporate influence on politics. This involved, perhaps primarily, reworking how campaigns are run.

Now, I'm not blind; I know that the corporate influence will never be eliminated. However, I'm certain that the influence can be lessened to encourage politicians to make more independent decisions.

The first step in all of this is, of course, publicly-financed campaigns. I've spoken about this before (see second section, number 7). The idea is that campaigns are run with money that the public provides so that campaigners aren't indebted to corporate sponsors when they make it into office.

We have a system right now that (in my view) serves as a first step toward that goal, but isn't effective to a significant extent. Presidential candidates can accept millions of dollars of public financing for their campaigns, but in return for that, they can only spend that money between their party's nominating convention and the presidential election, usually around 3 months' time. The financing is paid for by the little check box on your taxes asking if you want to give $3 toward presidential campaigns.

The system, as Barack Obama pointed out during today's announcement, is very broken. The law puts no limits on what candidates can earn before their party's convention, and there are many backdoors that corporations can use to funnel money to campaigns despite the law. However, it is better than nothing, and I had hoped that Obama would take the public financing on that basis alone. With that said, that's not the only reason that I'm disappointed in the fact that Barack Obama chose to be the first major candidate not to take public financing since the law passed 32 years ago.

When I was first beginning to pay attention to Barack Obama and his potential campaign, there was a little-known news story that came out which suggested that representatives of Obama and McCain had gotten together and agreed that if they became their parties' nominees, then both the candidates would accept public financing in the interests of reducing corporate influence. Later on, and on several occasions, Barack Obama provided statements that he was interested in taking public financing for those same reasons, as long as his opponent did the same thing. But when it came right down to it, well, I feel a little let down by all of this.

But as dissappointing as this is, my support for Obama remains. This doesn't really compare to the differences I have with McCain. But I'll yak about those later.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Rights of Terrorists?

Okay, lately, I have been listing to right-wing radio.

Now I really like listening to talk radio. I've always found it to be a great way to keep up with current events, and to alleviate the boredom of doing chores or commuting to work. There are a couple of talk radio stations in town, so usually, there is something that I'll enjoy listening to. However, this has changed recently.

I have always known (and accepted) that talk radio is dominated by ultra-conservative commentators. However, in the past, I have listened to some local talk show hosts that are a little more... balanced. And by balanced, I mean they still have right-wing tendencies, but they're willing to listen to and talk about both sides of an issue in a fair way.

Then a station started up in my town that played more left-wing content, including several shows by Air America. Now some of them I thought were as ridiculous as the right-wing shows. Randi Rhodes lowered herself to name-calling, baseless accusations, and one-sided propaganda just as much as most of the national right-wing talk show hosts, and I found it to be just as disgusting. Don't even get me started on the Ring of Fire; those two are flagrant propagandists. However, there were some shows that I loved, such as Stephanie Miller, Laura Ingram, and The Young Turks. Unfortunately, that station was recently run out of town, and it was bought out by public broadcasting, which now has two stations in the area that play the exact same thing. Yay.

So what did I do? I turned back to the other talk stations, with the hopes of finding those local hosts again who seemed pretty fair-minded. Only to find that they were gone. In fact, local talk seems to have disappeared from the area altogether during that time, and it's now nothing but national right-wing conservative broadcasts almost all the time. I went and looked those local guys up and found information on three; one had retired, and two had moved their shows to stations in larger cities. Yay.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I'm having ultra-conservative propaganda crammed into my head whenever I do chores or drive a car these days, and I'm therefore going to be complaining a lot more about it, starting with the following little tidbit.

A talk show host I was listening to last night was ranting and raving about the recent Supreme Court decision to allow prisoners at Guantanamo Bay access to civilian courts to challenge their imprisonment; basically granting them the right to Habeus Corpus which the Bush administration has denied them. Basically, this host was going on and on about the fact that "five activist judges decided to let terrorists into our courts! This is not what the founding fathers had in mind!" He was furious at this, slandering them left and right, claiming over and over that the judges had doomed the American people to endless terrorism, using all the cliches and scare tactics he could muster up.

Wait, what?

I'm not sure I can count on both of my hands the number of things wrong with the statement I quoted. So let's try.

1. Activist. Judges of the supreme court are nominated by the President and approved by congress. They have traditionally been nominated and appointed under criteria that included fair-mindedness, independent thought, and knowledge of the constitution, though recently, presidents have tended to take it upon themselves to nominate people that they considered to be sympathetic to their political beliefs.

For the record, of the nine current Supreme Court justices, seven were nominated by Republican presidents. If five of them voted to grant Guantanamo prisoners Habeus Corpus, then.. wait, let me do the math... at least three of those had to have been nominated by Republican presidents! Hey, Mr. Talk Show Host, if these justices were so "activist", then the Republican administrations that you laud so much must have been doing a pretty poor job at getting their buddies on the bench! Or.. in the event that they were actually looking for someone more independent, then, well, maybe the decision was well-thought-out?

Personally, I've almost always found Supreme Court rulings to be fair and reasonable. I think they do their jobs well. There are a few decisions I disagree with, but we'll get on that later.

2. Terrorists. Again and again, this talk show host called the prisoners terrorists. Never once during this whole rant did I hear him use any form of the word "suspect." These people aren't terrorists, they're suspected terrorists! Last time I checked, we were still innocent till proven guilty! This is the entire basis of our justice system. So call them what they are.

3. Letting them into our courts. I'm not sure what the specific procedure will be, but I have my doubts that the prisoners will actually be transported to the mainland and brought to standard civilian courts for their hearings. And even if they are, big freaking deal! This talk show host behaves as if the suspects will be taken to the courts via the graves of the founding fathers, after which they will will blow their noses with the flag while the courthouse explodes because, of course, these guys are terrorists, right? Holy crap! Killers, thieves, and yes, terrorists are safely trucked in and out of our courts every day. That's what courthouses are there for! And again, remember that these people are only suspected terrorists. Charges haven't even been brought against most of them yet.

4. Founding Fathers. The term "founding fathers" is way over-used. A lot of people, but especially conservative speakers and talk show hosts, invoke the term as if the founding fathers had stood up with one voice and, in a chorus, spoke the nation unequivocally and unambiguously into existence. No, no, no, no, NO! No. That's NOT what happened. The people who founded this country were just as argumentative and opinionated as our leaders today. It took years of painstaking negotiations to come up with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Some of those guys I really like and, for the most part, I agree with. Some of them were crazies. I'm descended from one of those. I'll give you a hint: he killed someone who is on money.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah. Don't put words in the mouths of the founding fathers, because most of them would likely have been offended by the attempt.

5. Not what they Had in Mind Okay, so I've established that you can't know with clear-cut certainty what the founding fathers wanted because they all had different opinions. Let's assume for the moment that you can glean some of what they wanted from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I would propose that this is exactly what they had in mind! Article one, section nine of the United States Constitution says this:

"The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it."

The Bush administration suspended Habeas Corpus for these people under the pretense that it was required for public safety. This was the issue before the Supreme Court, and they seem to have decided that it was not necessary. Frankly, I agree. I don't see any rebellion or invasion going on, do you? And anyway, denying these people the right to challenge their imprisonment does little for public safety. In fact, I would suggest that it reduces public safety by making people angrier at us! Oh, and to those of you who say they shouldn't get these rights because they're non-citizens, I would say that's a load of crap. This country was founded under the explicit principle "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." That's everyone. You, me, the French, Guantanamo prisoners, everyone. Why shouldn't our rights be extended to those we hold captive?

Okay, I know, that's only five things wrong with that statement, and I can count that on one hand. I've gotten this off my chest, and I'm tired of typing, so sue me.

Oh, and I'm not sure why I've been withholding the identity of that talk show host that started me off on all this. I don't really see any reason for it.

Rusty Humphreys is a prick.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conflicting Space Adventures Comments Just a Misunderstanding

Well, it appears that the whole Space Adventures confusion has been just a big misunderstanding. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, I recommend reading through yesterday's post.

The misunderstanding is due to the fact that Space Adventures released two big announcements simultaneously. It turns out that the comment from Anatoly Perminov, the head of Roskosmos, most likely refers to Space Adventures' announcement about Sergey Brin becoming the next planned space tourist, and not about Space Adventures' use of the Soyuz capsule.

And who cleared it all up? Well, it was Jeff Foust of the Personal Spaceflight blog. I've mentioned New Voyage News in the past, but Personal Spaceflight is another great place to look for current and ongoing space tourism news updates. In fact, Mr. Foust called up Space Adventures personally to clear it all up. You can read his entire blog post here. In my book, that's extremely good journalism. Mr. Foust is clearly much more driven to provide good news than my lazy butt, but then I intended my site to be as much about voicing my opinions and chronicling my personal journey as about keeping track of space tourism news, so it's all good.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Monday, June 16, 2008

Space Adventures Jumping the Gun?

So a funny thing happened the other day.

I usually watch all of the shuttle launches; it has kind of become a tradition. I haven't missed one since Return to Flight after the Columbia disaster. I also watch the shuttle landings, though less consistently than the launches. Then sometimes I leave the TV on while doing chores or whatnot while NASA TV shows replays and post-event press conferences.

During Saturday's post-landing press conference, one of the reporters asked a question about the recent Space Adventures announcement concerning their planned use of the Soyuz capsules for tourist flights. I was in the garage at the time hunting for a pair of pliers, so I missed the answer. Now I wish I hadn't.

It turns out that NASA wasn't consulted about the new plans. However, the agency doesn't seem too concerned about that either, despite the fact that they're planning on also using the Soyuz capsules to deliver astronauts and supplies to the space station between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the completion of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle in 2015. NASA's administrator, Mike Griffin, put it this way: "It is their system. They can fly it as they wish."

However, questions about Space Advenures' plans don't end there. Anatoly Perminov, the head of Roskosmos, the Russian Space Agency, released a statement on the agency's website claiming he was unaware of any such deal. However, in Space Adventures' official announcement, the quote provided by Alexey Krasnov from Roskosmos was less than vague: "We are very pleased to continue working with Space Adventures into the foreseeable future. This method for growing our commercial partnership with Space Adventures is beneficial for all parties. The Soyuz to be used for this mission shall be a specially manufactured craft, separate from the other Soyuz vehicles designated for the transportation of the ISS crews"

So will this relly go forward? Well, either this is just a series of silly miscommunications, or Space Adventures really has jumped the gun a bit. We'll see.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Space Adventures Announces First Private ISS Space Flight

Okay, remember a week ago when I mentioned that Space Adventures was planning on releasing two big pieces of news? Well, those two pieces of news (the next space tourist and the future of Space Adventures' orbital flights) turn out to be quite closely related, and the latter is very exciting.

First off, the next announced space tourist that Space Adventures will send up will be Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, and his space flight is scheduled for 2011. He has made a payment of $5 million toward the total amount for the flight, in a new program called the "Orbital Mission Explorer's Circle" in which potential astronauts may make payments toward future spaceflights that are transferable to others. There are six founding members of this circle, but only Sergey Brin has been announced.

Wait, 2011? That's past the Russians' cutoff date for the transport of space tourists into orbit alongside cosmonauts, you say?

Well, in the extremely unlikely event that you actually said that, I will respond with the second piece of news. Space Adventures has announced that after cooperative tourists flights are cut off in 2010, they will be cooperating with the Russian Federal Space Agency to launch fully private flights to the International Space Station using the Russian Soyuz capsules. The first of these flights is to be in 2011, with potentially more to come. Each flight will take up two tourists, a pilot, and supplies for the space station.

Other more minor announcements include the planning for Space Adventures to ramp up the weightless parabolic flight operations of Zero-G (which they bought earlier this year) to include 10,000 passengers per year, and perhaps eventually 100,000 per year. Also, Space Adventures is looking into the possibility of partnering with one or more companies to offer suborbital spaceflights. Virgin Galactic was mentioned, but Space Adventures doesn't plan to make any specific announcements in this area until suborbital tourist flights are up and running.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Informaion on WhiteKnightTwo has released new details about Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, learned in an interview with Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. The original article can be read here.

In short, we already knew that the first WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, named Eve, would be unveiled next month after Scaled Composites completes its construction. New details include the makeup of the craft and it's planned flight test program. Except for the blades and undercarriage, WhiteKnightTwo is made entirely of carbon composite - right down to the wiring. This material, from which the name Scaled Composites is derived, is incredibly light while also being as strong as or stronger than the metal alternative.

Will Whitehorn admitted that when the construction of WhiteKnightTwo was beginning, the company still wasn't sure that it would follow through with a tourist spaceflight program. They apparently justified this through the fact that WhiteKnightTwo potentially has many other uses besides space tourism. The light structure, massive payload, and high-altitude capabilities of the craft make it ideal for the launch of microsatellites to low earth orbit, as a platform to perform microgravity experiments, or as a "water bomb" craft to fight fires.

However, it seems that Virgin Galactic has had a goal of selling a year's worth of tickets before its first tourist spaceflight is launched, and it is well on its way to exceeding that goal. They have apparently sold 254 tickets, with initial payments of anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000. This gives Virgin Galactic about $36 million in the bank and the go-ahead to move forward with the space program.

The first WhiteKnightTwo, once it is rolled out, will undergo extensive flight testing before tourist flights begin. Right now, they're looking at 130 to 150 test flights, though that number may be reduced if everything goes well. Once the first WhiteKnightTwo rolls out, it will be ground tested until September, when its first flights should begin.

And I'm sure looking forward to seeing that on the TV.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Burt Rutan Steps Down as President of Scaled

Burt Rutan, the President of Scaled Compoites and designer of SpaceShipOne has announced that he is stepping down in favor of a more creative role as Chief Technology Officer.

Burt Rutan has been integral to the operations of Scaled Composites, and to the design of many aircraft and two spacecraft, SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. In particular, it was his middle-of-the-night revelation that led to the ingenious design of the crafts' "feather" system that allows them to re-enter Earth's atmosphere without the use of a heat shield.

Burt Rutan has been suffering from heart problems recently, which may have influenced the decision, but he prefers to characterize the move as part of some changes in the structure of the company that will allow him to take a more creative role. I personally take this as good news, since the man is a freaking genius.

Doug Shane, previously Vice-President of Scaled, will be taking the role of President and running day-to-day operations of the company.

I'm looking forward to what Scaled has to offer in the future. It is my personal belief that Rutan's "feather" system will find itself with a key role in the future of spaceflight. It operates by lifting the wings of a spacecraft into a position that gives the entire craft an enormous amount of drag in the upper atmosphere, allowing it to slow down enough to avoid most of the intense heat of conventional atmospheric re-entry. I would not be surprised if this, or similar systems, were one day used in the exploration of other worlds.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Monday, June 9, 2008

Aerojet Provides Propulsion for Space Hotel

You see, these sorts of things are what keeps me writing these stories.

I get to write things like "the space hotel's gots rockets now!"

This entertains me.

Anyway, the news of the day (or rather, last week since I'm a bit behind) is that aerospace manufacturer Aerojet has agreed to a $23 million deal with Bigelow Aerospace to provide propulsion for the aft section of their Sundancer space hotel prototype. This propulsion system will be used for docking maneuvers, in conjunction with the fore propulsion system for attitude control, and eventually, for de-orbiting the craft when it is no longer needed.

Aerojet has worked on many space-related systems before, and among other things, will provide propulsion systems for the Mars Science Laboratory. A system similar to that which is planned for the Sundancer was successfully used to land the Mars Phoenix Lander a couple of weeks ago.

The Sundancer module (for those of you who don't know) is Bigelow's first human-habitable space hotel prototype. The inflatable module will be able to support a crew of three, and if it is successful, it will be used as a part of Bigelow's first operational tourist hotel. Launch is expected sometime around 2010.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Friday, June 6, 2008

Various Pieces of SpaceX News

Well, SpaceX came out with a couple of press releases in the past few days, one of which is indirectly related to space tourism, so I thought I'd summarize them here.

The first item is that NASA has awarded a launch services contract to SpaceX. This contract calls for SpaceX to provide launch services to NASA for four years with its Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets. The quantity and dates of these launches has yet to be determined, but we will undoubtedly see SpaceX's launch schedule change due to this development.

The second (and to me, more exciting) development is that SpaceX has successfully completed its first five-engine test of the Falcon 9 rocket. The test was performed in a cross formation, much like the Saturn V rockets. This is the last step in the test schedule before the testing of the full compliment of 9 engines. The first Falcon 9 rocket will be delivered to Cape Canaveral toward the end of this year, and it will be responsible for launching heavy satellites, the manned Dragon capsule currently in development, and a payload for Bigelow Aerospace in a couple of years that is thought to be its Sundancer space hotel prototype.

Oh, and here's a picture of cool fiery rockets! Credit SpaceX.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Thursday, June 5, 2008

National Space Society Announces Space Ambassadors Program

Want a free trip to space?

Well, here's an opportunity for you. The National Space Society has announced, in cooperation with Virgin Galactic, the Space Ambassadors Program.

The Space Ambassadors Program is an advocacy program that operates by training volunteers to deliver presentations about the importance of human spaceflight and eventual colonization of space. One such volunteer will be selected to receive a free trip on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, and volunteers can be anyone in any stage of life; they need only sign up at the website,

Incedentally, the National Space Society is a space advocacy organization that I had not heard of until I learned of this program. I believe they would count as the thirty-fifth company I've mentioned who is interested in getting you to space, so I'd like to take some time to talk about them as well.

The National Space Society was created in 1987 through the merger of the National Space Institute and the L5 Society. They encourage anyone to join them in their efforts, largely related to advocation of human spaceflight. They publish the Ad-Astra magazine, which reports significant developments in space-related science and technology, and they try to exert influence on the creation of U.S. legislation.

They have some very well-known members. Among their "board of governers" are people like Buzz Aldrin, Tom Hanks, and Hugh Downs. Their stated mission is "to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity."

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More on Hillary and Barack

Okay, so Barack Obama all but won the nomination last night.

And he gave a victory speech. And Hillary Clinton? She gave a speech.

And, well, I have a few things to say about that.

First, here are YouTube links to the actual speeches:
Clinton's Speech and Obama's Speech

Having become a bit of a political junkie during this primary season, I watched both of the speeches live. I only have a few things to say about Obama's speech. It was a great speech, but aside from its historic nature, it was rather unremarkable compared to his other speeches. One item of interest that I did find was that he made a point of saying explicitly and almost repetitively what change he wanted to see in this country. It was no doubt in part an attempt to dissuade people who say he talks a lot about change, but doesn't talk about that change he wants. I'll quote part of his speech:

"It’s time to refocus our efforts on Al Qaida’s leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That’s what change is.
Change, Minnesota, is realizing that meeting today’s threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy: tough, direct diplomacy, where the president of the United States isn’t afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for.
We must once again have the courage and the conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt and Truman and Kennedy. That’s what the American people demand. That’s what change is.
Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and the workers who created it. It’s understanding that the struggles facing working families can’t be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a middle-class tax break to those who need it, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation.
It’s understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was president."

Contrary to popular belief, he has elaborated on each of these points in detail; that's just not the part that the media ever plays. But now when people tell me he wants change and won't say what change he wants, I know what bit of text to point them to.

Now on to Hillary's speech. I have a can-opener in one hand and a can of worms in the other. Time to put them in a blender.

I had a feeling that she wouldn't concede last night, but I was rather amazed that she didn't even go so far as to acknowledge that Obama had a majority of the delegates. The closest she came was this:

"I want to start tonight by congratulating Senator Obama and his supporters on the extraordinary race that they have run."

That's it. That's as far as she'll go on the night that Obama makes history by becoming the Democratic nominee. Oh, but there's more. Not only did the speech not concede a smidgen to Obama, but she went on and on about her accomplishments and how she would make the best president. This wasn't a concession speech; this was another campaign speech! My favorite part is this:

"...In the millions of quiet moments, in thousands of places, you asked yourself a simple question: Who will be the strongest candidate and the strongest…
Who will be ready to take back the White House and take charge as commander-in-chief and lead our country to better tomorrows?
People in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the territories, all had a chance to make your voices heard. And on election day after election day, you came out in record numbers to cast your ballots. Nearly 18 million of you cast your votes for our campaign, carrying the popular vote with more votes than any primary candidate in history.
Even when the pundits and the naysayers proclaimed week after week that this race was over, you kept on voting. You’re the nurse on the second shift, the worker on the line, the waitress on her feet, the small business owner, the farmer, the teacher, the miner, the trucker, the soldier, the veteran, the student, the hard-working men and women who don’t always make the headlines, but have always written America’s story.
You have voted because you wanted to take back the White House. And because of you we won, together, the swing states necessary to get to 270 electoral votes."

Holy cow, where do I even start? Okay, easiest item first. She once again claims that she won the popular vote. What she doesn't say is that she doesn't count three of the caucus states that Obama won and one that is disputed (those states don't release official vote totals, so the popular vote must be estimated, which Clinton conveniently doesn't). Also, she only counts votes for herself in Michigan, where the undisputed fact is that swarms of people intended to vote for Obama, and had to vote for Uncommitted because his name wasn't on the ballot. By intent, and by any estimation other than those of the Clinton campaign and her most staunch supporters, Obama won the popular vote.

It amazes me how Clinton gos on and on about counting every vote, then she herself goes out of the way to not count four whole states worth of votes. Yeah, that's really gracious of her.

Secondly, there is a key difference between the way that these two candidates speak to the American people that I have been meaning to talk about for a long time. Let me provide an example by means of two snippets of the candidates' speeches last night that basically say the same thing:

Clinton: "Well, I want what I have always fought for in this whole campaign. I want to end the war in Iraq."

Obama: "We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in, but we — but start leaving we must."

See the difference there? Okay, maybe that's not the most fair of comparisons; his stance on Iraq has always been one of Obama's strengths. Let me take another example, based on foreign policy, seen as one of his weaknesses:

Clinton: "And I want to restore America’s leadership in the world. I want us to be led once again by the power of our values, to have a foreign policy that is both strong and smart, to join with our allies and confront our shared challenges, from poverty and genocide to global terrorism and global warming."

Obama: "Change, Minnesota, is realizing that meeting today’s threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy: tough, direct diplomacy, where the president of the United States isn’t afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for."

You may have spotted what I'm getting at by now; I'm concerned about the tone that both of these candidates take toward the American people. With Clinton, it is always I want to do this and My positions will lead us forward and get out and vote for Me Obama's speeches take a much different tone; We can do these things and we can make Our country better and let us get together and do these things. Obama seems (and has always seemed) to base his positions on the fact that no one person can do it alone; we have to work together to make things better. The government is about the people, not about the leader; that's a central founding principle of this country. The candidates speeches last night were almost the same length. Clinton's was about 2200 words and Obama's about 2500. So I counted:

WordUses in Clinton's SpeechUses in Obama's Speech

Compare that to the more inclusive forms of these words:

WordUses in Clinton's SpeechUses in Obama's Speech

As you can see, the difference is stark. Personally, I vastly prefer a candidate who would have inclusiveness so embedded in his message and his personality that it has significant influence on the pronouns that he uses. How about you?

My third point concerns Clinton's motives. Why is it that she would so harshly try to put the rest the notion that the race is over? Why risk prolonging this and potentially damaging Obama's chances in the fall? Why work her supporters into a disgruntled frenzy when the primary race is essentially over? I can think of a few reasons, and I don't like any of them very much.

Motive 1: She needs some space to breathe and a little time to make up her mind. I highly doubt this; she's clearly proven herself to be a strong and decisive woman. I have little doubt that she knows exactly where she is headed next. Besides, this wouldn't have precluded her from admitting that Obama has the delegates he needs.

Motive 2: She is trying to use her concession as leverage to get onto the ticket as Obama's vice-presidential candidate. This is the option I like the least. This means that she is willing to put Obama into a very, very difficult decision. Either he rejects her, and angers all of the disgruntled supporters that she has succeeded in working to a frenzy, or he picks her, and is seriously weakened due to the appearance that he was forced into his vice-presidential choice. Either way, it causes substantial damage to his fall campaign. If this is her true motive, she is far more deceitful than I would have imagined her to be. If she had graciously conceded last night, and then threw her name in as a potential vice-presidential pick, I would have been among the first to support that possibility, but not this. Not this.

Motive 3: She is trying to use her concession as leverage to get Obama to help her pay her significant campaign debts. I seriously hope this is the true motive. I would be just fine with that considering the alternatives. The way Obama campaigns, he can make the money back in nary a week.

Motive 4: She really does want to appeal the Rules and Bylaws Committee's decision and take the fight to August. She is very unlikely to win if this is the case, so she would be damaging Obama's campaign far more significantly than Motive 2. If she does this, well, she knows where she can stuff it.

And, well, that's about all I have to say, so I'll stop writing now. My wrists are tired.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Space Adventures to make "Big Announcements"

Space Adventures Ltd, thus far the only company to successfully get tourists to space (via the Russian Soyuz launches), is set to make some big announcements on Wednesday, July 11.

One of these announcements will be the identity of their next space tourist. Speculation has already run rampant as to who this will be; the rumors have been that this will be someone highly recognizable, and not just another little-known millionaire. This piece of news seems to confirm that.

The other announcement will be about new orbital tourism services. It turns out that the Russians are planning to discontinue their work with Space Adventures to put people into space very soon. This is likely due to the greater need for the Soyuz capsules once the space shuttle is retired. So Space Adventures will need to find some other way to get people into space once that happens; that is likely what this announcement is about. Speculation is that Space Adventures is making a deal with Bigelow Aerospace to put people on the space hotel that they hope to have operational by 2012. This is due to the fact that Bigelow Aerospace seems to be the company that is third closest to getting tourists into space, short of Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures itself. Virgin Galactic is already selling tickets, but Bigelow Aerospace hasn't gotten that far yet, so partnering with other companies to facilitate sales, training, and launch would seem to be advantageous. Though, the further speculation is that SpaceX's manned Dragon capsules, currently under development, would be used to actually launch people to Bigelow's space hotel.

We'll know a lot more next Wednesday.

I should give an acknowledgment for this juicy piece of news. Normally, I am able to hunt down bits of information myself through press releases or media stories. In this case, however, another blog entitled New Voyage News seems to have somehow discovered this where nobody else had. I highly recommend the blog; they provide lot of running space tourism information, and are a great source of breaking news, as is evidenced by this story.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

Monday, June 2, 2008

Space Tourism Industry Already Generating Revenue

One might expect that a fledgling industry such as this to be losing money. Afterall, dozens of companies are in research, development, testing, and construction phases of advancement, only one of them actually has an active service, and even then it is only one or two times a year. But it appears that this is not the case.

The Personal Spaceflight Federation recently released a study that showed that the space tourism industry earned $268 million in revenues in 2007. Not only that, but that was an increase from its previous revenues of $168 million in 2006! Any of you who might have been worried about the financial viability of the space tourism industry, I think we can put those fears to rest. Barring some kind of disastrous incident, things are only getting off the ground; just wait till SpaceShipTwo begins flight testing later this year!

Also reported were numbers like $1.2 billion in total investment in space tourism companies. Now it appears that some of the revenue is related to non-space-tourism services performed by some of these companies (Scaled Composites makes planes too, you know), but much of this is undoubtedly from sales of actual spaceflight tickets by Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic. You can read more about the report here.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35