Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thinking about NASA's Future

The Bush Administration made some fateful decisions about NASA's future shortly after it arrived in 2001 - most notably the decision to cancel major components of the International Space Station.

It seems as though The Obama Administration will be in a position to make even more important decisions regarding the future of the space program over the next few years.

The Space Shuttle is scheduled for retirement in 2010 and America's replacement vehicle, the Ares I rocket and the Orion capsule, is not expected to be ready for manned flights before 2015 (under extremely optimistic scenarios). If this timeline holds, it will mean that Russia and China will be the only two countries capable of sending humans into space for at least 5 years.

In tough economic times, some will make the argument that the United States should not spend money on manned space flight. It's a reasonable statement on the surface. But when considering the fact that NASA's entire budget is far less than 1% of federal expenditures, it seems like a painful and shortsighted way to save a relatively small amount of money.

You can read more about the Ares and Orion here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Comic Relief

If you've never read anything by Dave Barry, you're missing out.

The Washington Post published a fairly long but very amusing piece by Barry today that is good for a few laughs. You can read the whole thing here.

It's a great satirical overview of the events of 2008. Here's a sample:

Barack Obama, having secured North and South America, flies to Germany without using an airplane and gives a major speech -- speaking English and German simultaneously -- to 200,000 mesmerized Germans, who immediately elect him chancellor, prompting France to surrender.

Meanwhile, John McCain, at a strategy session at a golf resort, tells his top aides to prepare a list of potential running mates, stressing that he wants somebody "who is completely, brutally honest." Unfortunately, because of noise from a lawnmower, the aides think McCain said he wants somebody "who has competed in a beauty contest." This will lead to trouble down the road.

Speaking of trouble, the economic news continues to worsen with the discovery that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have sent $87 billion to a Nigerian businessman with a compelling e-mail story.

Happy New Year everybody!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Moment to Celebrate a Good Deed

Noticed this little story on CNN.com and thought I would pass it on.

Nothing too profound here, just thought it might be nice to promote a short story about generosity hidden amidst the raw politics, economic distress and warfare that has dominated the news lately.

Here are the highlights:

Virginia businessman Earl Stafford has spent $1 million to give hundreds of poverty-stricken and terminally ill Americans, along with wounded men and women in uniform, an inauguration experience that would ordinarily run each of them thousands of dollars or more.

"We wanted to… bless those who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to be a part of the great celebration, the inauguration and the festivities," he told the paper. "Our objective is to bring in a cross-section of society — those who are distressed, those who are terminally ill, those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, those veterans who are wounded and served our country".

...the... packages [include] high-end hotel rooms and luxury suites, food and drink, a (heated) viewing spot right above the parade route, even gowns and tuxedos to wear to celebratory balls, and a beautician to help you get ready for it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lou Gerstner for Secretary of Education

Okay - so I'm not sure that the former IBM CEO is the best choice for the job, but he published an excellent essay on reforming the American public education system today in the Wall Street Journal. I recommend it to all of you that are passionate about education reform.

At the very least, I hope the President-Elect nominates someone with a similar vision and a comparable record of effective leadership.

The subtitle of Gerstner's essay calls for "abolishing local school districts" and "adopting national standards" - but his strategy is significantly more comprehensive. I guess I would need to dwell on it a while longer before I decided it the entire plan was the best course of action, but it certainly seems like the type of bold action we need to break the pattern of massive spending and limited results.

You can read the essay here (if you missed the link above).