Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Does Charlie Do It?

I don't know how Charlie, who "officially" runs NASA, manages to keep his sanity. I've almost gone crazy and I live in Huntsville, Alabama and don't have to see or talk to his Deputy, who has her own side-kick in the form of NASA's CFO, every day. Nor do I have to say nonsensical things that I know are borderline idiotic just to keep my job from falling into someone else's hands, a someone who dearly would love to have my job. For his service as NASA Administrator under Obama and his Administration's special appointees at NASA, Charlie should be awarded the Medal of Freedom, given lifetime disability, and a free Segway. Oh, and lifetime privileges at Pebble Beach.

The last Shuttle mission, STS-135, is ongoing and Atlantis, its orbiter, has now docked with the International Space Station. Bravo performance by the crew. Not so much for NASA's D.A., who refused to take questions when introducing the Orion MPCV spacecraft at a briefing held at Kennedy Space Center the day before the launch of STS-135. 

Not to worry--her acolytes, including a good number of so-called "space" blogs, are covering her back. 

But back to the real NASA.

Yes, it is true that the House and the Senate were unpersuaded to support the President's, really Lori's and John Holdren's, desire to end our space program and instead resurrected Orion and Ares V. And yes, those two programs were well funded for their first fiscal year. A logical person might be forgiven in assuming that the support of both the Orion and Ares V by very large, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress would force a recalibration by the President and Ms. Garver. Quite the opposite. Which is why I've been too busy to write.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Rockets Work

So, Ares I-X, a test of my rocket design, worked after all. And it worked just as I predicted it would. I mention this because some...well, many, have blathered over the years that the Ares I design would not work because of thrust oscillation due to acoustic vibration, adverse yaw control, buckling...the list goes on. It is important to keep in mind that none of these critics could have passed any graduate course I have taught much less earn even half the degrees I have. None of those critics could have designed a marble but they naturally, having read Aviation Week & Space Technology and Popular Mechanics could tell me that I didn't know what I was doing. I guess all of my degrees were honorary. But data speaks for itself, and the test of the Ares I first stage rocket was a resounding success, something some of my critics only acknowledge in a very belated manner.

What does the success of the Ares I-X test and the first stage motor test tell us? The message is pretty clear--don't listen to dumb people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm In The News

I saw the launch of Ares I-X earlier today. It was both beautiful as well as vindicating to see a rocket that so many critics said would not fly blast-off and have a nominal flight right on the money.

One might think as a former NASA Administrator that I would have been granted a better viewing spot than right here in Huntsville staring at the screen of my brand new MacBook Pro 15". The plan had been for me to attend the launch. But Charlie Bolden, the current Administrator, called me last week to tell me that Deputy Administrator Garver became upset when she heard that I would be attending the test flight. She is apparently still very bitter about our talk last December.

My wife keeps telling me that I need to work on my people skills. But when someone whose chief accomplishment is as a space "policy" person starts to talk about launchers with me, I just...groan. How can you form space policy with regard to launchers when you can't even define "region of plasticity" for metal, what F is equal to, or what is specific impulse?

Anyway, when Lori told me last year that she thought that it was time to scrap the Ares I as our launcher to return people safely to low-earth orbit and instead use either the Delta IV or SpaceX's Falcon 9, which incidentally is two years behind schedule, I told her she was not in a position to know what rocket NASA should use any more than I was in a position to tell her how to manage a non-profit. She got upset and told me that I should stop yelling at her. I have never raised my voice. That is for stupid people, and I'm smart. Very smart. Especially compared to her.

Anyway, Charlie told me that my VIP pass had been cancelled but that he was forcing Lori to attend the test launch. We both laughed. Charlie is a great guy and is working hard to...well, manage is the best way to put it, his D.A.

The Ares I-X flew true, the test was a success, and the early word is that the predicted vibrations that were supposed to shake the rocket apart never got more violent than a rumble. People should understand one very simple lesson from the successful test flight of Ares I-X, which is that NASA knows space and is very good at it. For me personally, there is a great deal of satisfaction in the realization that Lori Garver and all of the other Ares I critics had to sit there as the Ares I-X put one more nail in the coffin of their misguided perceptions of the ills of the Ares I launcher.

We are getting to the point where it is apparent that we need to quit wallowing in the nonsense of canceling Ares I. Instead, we need to put the money that was promised into the program, and let the NASA engineers get back to work getting America back into space.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another GAO Report on Constellation

I respect the 9 people who wrote the latest report by the GAO concerning the need for a business case for Project Constellation...oh well, ok, I don't respect them. Business case for Constellation? What moron thought of that study? Was there was a business case for going to the Moon? Was there a business case for Lewis & Clark? Great nations explore. It really is that simple.

NASA Watch, The Write Stuff, and several other Space blogs, bearing in mind none of which are run by people who know what is a covariance matrix, and no, it's not a sequel to the Matrix movies, posted about the GAO report and then in unison declared that Constellation is dead. Well...gee, thanks guys. First, I have more degress than all of the Constellation critics combined. That means I know what I am talking about when I inform you that Constellation is fine.

If you do not know about some of these blogs, that is understandable. The biggest one, NASA Watch, is a blog by, for, and of engineer wanna-be, anti-NASA fanboys if there ever was one. It was created by  Keith Cowing, once a NASA biologist who later met fame and fortune slamming NASA's Administrator at the time, Dan Goldin, a noble cause if there ever was one. The problem is, Dan left but Keith remained. And criticizing me while I was NASA's Administrator. Why?

My predecessor Sean O'Keefe made the mistake of taking Keith aboard NASA One one time too many. Sean said each was a long flight.  Ever the politician, Sean appeared to be listening while Keith droned on. After that display of grace, Sean could do no wrong. I told Sean that he should get an Oscar for his acting and he said he should get 100 of those little gold statues for listening to that guy. In any case, the key to Keith is you have to act like you are actually listening to him. But that was hard for me to do with a guy who has 1/6th of the degrees I have.

Our falling-out occurred when he showed up at the FAA hangar we use at Reagan, bag in-hand, and demanding to know when we were leaving. I told Keith there would be no more NASA One flights, that I flew myself in my Tiger, and that I couldn't fly him due to legal concerns (yes, a white lie).  Keith became upset, telling me that he could make my life difficult, that I was making a mistake that I would regret--I told him I already did. Did you know we have big guards from Germany--I think they once worked over in the eastern side--who we got in a very good deal after the Wall fell? Anyway, they escorted him away even as he shouted that I would rue the day I met him and didn't let him fly on NASA One. No kidding. Ever since, Keith and NASA Watch have had it in for me and for Constellation, which I created.

I wanted to sue Cowing to prevent his use of the acronym NASA, since someone should not be able to make money off of such a great agency. But the Dept. of Justice people said no. Idiots.

Back to the subject at hand...a business case for a space exploration program? I am definitely going to have to call Bart, who asked for this report, and find out what's going on.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Send A Message

Please go to Go Boldly and demonstrate your support for our manned space program. To do otherwise is illogical.

First Post

Well, now that I'm no longer the NASA Administrator and am now here in beautiful Huntsville, Alabama, I have both time to spare and some thoughts to write. It is as good a time as any for some honesty about where America's space program is, where the space advocacy community would like to take it, and how NASA's new-age management (not Charlie--he's a good pilot, an astronaut, and smart like me) will run it. Of those matters I will post in the coming months. In the mean time, I wanted to make a few personal points.

I love being an engineer. If there's anything such as a religious calling, being an engineer is that for me. I also enjoy learning. That would likely account for the 7 degrees, 6 of which are of a graduate level, I have. I also very much like being smarter than all of those who criticized my leadership at NASA. Here's a quick question: who has more degrees of a technical background, me or my critics? This is not a trick question.

Imagine you are smart, like me. Now imagine that you have to tolerate the endless, miasmatic, pejorative droning of critics of the Constellation program who collectively know as much about designing, building, and launching real rockets as a they do about quantum mechanics. Yes, I even co-authored a book on systems engineering, "Space Vehicle Design", a 617 page text that is the standard in its field. The extent of the authorship of my detractors exceeds no further than one of the very worst reads ever, "New Moon Rising", a poster child for bad writing, if there ever was one. Think of it this way, my very technical book has an Amazon sales ranking of 336,639 while their book has one of 1,207,177; and no, higher is not better. These are the same detractors who spend NASA money every year to hang-out at their geeky version of a tree house called Haughton-Mars Project on Devon Island, a small Canadian nothing, playing astronaut and believing all-the-while that they are actually helping human space exploration. Hey guys, if you want to help, stop wasting money on this campground and making the rest of us look like we are reality challenged...I mean, this is almost as bad as the old L-5 types who used to wear Spock ears when they went to testify before Congress about supporting the space program. Yes, that was a big help in maintaining NASA's budget in the tens-of-billions, which is why we landed on Mars in the 80's and have O'Neill space stations orbiting above. Very useful.

But I'm tired of writing now and am going to go fly my Tiger.

Fake Mike