Friday, October 31, 2008

Very Scary!

It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark.
Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart.
You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before you make it.
You start to freeze, as red headed horror looks you right between the eyes,
You're paralyzed.

'Cause it's BroomHilda.
And no one's gonna save you from the beast about to strike.
'Cause it's BroomHilda.
And you're fighting for your life against all that is not right.

Darkness falls across the land, the election hour's close at hand.
She crawls in search of blood to terrorize your neighborhood.
And whoever shall be found without the soul for getting down,
Must stand and face the bitch from hell, and rot inside the Emperor's shell.

'Cause it's BroomHilda.
She will possess you unless you change the numbers on your dial.
'Cause it's BroomHilda.
And the grizzly ghoul is moving in to steal your soul and throw it on her pile.

(with apologies to the white gloved one...)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What If?

Now that the Hubble control unit ground spare has failed qualification testing, and the repair mission is headed for the fate of Apollo 18, one has to ask if maybe the last guy to wear clothes on the 9th floor on E Street maybe wasn't so dumb after all?

What if the $1B+ spent to prepare this mission and the rescue back-up had instead been spent on:

A brand new Hubble II?

Acceleration of the James Webb telescope to shorten the "other gap."

Man-rating EELVs (with change back on the $)?

Or maybe just a new wardrobe and a lifetime gift certificate at the Olive Garden for the Emperor and his minions?

Stop Signs

Viceroy Hanley and his Italian Waiter in waiting Steve Cook decided it was time to help sell more newspapers yesterday. Along with Doug "the puppet" Cooke and flyboy gone Kool-Aid drinker Jett, they all sat in front of the klieg lights once again to tell their fanciful tales. The only thing missing was BroomHilda and her caldron for seasonal color.

"We have kicked off an acceleration study," said the Viceroy.

Whoa! Time to play that sound of a needle sliding across the record. Did he really say "an acceleration study?"

That announcement should serve as a stop sign for anyone still supportive of Hanley and his tribe. If the Constellation, Orion, and Ares program managers do not have as job one, that is to say if they are not focused with every waking moment of every hour of every day on how to get that vehicle to the pad as safely and quickly as possible then just what in the heck are they doing? To say they need yet another special study to do what rightly should be their highest priority regular jobs is nothing but an admission of failure.

"I think you have to stick to the facts of engineering and project management," said the tubby one.

And we finally have something to agree upon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Paper Boy

Viceroy Hanley, expert in all things rockets, capsules, and cows jumping over the moon, now appears to be a journalism major. Or at least he thinks he knows what sells papers.

In his weekly meeting with the minions today he began by lamenting a particular article in a particular Florida newspaper in the particular city of Orlando. "The attacks," he said defending his beloved Stick, "are just the result of the floundering financial conditions of the paper."

Ahhh yes, blame your problems on the current economic conditions in the country. A common thing to do these days.

Of course, the correlation is hard to fathom. This blog started on 9/11/07 when the Dow was at 13,308.39 and climbing. Not a penny has fallen into our pockets since it's inception. Financial conditions are hardly a motivation for truth seekers.

The Viceroy had better hope that paper keeps selling well. He's going to need a new job in the very near future.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting Specific

The Santa Ana winds are blowing harder now, reaching all the way to E Street. The flames are rising all around the fiddler as he furiously packs his bags in sight of those with torches and spears. The back door is open. Time to make way out of the city.

So you want specifics? Why ARES-1 will not work as designed? We have several problems to choose from, but let us remind you of one root problem, already mentioned here previously, that goes straight to the heart of your failures. Failure to lead, failure to gain credibility, failure to gain our trust.

The flight dynamics control problem for ARES-1 is complex. The rocket hammers its way into space plagued by a thrust oscillation problem brought on by vehicle scale (longer organ tubes make deeper tones). Yet another reason why steroids are bad for you. To keep our astronauts bladders intact, a counterpunch will be provided by oscillation cancelling thrusters at the base of the rocket.

But this multi-segmented, sort of, but not quite, leftover from the shuttle, solid rocket booster is also not very stiff when it is not attached to an external tank. So it will twist and bend like a piece of spaghetti being pushed from behind. To compensate for that another control system will fire rockets at the top of the first stage to keep it pointed uphill.

The Emperor claims these are all just problems to be encountered in the normal course of design. Thrust oscillation plagued the F1 rocket engine during its gestation period, he says. All true. But the von Braun team did not put their heads in the sand like the minions and forego physical testing to resolve the problem and verify the solution. Instead, they placed small bombs in the engine to induce instabilities and show that their eventual design solution would work under extreme conditions. Do we see any kind of in depth testing like that in the future on the ARES program? Of course not. It has all been removed from present day plans because of lack of budget to do what is needed and what is right.

But we digress. Back to the specific example of why ARES is presently doomed and why most of the smiling minions do not grasp the seriousness of the situation (The ones that are not smiling have only two more weeks to hunker down and hope for better days ahead). No integrated simulation has yet been performed in the digital domain of the ARES-1 configuration instantiating the real control loops with the capabilities of the selected 1553 bus. With a bandwidth of less than 50 Hz, phase margins in the mid to high 30 degrees, and only about 50 words of control data available to keep the rocket pointed skyward, this bladder busting, twisting and turning bronco will not be tamed. Imagine Flicka being reined in with a piece of twine. Good luck keeping it from colliding with the launch tower after ignition as it drifts with the lightest of winds. Come back to us with the detailed simulation results and show how this will work! The Kettle is now calling out the Pot.

There’s some specifics for you. Mr. Emperor, please have your discussion with Mr. Nyquist and leave us out of your finger pointing next time you feel a need to whine. Silence Dogood and her brothers and sisters in the blogosphere will continue to such raise issues for public awareness and discussion. Morale is not bad because you are on a righteous path, the problems are hard, and the naysayers are ignorant. No, morale is bad because the core competency knows the problems are pathological and they seek to shine the light of understanding on the plague that is staining the core values and integrity of the last 50 years.

While you are able to quote Lord Acton, and ramble on in detailed analysis of why others are responsible for your failures, you yourself fail to grasp why the world is burning down around you. If the charts were more green than red we would know that risks were being managed. You take pride in saving $5B in a $160B program when the alternative wasn’t even technically feasible? Pshaw! You still fight the ghosts of a previous time castigating EELVs instead of looking inside to find the error of your ways? You wonder what Seamans would have thought? He already told us, “I knew James Webb, and the Emperor is no James Webb.” Did you forget that already?

Trust, credibility, and leadership are the pieces missing from the whole cloth. Time to step aside and let someone who understands this lead us out of the dark alley you have left us in.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Last Hurrah

Add this event to your travel plans this week and see history in the undoing.

Event: The Wernher "I'm spinning in my grave so fast I will dig my own hole to China" von Braun Memorial Symposium.
Time: October 21, 08:30 CDT
Where: Von Braun Center, South Hall, 700 Monroe St., Huntsville, AL
Presentation: "Cooking Ares-1...Designs, Books, Tests"
Who: Viceroy King, Chef Cook, Clumsy Assistant Davis

Special swan song appearance by the Emperor.

Be there or be square.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rat Pack

It could have been Joey, Dean, Peter, and Sammy fawning over Frank. But, this time it was Jack, Abe, Ken, and Co. tap dancing together slightly off the beat. And Kool-Aid on the rocks replaced the scotch. And senility replaced authenticity.

"Sometimes when things are done well you want to put a star on the fridge," Abe said. The hand-picked NAC, heaped high praise on the Emperor and Constellation in their last meeting of the year. Reminicent of testimony promising all was well in the financial markets just six months ago, you can hear the whispering quietly becoming audible in the background, "we need a bailout."

Serving on such a board used to be considered patriotic. Now, it's just another form of prostitution.

Uplifting Gifts

On the way out the door yesterday, NASA Advisory Council chairman Harrison "Jack" H. Schmitt gave a nice parting gift to Orbital Sciences. Jack's advisory group told the Emperor that he should start buying Orbital's Virginia-based Minotaur rockets instead of the Florida-based Boeing Delta 2's. Maybe Jack didn't get the note about how the Emperor is trying to keep his job by handing the space vote in Florida to the Blue team?

We're also not sure when it became appropriate for an advisory council to get involved in procurements? Perhaps the IG would like to comment and help us out here?

Oh, just one other minor detail. Our friend Jack, of course, sits on Orbital's board of directors.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pick a Square

The small pieces of paper are commonplace during football season. A grid with 0-9 on each axis denotes the playing field. Pick a square, hand over your dollar, and you may win the pot if you pick the square selecting the home and visitor scores' last digits.

The grid's being passed around in Huntsville are a little different this month. The left axis run 0-9, but the top axis runs 1-12. Dates and hours are in play here. In the football version, few watch the game, favoring the commercials, beer drinking, and conversation instead. In this version, its all about the game.

Pick the date and hour, Olive Garden hires its newest employee. But you better hurry. The Friday squares are filling up fast.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red Gold

Mars ain't the place to send big spacecraft. In fact, it's expensive as hell.

While E Street burns, another debacle is unfolding on the left coast. The superstars of yore, the young kids who gave us Pathfinder and Spirit/Opportunity let success get to their heads and forgot some basic principles that had earlier served them well. That and Tony Spear retired, taking the last rolly polly piece of common sense out the door with him. With a thrice demonstrated air bag landing system for small packages, and a thrice demonstrated propulsive based system for larger items, they went off the reservation and decided to create yet another option...and a jobs program for JPL.

So how did the bank robbing Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) make it to the headlines before it even made it off the launch pad?

Three times as heavy as its earlier cousins, MSL was designed to be too big to fit inside an air bag delivery system. (Where have we heard this before? CEV...EELV?) A number of technical excuses were manufactured by JPL's entry, descent, and landing gurus against using a separate attached propulsive landing system (like Viking or Phoenix). Integrating a propulsion system directly into the rover itself was considered and tossed. No, the JPL minions didn't want to use something tried and true this time around. They wanted to set a new challenge for themselves.

And save their jobs.

You see, every four to six years or so, right around the end of every major spacecraft development that the lab is responsible for, famine sets in. In the past, the lab has been forced to go out looking for extra work from the undeniably "terrible" military establishment. That "distasteful" work carried it through the lean years waiting for the next big planetary mission.

This time around, however, the timing was a little better. Mars missions have the eye of the public and are seeing unprecedented funding levels allowing a new opportunity every two years or so. Coming off the rover high, MSL's timing couldn't have been better for a smooth transition of personnel. No need to go out with sunglasses and tin cups. Or so they thought.

Enter Sky Crane.

Take eight rocket engines, pointed down, connected by a truss under which the MSL is suspended. When you get close to the ground, reel out the MSL on a tether until it just touches the ground. Then, cut the cord and let the rocket helicopter fly away for a crash landing, its job done, and payload resting on the surface. A brand new, complex, expensive, single purpose means of landing on Mars providing hundreds of jobs for those living in Pasadena, La Canada and beyond.

But that's not the worst of it. MSL's untested landing system could turn the rover into JPL's own Genesis Project if it craters on the Martian surface. Its little nuclear power plant would almost certainly melt any subsurface water ice, creating a little oasis of its own for any microbes hibernating nearby. Any remaining hitchhikers from our little blue orb also might find that an attractive place to homestead.

After the sojourning successes of the spirited and opportunistic rovers, now deep into their fourth years of operation, JPL had to go bigger and better. And that, dear friends, is neither faster or cheaper. And since the mission is so expensive, only one can be built. And now it must be rushed to make a 2009 launch date. Seems like we've been to this picture show many times before.

Imagine what could have been accomplished instead with several more Spirits and Opportunities running around the red planet. Each new rover could have been configured with new sets of instruments to explore new destinations and make new discoveries. We already know the vehicles are good for at least four years and we could easily upgrade what is failing now (motors and mechanisms) to incrementally improve their lifetime.

And parts are a lot cheaper when they are bought in lots of 10 than they are when bought individually. And so are rockets.

Need more power? Land a separate smaller power pack trailer to be towed by the rovers. Want to demonstrate precision landing? It could just as easily be done by a smaller rover as well.

But, those little rovers are so old school, you say? What's to keep JPL from becoming the stale workplace many of the other centers have become, lacking technology development programs and an advanced spacecraft program pulling on that development? The can still do all of those things in small packages and fly more frequently. We do not need to put everything in one big basket every time we go to Mars. If we have duplicates, we can afford to take a few loses if something should go awry now and again. Not too mention the fact, that risk of plutonium escaping a bad launch, or a bad landing, is eliminated.

But a once promising future on Mars, like our future in LEO, and on the Moon, has been dashed once again by steroids. This, too, shall become part of the Emperor's legacy. Certainly, there must be a Cook involved in this somewhere as well. That last name just lends itself to technical and fiscal disaster wherever it turns up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

Recipe for Florida Red, White, and Blue Cake

Measure out 2 cups of Bush/McCain brand job losses.
Add 1 cup rhetoric and reduce the job losses over hot flames.
Grease pan with Obama brand oil.
Stir vigorously with Emperor brand food coloring, until true color is obscured.
Kiss bottom of pan and place in oven.
Cook for approximately 30 days.

Remove from oven and claim prize for delivering best recipe in the shape of Florida?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sack of Ilium

The flames are rising now all around the seat of the Empire on E Street. The Emperor, sings along to the music of the night, albeit without costume, while swinging his trusty lyre at invisible white globules. With the walls closing in, he grabs quill in one hand and steadies parchment with the other. With a number of strokes he further prostrates himself in front of the anointed one. Knowing nothing of the concept of loyalty or ethics, he draws a knife across his thumb and signs his plea. Like Judas before him, he betrays his supreme leader and begs for dispensation and a role in the new administration.

How pitiful. How futile.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble

Are you sitting down? Comfortable? Take a deep breath. In. Out. If you have any sort of heart trouble, look away now. Do not read any further.

The Emperor, with all of his certificates of demonstrated intelligence, who claims to have saved Hubble from the clutches of his predecessor, who approved a risky shuttle mission putting lives on the line for something more expensive than a replacement telescope ever could be, with all of his claims of manifest destiny to implement his personal ESAS findings, who has found himself surrounded by supporting minions chanting, "yes, yes, yes" for the past three years...that same Emperor will finally be illuminated by the light of day tomorrow, to be standing naked outside the E Street Theater, covering up a decision that will surely lay bare his faulty sense of judgement.

Hubble is broke. But the hardware is not really believed to be broken. Really? That's not what we're being told, is it? How can this be?

If Hubble is not broke, why then would the repair mission be postponed? Why are extraordinary efforts being undertaken to ready a replacement computer by next February? Why will untold millions of dollars be spent to "save the telescope?"

Seriously, you better be sitting down for this.

None of this effort may be necessary. If what we are hearing is true, the only thing sitting between now and an operational telescope is John Grunsfeld's EVA glove. And a reset button on the computer.

The Hubble telescope may just be the victim of an amateur error. New software code was uploaded to the computer on Hubble before the SOS was received on the ground this past weekend. That software tells the telescope how to format data for transmission to the ground. The update was planned to accommodate the new instrumentation planned for installation by the STS-125 crew.

But the software is apparently flawed. It caused the computer to go off-line. The only way to get the computer to accept corrected software is to reset it, much like we do when our PCs display the ignominious blue screen of death. Of course, if you wanted to cover up your mistake, you would claim a new computer is needed to fix the problem. Of course, that always works.

It is the Emperor who allowed this to happen. And it was his team's hasty response to postpone the mission when it is just one astronaut's finger away from rescue. That response now puts the telescope at much higher risk of a real failure by adding months to this month's scheduled launch to get vital hardware on board to extend Hubble's life.

The same team's judgement is being utilized to fly this mission.

The same team is giving us ARES/ORION.


BroomHilda recently cast a spell in an attempt to feather her nest and do an Elizabeth Montgomery impersonation as host of her own reality TV show. Our favorite nose twitcher went to great lengths to illegally promote a sole source handout to PBS and got caught with her hand in the eye of newt jar. Fortunately, our youngsters won't have to be subjected to such a macabre after school show after all, as the legal folks called foul before our picture tubes became filled with such obscenity.

On the other hand, Halloween is right around the corner. Be afaid, be very afraid.