Monday, April 27, 2009

Scorpio and the Love Dragon

As we pass through mid-Spring, the constellation Orion is now falling towards the horizon, chasing the setting sun (or should we say Apollo?) as it goes. We know from mythology that Orion was blinded by his father and fell prey to Scorpio before ascending to his place in the winter night sky. How more fitting a fate for Viceroy Hanley's ill-fated project of the same name?

But, alas, where and in what form will Scorpio appear? How will the dagger be thrust to finish off our protagonist? For this we must now turn to the Tarot.

Surrounding the Skeleton in the Death trump of the Thoth Tarot deck are the three forms of Scorpio: the scorpion, the serpent, and the Dragon. Like the Son of the Tetragrammaton, the Dragon is the product and the union of the natures of both its parents, the feminine Eagle and the masculine Serpent. Thus is the Dragon the new and complete symbol of Kerubic Scorpio in the Aeon of Horus.

Didn't follow that? Refer to Frater Osiris for a more involved discussion. For the benefit of our discussion consider the union of the Eagle (as in Apollo capsule) and the Serpent (do you sense a musky smell nearby?)...and a Dragon takes the position of Scorpio going in for the kill. Or so sayeth the Tarot.

And so sayeth the budgeteers. As the diminished Viceroy recounted this week, his $400M windfall stimulus package, originally meant to keep Orion on life-support, has now been reduced by $150M which will be diverted to the faltering COTS-D. Coupled with the suddenly reduced size of the initial purchase installment of Soyuz seats, you, too, may begin to smell the musky serpent Dragon nearby. And perhaps a stinky Barron from the northeast country as well. Malodorous indeed.

The Viceroy did try to put a good face on the situation, declaring to the minions that such help could only benefit their undertaking. In the near future, when we know he will have a lot more time on his hands, we suggest a course in classy civ might be a good way to pass the time.

But, why, you ask, besides being insufficiently resourced, is COTS-D doomed? Now we know. It's in the CARDs.

Playing Hardball

The next two weeks could be a seminal time for Viceroy Gerst. As Sen. Stickman places a finger on his chin, rolls his eyes skyward, and rhetorically says, "There is some political center slow-walking this, and I don't know what it is, who it is, or why. But all the competition has either dropped out or been put somewhere else." Or perhaps shot out of the sky by the Stick of a man in Florida like so much skeet. The upshot of all this indecision leaves the shadow Viceroy in a strong position to employ a little reverse psychology on his own.

Come Wednesday, with the stroke of a pen, the Viceroy will bring one of GAO's 13 urgent national issues to a head. He will start in theoretically irreversible earnest to shut down and retire the space shuttle. By Friday, his actions will have the Stickman burning, booming, and wiggling like an Ares-1 on lift-off. And that is exactly what the Viceroy hopes to see in order to save his anachronistic program.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Enemy Within

As they say, "We've been to this picture show before."

Think back to 1966, er Stardate 1672.1. While orbiting the planet Alfa 177, the U.S.S. Enterprise experiences a transporter malfunction as Captain Kirk beams aboard. Kirk leaves with his officers and when the transporter room is deserted, a second Kirk materializes on the pad. The rest of the landing party must wait, at risk, on the surface for the problem to be fixed.

One Kirk is good and honorable, the other is evil and runs amok on his ship. As time passes, the "good" Kirk weakens, losing his ability to make decisions, while his "evil" half is dying. Neither Kirk can survive without his other half. Time is running out, not only for Captain Kirk, but for the landing party on the planet's surface.

On TV, the two Kirks are brought back together into one, the landing party is saved, and the Enterprise continues going where no one has gone before.

Theater follows life and, in our case, life is now following theater. The evil Emperor has done his damage. The "landing party" minions are getting into deeper trouble without solid leadership. In reality, any good replacement must have the evil Kirk's ability to make timely decisions. Only when the two halves of authority and responsibility are brought together in one person do we see a leader emerge.

Without benefit of clear, educated, inspired, innovative, dare we say youthful, leadership, the hydra-headed set of external commissions, panels, boards, and reviews that are about to take form will run the risk of grounding our space-faring enterprise for some time to come. Much time will be lost. Think Challenger Commission. Think Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Think downtime.

There is an alternative. And the approach we suggest was successfully implemented over a period of about 60 days after the Apollo 1 fire. Back then, our Agency did not allow itself to lose control of its mandate to reach the moon. Despite pressure from Congress and elsewhere, our Agency's leader did what he was paid to do. He lead the country into accepting the thesis that the Agency would review what went wrong, fix it, and move on to meet the challenges ahead. It did not require grandstanding, career building, or politics to fix the technical problems that just took the life out of the Apollo Program. It took leadership. And it worked.

Mr. President, it is time that you take the time to anoint such a leader. One who is technically competent, able to administrate, and capable of making informed decisions within the constraints of our times. He should seek council, but not let consensus stall our progress. He does not need six degrees, but he should know how to inspire technically competent people to do the seemingly impossible on a daily basis. He requires an ego, but is not consumed by it. We think you know the type.

It is also time for you to reign in those in your own party who would illogically dictate that the needs of the few or the one outweigh the needs of the many.

And when that leader is handed the conn, he should be allowed to review the bidding and formulate a recovery plan from within his own Agency. The only thing that has been missing for the past four years is leadership made from whole cloth. If you pick the right person, we can move forward and inspire the next generation to study hard and aim high. No board, no commission, no panel will fix what is wrong without putting a steady, competent hand at the rudder.

It worked for Apollo. It will work for us today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taking Credit Where Not Due

Our favorite agency is once again in the news with a defective poll it seems. After offering the public a chance to vote on ten candidates for it's biggest accomplishment in Earth observations, GPS was picked as tops.

Of course, anyone knowing the real history of GPS knows it should not have been on the list in the first place. Except for some extremely subliminal role, the minions had no real role in it's development. As we all know, the Department of Defense deserves that credit.

Goes to show you how much the public knows about the space program. Not to mention the minions desire to promote truth.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Come Hell or High Water

In this case, we are betting high water.

The new von Braun, a.k.a. our favorite Italian Waiter, is working feverishly to help Viceroy Hanley out of a bind. His spaghetti Stick is running way behind schedule and is technically bereft of any hope of flying successfully by 2015, or any other date, for that matter. So what is the best way to get back on schedule and avoid any failures that are inevitable in a rocket test program?

Skip the tests.

His goateed plumpness is preparing a proposal to skip green run acceptance tests on the ARES 1 upper stage and go straight to flight with Upper Stage #1. Now remember that this is the first upper stage that the minions have put together since Apollo. If you dig out the old Apollo test reports, you will find that the engineers back then never reached a point where tests were repeatable enough to skip green runs on stages, let alone engines.

Even Elon Musk has done aceptance testing on his rockets, and we know that track record. So as that first Upper Stage begins its trajectory towards the high water, we remind von Braun II of his predecessor's homage,"In this business of rockets, 99% success is absolute disaster."

And to Viceroy Hanley, we offer this Deke Slayton quote, "There is absolutely no value in an on-time failure."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Awarding Failure

Last Friday revealed the winner of the 52nd annual Dr. Robert H. Goddard Trophy at the requisite Memorial Dinner. Coming soon is the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Stellar Award. No doubt, someday in the near future, UAH will offer an award to professors willing to take their fifth highest offers to come there and teach.

Suffice to say, there are a lot of red faces on awards committees this year.

Steroid WIthdrawl

Sometimes its hard to see the forest for the trees. Truth is sometimes mistaken for personal criticism. Rather, we believe, incompetence speaks for itself.

Viceroy Hanley is throwing out the steroids. And the Constellation program right along with them.

At some level, we have to wonder if he ever even played with legos as a kid. From those experiences would come at least a basic understanding of how to build something. In an effort to make "his" 2015 schedule (ahhhh, Viceroy, the mandate was 2014, by the way), he is once again demonstrating his complete lack of systems engineering understanding. The Viceroy has proclaimed that he will reduce program content until he can achieve the magic date (we might interpret that to mean that he is reducing requirements, but that would mean that a stable set existed in the first place).

His first and foremost way of doing that is in the reduction of the Orion crew size from six to four, as was decided last week. Unfortunately, you still need all the same systems to keep four people alive as you do for six. Only some size and weight reductions result, maybe even enough to fit on the 2100 times safer than shuttle (so sayeth the former Chief Engineer of the Universe) ARES 1. But, as any competent manager would note, the critical development path is still going to march right through 2015 like Broomhilda's silhouette flying across the moon.

Of course, this does solve one problem. Weight. But, it appears that several other things have to go in order to meet that date. Like testing. That will be further minimized (remember the Ballad of Bill Arceneaux?). Instead, the program will now "verify" that all the correct paperwork is in place "validating" that the right work was accomplished.

As in every other program of recent note, some promised software will also be eliminated. No more unattended operation for Orion. Hard to put four people on the moon when one of them has to stay behind to steer.

You can see where this is going.

The Viceroy's solution is to castrate Orion from meeting its original lofty goal of being able to take people to the moon or elsewhere. Indeed, the new version will barely be able to make it to ISS. And despite these reductions, a big fat increase in cost is coming his way from the contractor he's been jerking around since day one.

The Stick Senator should start asking why we are getting a Pinto when we paid for the Cadillac? Our new President will be on solid ground when he cancels the program. He can say he was willing to sign up to the original budgets and schedules and goals, but now that Nunn-McCurdy are blushing, how can he possibly move forward with such a plan when he has to buy new iPods for improving relations with other heads of state? Ever wonder if a new Emperor has not taken the throne yet because there will be no throne to take?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Your Vote Does Not Count

Treadmill Colbert?

Tranquility Node?

NASA Toilet.

One out of three ain't bad.

Emperor of Huntsville

Our top story: UAH seeks ex-Chief Engineer of the Universe to misguide young minds and further the collapse of systems engineering education in this country. The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department is embarking on a 50% growth in full-time faculty positions, lecturers and support staff and will accept just about anybody to get to that goal. Tranquil setting near the Tennessee River. One-of-a-kind eminent chair in one of the top 150 third tier doctoral programs in the country. You won't find another job like this offered anywhere else outside of Sen. Shelby's district! Position opens in mid-May. Who knows, you might just decide to join them.

Salary: $350K/year.

Coming up in June: Kader Frendi looks for a new job.

Dog Days, Redeux

The President's first 100 days have been marked by many challenges, decisions, and appointments. Certainly the most important ones are being handled first. Iraqi policy, tilling the vegetable garden, G-20 meetings, hugging the Sheik, firing the CEO of GM, jamming with the Queen on her new iPod, watching North Korean rocket launches (yes, they can accomplish what our favorite Italian waiter has been unable to), corporate bailouts, sniping pirates, and easter egg hunts.

And, finally, this week, the President made it down the list to select his choice of...First Dog.

Kind of tells you what he thinks about our favorite agency, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quote of the Program

"We matured the design substantially, so there will be new costs because we made it harder to build," said Viceroy Hanley.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yuri's Night

Did you miss it?

So did we.

Nothing going on here, keep moving please.

Gen Y, we hardly knew ya.

Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt

"I am frustrated, because I don't know what the delay is," the Stick of a Senator said recently.


It has also been widely reported how unlikely the Stick of a Rocket could put astronauts into space before 2017, but Viceroy Doug Cooke says the 2015 date is still achievable.

As if?

The largest nonuniform dispersion in shuttle tumble rate in history happened on the most recent flight. Watch the Real Sticks' (SRB) separation videos to see for yourself. One SRB continues to thrust and set up a good push against the ET and orbiter as the other SRB has already expended itself when it comes time to say bye-bye. Oh, and the SRBs ejected "objects" of a large size never before seen in flight. Ever.

Wonder if the new "von Braun" can make up an answer for that one too?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Night Visions

With the light of a full moon so far out of reach,
Sometimes it is hard to discern white smoke at night escaping from the breech.
Despite having all the ducks safely aligned in a row,
Sometimes tall grass is just too hard to mow.

No more thinking we are close to finding a leader,
When all the Stick Man wants to do is stab a new bleeder.
So now we sit back with a fine bottle of wine,
And allow it to age until it is the right time.