I’m actually looking forward to the Rocket Racing League getting under way. It looks like it will be an exciting and new way to get the public interest in space again, assuming it can bring in the crowds, as well as highlight the capabilities of private organizations to safely operate rocketry driven craft. I would like to see the exhibition race at this summer’s Oshkosh AirVenture though I might be able to pull off seeing either race in Reno or Las Vegas.

KC-X Contract Battle

Boeing, Northrop Spar Over Tanker (defense-aerospace.com) An interesting look at how the two competitors are arguing over the KC-X Tanker contract. I don’t really agree with Boeing’s approach of using advertisements in an attempt to wrestle the contract away from Northrop but both sides have resorted to similar tactics. It seems a little unethical to try and use public opinion in what was a military procurement matter and is now a matter for the GAO to review to address Boeing’s concerns over the process. Apparently even the USAF is getting concerned about the war of words and it’s possible effect on Boeing-Airforce relations.

I know the aerospace industry is highly competitive, especially for military and government contracts, but this seems unusually so this time around, perhaps due to global political and market concerns. That and Boeing also recently lost another contract to Northrop for the Navy. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Boeing became approached the procurement process with a sense of entitlement. Regardless of Boeing’s approach that does not eliminate the need to ensure that the process  was done above board.

Phoenix Lights 2008 Solved?

Phoenix Lights a Hoax, Man Claims

These claims are also being reported on television news reports here in Phoenix that a local man is claiming responsibility for the “Lights” appearance this week. According to the report the man claims to have tied flares to helium balloons and released them into the air. His reasons are unknown and apparently he wants to remain anonymous. I would personally like to hear the individual’s reasoning (simple prank, calculated hoax, delayed Earth Day stunt?) but regardless, should this account be accurate and true, it’s just a reminder not to jump to conclusions. Even I assumed it was aircraft instead of flares.

It is concerning that he chose to use flares given we are in the start of the fire season in Arizona. Hopefully, no one else will try to imitate his hoax and potentially start a wildfire. Sure it’s still early in the season but we’ve already got our first fire going on.

ETA: Update from local news source: Man behind lights talks to 3TV (Video) and Neighbor of man behind lights 3TV (Video)

Phoenix Lights 2008

Source of strange lights unknown (Azcentral)

Red Lights over Phoenix (Transworld)

Residents Report Mysterious Red Light Sightings in Skies Over Phoenix (FOXNews)

So there was another “incident” of the Phoenix Lights last night (21 April 2008). Thousands saw it and apparently the majority were morons as a poll over at MyFoxPhoenix.com indicates a majority of people think it was UFOs (as of 12:00 today). It annoys me to no end that people immediately jump to inane conclusions without having explored the more logical and reasonable possibilities.

As a witness to the original “Phoenix Lights” I am still of the strong opinion that they were nothing more than flares or helicopters despite wishful thinking on the part of so called UFO-logists ludicrous claims of mile wide lights in the skies and an object that supposedly blacked out the stars above the city (according to popular accounts, directly above 7th Avenue and Indian School Road). *Ahem.* Right. In 1997 Phoenix was in the throws of some of its worst pollution (both particulate and light) ever, pollution that for a near decade made it possible to see only the brightest of stars from within the city. I was also there at 7th Avenue and Indian School Rd coming back from a shopping trip when I saw the event. Trust me, no stars were “blotted out”. And certainly there were not throngs of people wigging out over some lights. Yes there was interest but I don’t remember a single person instantly assuming it was UFOs.

My vote then and now was it was helicopters most likely testing capabilities given a local Valley company was developing new choppers for the military. In all likelihood this incident is just flares, helicopters, or something else equally reasonable. Even the FAA has no interest in investigating.

Personally I think a bunch of people are hyping up the latest “incident” to try and boost sales of pointless books, videos and DVDs. It sounds too suspiciously like the hoaxes that were perpetuated a few years ago in Mexico for much the same purpose.

Phoenix Lights 2008

Image Source: Azcentral.com

Maybe I’ve been around airplanes, air shows, and military displays too much but the first thing I think when I see something like this picture is aircraft that are formation flying, not UFOs. I think people are too quick to jump to the fanciful. I don’t know why people do this. Perhaps its a desire for something more or a desire to see humanity get into space. Sadly too many of these people that I have talked to don’t support space flight efforts thinking they are wasteful and pointless.

Would I love for there to be intelligent alien life in the universe outside of humanity? Absolutely. We know very little about the universe and as such would be arrogant to presume ourselves the only intelligent and sentient species to develop. But I seriously doubt said aliens are bored enough to buzz the city of Phoenix or anywhere else for a few hours.

Arizona News Commentary 17.04.2008

Loud Trains Ban Like I’ve said to those who chose to live near airports and military facilities and then whine about the noise, I say to those whining about the noise of the trains: get over it or move. What is especially hipocritical is the large number of people who think nothing of blaring stereos and television for all the world to hear but they promptly complain at legitimately loud noises like emergency services vehicles and trains. Pathetic. Residents need to stop whining about trivialities and concentrate on real issues like crime, poverty, education, and the economy. The trains were here long before most residents ever were.

Banning Anti-American Teaching I am completely opposed to this Bill and think it may, in fact, be unconstitutional. The following is why I think it is unconstitutional:

“Arizona public schools would be barred from any teachings considered counter to democracy or Western civilization”

And who exactly determines what is considered counter to democracy? I oppose communism, which many consider to be anti-Western and anti-democratic, but I don’t think it should be barred from being taught when discussing different forms of government. And what is anti-Western? Is it anti-Western to criticize Western culture for genuine mistakes like slavery, genocide, and suppression of minorities and women? Where do you draw the line?

Additionally, the measure would prohibit students of the state’s universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their members

What about freedom of association? And why only race? Why not ban groups from forming based upon gender, politics, or religion if you are going to start trying to strip people of their of the Constitutional rights?

This whole bill came about by some ex-cop turned politician upset at the multi-cultural teaching going on in Arizona fearful that somehow Arizonan and American values are being erased. I don’t think he realizes he is part of the problem that has all but obliterated the Arizonan values that were starting to emerge when I was young that encouraged acceptance of the Native American, Hispanic, and white American cultures combining together. I for one will fight this bill as best I can. Cultural diversity is not to be feared. It helped make America great in the first place.

Sacrificing logic to ‘save’ marriage I have often disagree with EJ Montini on issues, but this is one of those I completely agree with him on. As he points out in his blog Arizona is a billion dollars in debt yet what’s the burning issue of the Legislature? Gay marriage. Or more precisely banning gay marriage in order to ‘protect’ marriage. I really have to wonder what my fellow heterosexuals fear about homosexuals. If you aren’t gay, you aren’t gay and you can’t catch “gay”. Even if you oppose homosexuality on biblical and moral grounds do you honestly support legislative bigotry? Because if you do, I know some radical communists and Islamists out in the world that would love to ban your religion and lifestyle on the pretext that they find it offensive and immoral.

Think about it.

News Commentary 17.04.2008

Military Denied Benefits to Surviving Son It infuriates me that bureaucrats still are able to screw over soldiers for doing their duty by twisting policies that were put in place to protect and help soldiers into a means of punishing them. Was nothing learned from the neglect and abuse older war veterans from World War II through Vietnam suffered and, in some cases still suffer? It’s my sincerely hope that the Hubbard Bill passes and prevent what happened in this particular incident from recurring. Congress also needs to fully fund veteran’s benefits and then get rid of the penny pinching autocrats more concerned about their budget then meeting their responsibility.

Olympic Flame Carried Through Quiet New Delhi
Anyone who thought the controversy over the Olympic Torch run was over, you’re wrong. It’s just repressive means are now being used to quash any public dissent. How representative of this years Games, no?

Zimbabwe Opposition Accused of Treason And so begins the final efforts of Robert Mugabe to remain in power forever. Already Mugabe’s thugs are harassing, beating, arresting and otherwise intimidating all his opponents into submission to his future dictatorship. If the election is as close as Mugabe claims as to force a run-off election then why has the electoral commission not released said results? Given Mugabe’s activities it only leads people to assume that he has in fact already lost and is now clinging to power and looking for a way to remain in power while still appearing to be a legitimate democratically elected official. The situation isn’t improved any by foreign governments allowing in weapons into the tumultuous region.

Democratic Debate I’ve been quiet on the democratic campaign given they are doing such a fine job of self destructing. Obama just solidified my opinion that he’s contemptuous and condescending of the American public with his ‘bitter’ remarks. Worse, to me, is he shows he’s hypocritical (again) in that these bitter people are “anti-trade”. Did not Mr. Obama say he is against NAFTA, the Columbia FTA, and CAFTA? So is he ‘bitter’ as well?

My biggest disagreement with both Democratic Party candidates in on raising taxes on the “wealthy”, which for Obama means any one in the $200k-$250k range and over, while lowering taxes for those under $75k. The problem is that only about 3% of the U.S. population make over $200k+ by U.S. Census numbers (2005 if I remember the report correctly). The $75-$100k group’s (about 10% of the population) income tax would not change, and the remaining 87% would get tax cuts (something Obama has criticized Republicans for suggesting/implementing). The numbers do not add up to a sustainable income tax for government programs, especially when taking into account the numerous new programs Obama wants to implement that require, according to his own website, tax increases. It sounds too much like a socialist wealth redistribution program that would punish those who worked hard to become “wealthy” and to discourage people from becoming “too successful”.

A more reasonable approach is a legally binding balanced budget, elimination of unneeded government subsidies, trimming the budgets of over bloated government programs, eliminating tax breaks and credits to profitable industries and companies (e.g. oil companies) or those who export American jobs oversees and other fiscally responsible activities and regulations be put into place. Another approach would be to encourage development of technological and manufacturing jobs, job retraining for those whose job may be eliminated by obsolete jobs being replaced by advances, and support innovative ideas and technology. High-tech and manufacturing garner more income than lower wage service side economies.

North Korea At Risk For Famine Again. Is anyone really surprised the communist dictatorship of the DPRK allows it’s people to starve while maintaining a bloated military, ignoring offers of assistance from it’s neighbors, and denies that there even is a problem?

Space Flight Challenge: Radiation

Long space visits ‘quicken ageing’ and Astronauts on Long Space Missions Risk Cancer, Premature Aging Astronauts, scientists and engineers have known these things for many, many years. I understand the need for testing to confirm hypothesis but unfortunately news agencies like to twist the reports around and sensationalize them into something to be feared by emphasizing such words as cancer and premature aging. It’s been a problem the professionals in the field across the planet have been working on practically since the day of the first space flight and one all know must be overcome before any practical long term space travel may be undertaken.

Due to the high energy charges of cosmic radiation developing suitable countermeasures becomes difficult. There first alternative is passive shielding approach which relies on bulk materials to mitigate the exposure. The second alternative is active shielding which relies on electromagnetic fields to deflect the particles from the craft. In all likelihood, future long term manned spacecraft will employ both systems with redundancies to ensure maximum protection and survivability.