Tag Archives: bankruptcy

The culture of theft at Oberlin College

The coming dark age: It appears that the initial shoplifting incident that triggered the Oberlin College lawsuit by Gibson’s Bakery was only part of an overall culture of theft by students at the college, ignored or possibly even condoned by the college administration.

[T]his theft culture influenced the decision making at the college with regard to Gibson’s, as related in the trial. College officials were concerned that backing Gibson’s over shoplifting could “trigger” a negative reaction from students, since the college was “trying to get students to realize that shoplifting was harmful.”

It’s truly astounding that a college would be afraid to support a local store that was the victim of shoplifting. It is deeply depressing that students did not already know that “shoplifting was harmful.”

Remember, the students at Oberlin were paying almost $28,000 in tuition per semester, with additional costs raising this figure to almost $40,000. They might have had to take loans out to pay these costs, but they certainly weren’t poor or starving. In fact, they were required to buy a meal plan by the college.

Thus, this thievery was entirely by choice, and voluntary. It speaks to a complete collapse of morality by the student body, supported by a similar complete moral collapse by the college administration. Worse, Oberlin really is not unique. This same kind of collapse can be seen at most American colleges. If we wish to revive our culture, it seems to me we need to shut these cesspools of immorality down, entirely, and start over.

Above all, parents and children should be thinking very hard about the schools they wish to attend. All past assumptions about which schools are best must be thrown out the window.

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Museum decides T-Rex skeleton has no gender

The coming dark age: Officials at the Field Museum in Chicago have decided that since scientists were never able to determine the sex of their most famous T-Rex skeleton, they will now refer to it as if was gender neutral.

According to Arc Digital, “Sue,” Field Museum’s Tyrannosaurus Rex — one of the most complete and largest T-Rex skeletons ever discovered — is working on becoming a “gender neutral” icon by adopting gender-neutral pronouns in her new private exhibit on the museum’s second floor.

Sue is not, in fact, gender neutral or gender fluid. The T-Rex skeleton, discovered in South Dakota in the 1990s, was either male or female. The scientists who discovered Sue believed the skeleton belonged to a female because female T-Rexes are larger than male T-Rexes, and Sue was one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever found; she’s named “Sue” after Susan Hendrickson, who led the team that unearthed her.

But back in March 2017, Arc Digital reports, the museum decided to have a little fun, and in response to a question lobbed during a Twitter Q&A, Sue claimed that she was “gender neutral” because her sex was unknown, and that she preferred the pronouns they/their/them.

By March 2017, though, Sue, who had graced the museum’s central rotunda for more than a decade, was due to move upstairs to make room for an even larger dinosaur skeleton, and when constructing her pernament home in the museum’s dinosaur exhibit, museum officials adopted Sue’s social media gender-neutral tendencies and made them official. “In her new suite, some of the signage describing the fossil has adopted non-binary pronouns,” Arc Digital says. “One sign does make the distinction between SUE the museum ambassador/Twitter star and the fossil itself, noting that the fossil is properly referred to as ‘it.’ But some of the rest of the signage uses ‘their’ pronouns and seems more interested in teaching museum-goers about the trendy movement for acceptance of non-binary identity than it does about paleontology.”

Our society is truly becoming delusional. This dinosaur was not gender neutral. It goes against every principle of science that a science museum is supposed to be teaching to make believe it is.

Worse, this is a form of political pandering that is disgraceful. It is not the job of the Field Museum to take sides in this sexual political battle. Not only is it inappropriate, it assumes all who enter the museum will agree with them, something that is decidedly a false assumption.

In a sane world I would expect donations to the museum to drop because of this. Unfortunately, I am not convinced we live in a sane world.

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Republican senators move to stop Trump’s Mexico tariffs

The stupid party: A half dozen Republican senators have announced their opposition to the escalating tariffs Trump has imposed on Mexico designed to force that country to cooperate on gaining control of illegal immigration.

Joining [Chuck] Grassley [R-Iowa] in opposition to the tariffs were pro-trade Senate Republicans Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Martha McSally of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Rob Portman of Ohio, whose votes Trump will need to pass the USMCA.

This is the same pattern I’ve seen from Republicans for the past half century. Anytime anyone attempts to do anything that might clean up any of the mess we are in, a bunch jump in, for their own aggrandizement, to stymie it.

The article makes the claim that a border state like Arizona will be hurt by these tariffs. Bah. I live here, and see the harm the illegal immigration is actually doing. First, the flood of illegals is damaging the state’s natural environment, as they leave an incredible amount of trash throughout the wildernesses they travel.

Second, the flood has caused the government to make entering the U.S. a miserable and time-consuming experience for people doing it legally, one that is actually discouraging trade. You want to go to Mexico? You walk or drive across the border in seconds. You want to come back? Expect the wait to be one to two to three hours.

Third, the flood is distorting the market. Illegals have to work in the black market, which means they get badly taken advantage of. At the same time, their presence hurts legal workers, who can’t get work.

Fourth, and most important, the flood of illegals is fueling a rising contempt of the law, both by the illegals as well as American citizens. This in the long run is likely the worst consequence of the federal government’s inability to do its job here effectively.

And as usual, we have a lot of dumb Republicans who will team up with the partisan Democrats (who only want power) to block Trump’s effort, an effort that has already shown a positive effect and might actually fix the problem.

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GAO finds continuing budget and scheduling problems for NASA’s big projects

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released yesterday revealed that the ongoing budget overruns and scheduling delays for NASA’s big projects have continued, and in some cases worsened in the past year.

The cost and schedule performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) portfolio of major projects continues to deteriorate. For this review, cost growth was 27.6 percent over the baselines and the average launch delay was approximately 13 months, the largest schedule delay since GAO began annual reporting on NASA’s major projects in 2009.

This deterioration in cost and schedule performance is largely due to integration and test challenges on the James Webb Space Telescope (see GAO-19-189 for more information). The Space Launch System program also experienced significant cost growth due to continued production challenges. Further, additional delays are likely for the Space Launch System and its associated ground systems. Senior NASA officials stated that it is unlikely these programs will meet the launch date of June 2020, which already reflects 19 months of delays. These officials told GAO that there are 6 to 12 months of risk associated with that launch date. [emphasis mine]

The Trump administration has made it clear to NASA’s bureaucracy that it expects SLS to meet the June 2020 deadline, or it will begin the process of ending the program and replacing it with private rockets. This GAO report suggests that this threat is almost certain to be carried out.

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NASA IG finds both Europa missions a mess

Our incompetent federal government: A report released today [pdf] by NASA’s inspector general has found that the management of the Europa Clipper orbiter and the later Europa lander missions, both mandated by Congress, are facing serious budget and schedule risks, despite being given more than three-quarters of a billion dollars more than requested.

Congress has taken a strong interest in the project and since fiscal year (FY) 2013 has appropriated about $2.04 billion to NASA for a Europa mission—$1.26 billion more than the Agency requested.

…Despite [this] robust early-stage funding, a series of significant developmental and personnel resource challenges place the Clipper’s current mission cost estimates and planned 2023 target launch at risk. In addition, although Congress directed NASA to use the SLS to launch the Clipper, it is unlikely to be available by the congressionally mandated 2023 date and therefore the Agency continues to maintain spacecraft capabilities to accommodate both the SLS and two commercial launch vehicles, the Delta IV Heavy and Falcon Heavy. [emphasis mine]

The lander meanwhile is in even worse shape, especially because its congressionally-mandated launch date on SLS in 2025 seems impossible.

It seems to me that this entire project could be the poster boy for the overall incompetence of our so-called “betters” in Washington, who in the past three decades have failed spectacularly in practically every major project they have undertaken. The project was mandated on NASA by Congress, led by former congressman John Culberson (R-Texas), who was then the chairman of the House subcommittee that was in charge of funding the agency. It was his pet project. Though the planetary science community were glad to have this mission, it was listed as their second priority in their 2011 decadal survey. Culberson made it first, and also made sure it got a lot of money, far more than NASA ever requested.

Despite this strong support, the inspector general has now found that the project is being badly mismanaged and faces budget overruns and scheduling problems. The scheduling problems partly result from the project’s bad management, but mostly because of Congress’s demand that the spacecraft fly on SLS. Our vaunted elected officials wanted to give that boondoggle (they own pet project) a mission, something it didn’t have, and Europa Clipper and Lander were therefore given that task.

The problem, as I have documented endlessly, is that SLS is woefully behind schedule. It appears it will likely not be ready for Europa Clipper’s launch window in 2023.

But hey, let’s give our federal government more responsibility and power! Let’s go socialist!

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NASA awards Maxar Gateway power/communications contract

The never-ending boondoggle: NASA this week awarded the company Maxar its first official Lunar Gateway contract to develop the power, propulsion, and communications systems for the station.

Interestingly, the contract is structured somewhat similar to the commercial contracts for ISS cargo and crew.

This firm-fixed price award includes an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity portion and carries a maximum total value of $375 million. The contract begins with a 12-month base period of performance and is followed by a 26-month option, a 14-month option and two 12-month options.

Spacecraft design will be completed during the base period, after which the exercise of options will provide for the development, launch, and in-space flight demonstration. The flight demonstration will last as long as one year, during which the spacecraft will be fully owned and operated by Maxar. Following a successful demonstration, NASA will have the option to acquire the spacecraft for use as the first element of the Gateway. NASA is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element on a commercial rocket in late 2022. [emphasis mine]

It is fixed-price, and Maxar will own the design with the ability to sell it to others as well as NASA.

The problem is that Maxar will not be building something that others might want. Their only customer will be NASA, and the design will be focused entirely to NASA’s needs in building their Gateway boondoggle. I am pessimistic anything productive for the future of space travel will come from this.

Moreover, the highlighted words reveal the corrupt nature of this deal. Development could go on forever, and should it do so, do not be surprised if the contract’s fixed price nature gets changed.

Our federal government, including NASA, is very corrupt. They are not interested in the nation’s interest, only the interests of themselves and the contractors they work hand-in-glove with in DC.

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Trump give Barr authority to declassify documents related to campaign spying by Obama

President Trump yesterday gave Attorney General William Barr the authority to declassify any documents related to the campaign spying by the Obama administration that occurred during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump also ordered all intelligence agencies to cooperate completely with Barr’s investigation, an order that common sense says should be unnecessary, as Barr is their boss and they should therefore always cooperate with him. However, we live in interesting times, when federal employees now think they have the right to tell elected officials what to do, and to even act to overthrow those elected officials if they don’t like them.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats who repeatedly scream for transparency and the public release of all documents are protesting Trumps orders.

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House ignores request for more NASA money for moon mission

A House committee today approved a NASA budget that ignored the Trump administration’s request for $1.6 billion more money to support its attempt to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2024.

Instead, the committee shifted more money into earth science and Gateway.

Whether this budget is what ends up being enacted remains to be seen. It does appear however that Trump will have great trouble funding his Moon project. Sadly, that lack of funding does not mean the overall federal budget is coming under control. On the contrary, it appears the Democratic-controlled House simply wants to spend lots of money, but on different things.

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London and art

Trafalgar Square

Yesterday we took the train to London and settled into a really super modern hi-tech hotel dubbed “The Hub by Premier Inns.” It is also the crummiest hotel I have ever stayed at. I picked it because it was well recommended and was located less than a block from Trafalgar Square, shown on the right. And yes, it is new and fancy, with motion-controlled LED lights and fancy touch buttons and aps to control everything. It is also tiny, cramped, the controls are too limited and too difficult to decipher, even for a science journalist like myself. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, as it was reasonable in price considering the location. I still dislike the hi-tech nature of the room that only ended up limiting our convenience and comfort.

And the hotel didn’t even have an ice machine!

National Gallery in London

Today we wandered about the square, watching the street performers (buskers in British lingo) and admiring the statues and sights. Then we went into the National Gallery to enjoy some of humanity’s greatest art, as were a class of elementary school children as shown in the picture on the right.

The museum was packed with people from everywhere. I saw Japanese, Chinese, and Israeli tour groups. I saw people of all types clearly from London, including several school groups like the one to the right.

Interestingly, these crowds were all found in the permanent exhibits. One temporary exhibit we wandered through, art by an modern abstract artist by the name of Sean Scully, was practically empty.
» Read more

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Trump walks out of infrastrucure negotiations

President Trump immediately walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) yesterday, saying he will hold no discussions on infrastructure as long as the Democrats continue their investigations into his administration.

Trump’s anger appears to have been sparked by comments Pelosi made earlier in the day when she said, “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” by blocking White House aides from giving testimony and responding to document requests from ongoing congressional investigations.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump insisted Wednesday.

The article suggests that Trump planned this as a way to get out of the negotiations. Maybe, but I think his goal is to get the investigations stopped. He is quite willing to make a deal to spend trillions that we don’t have on “infrastructure,” as are the Democrats. By walking out he is putting pressure on the Democratic leadership to shut those investigations down in order to get him to work out a deal to spend the money they also want.

The result, for the moment, is that we have no infrastructure deal. I hope this stalemate lasts forever.

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America’s 10 largest cities drowning in debt

The coming dark age: According to a new report [pdf] from an independent government watchdog, the United States’ ten largest cities are all deep in debt, with taxpayer burdens for that debt ranging from $119K to $13K per taxpayer.

Almost all the cities on this list are and have been run by Democrats for decades, with Democratic strongholds Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia holding the four top spots. Nor have the Republicans been innocent or responsible. In cities where they had some control, such as New York when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, little was done to rein in spending. Still, Democrats have held the bulk of political control in big American cities for the last century, so much of this debt comes from their policies.

The watchdog group that issued the report, Truth in Accounting, also focused on the dishonest accounting practices used by all these cities to hide their debt.

“The largest cities in the U.S. issue so-called ‘Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports,’ but most of them aren’t so comprehensive,” Bill Bergman, Truth in Accounting’s director of research, told Fox News via email.

The report questioned if cities’ annual financial reports “comprehensively track municipal accounts such as school districts, transit agencies, utility systems, etc.” Annual financial reports “for a city doesn’t present the full picture of their fiscal position, and is deceptive to the public,” the report said.

None of this is news. Politicians of all strips at every level of government have been faking their accounting for decades to allow them to spend more money than they have. The result is debt across the board, at every level of American government, with the worst debt held by our out-of-control federal government.

Are the politicians to blame? Yes, but the source of their corruption really falls on the voters, who have favored such politicians because they have been giving money away to those taxpayers. Rather than be responsible citizens, Americans for the past half century have been greedy and selfish, using their governments to get as many free handouts as possible. Or they have been willing to countenance big payouts to unions and others, sometimes for naive idealism, and sometimes because of pure laziness to pay attention to such matters.

Can the U.S. clean up this mess before the whole house of cards collapses? That remains unknown. Trump’s election hints that the voters might be willing to try, but then, Trump is no budget-cutting hawk. He believes in lots of government spending as well, from NASA to infrastructure. It remains to be seen whether the American public has begun to recognize this unsustainable situation. My sense is that they have become aware, but are still unwilling to make the hard sacrifices necessary to fix the problem. For example, the worst political offenders here remain the Democrats, and there is absolutely no indication of them losing power in the big urban cities named in this report. The debt grows, but the voters continue to support them.

Until we see a full house-cleaning in the Democratic Party, the situation is simply not going to improve.

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House Democrats threaten to withhold salaries from Trump officials

The various House committees now run by the Democrats who have been demanding information and testimony from a host of Trump administration officials, some very inappropriate and even possibly illegal, are now threatening to withhold salaries from any Trump officials who defy their demands.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent letters Tuesday calling for eight current and former Trump administration officials to provide information for two of the panel’s investigations, cautioning that officials who block the interviews from taking place could see their salaries withheld.

“Please be advised that any official at the Department who ‘prohibits or prevents’ or ‘attempts or threatens to prohibit or prevent’ any officer or employee of the Federal Government from speaking with the Committee could have his or her salary withheld pursuant to section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act,” Cummings wrote in the letters.

Cummings is one of two House committees threatening this action.

I doubt they will be able to follow through with this threat, but I am very sure they mean it and will do it if they can. And this illustrates better than anything the difference between the weak-kneed Republicans in Washington and the Democrats. The Republicans are generally afraid of their own shadow, and are never really willing to use the law or the evidence aggressively to gain a political advantage. The Democrats meanwhile always mean business, and will do whatever they can to get what they want. This is why we are losing the country to these thugs.

And it is also why we have Trump today. Unlike those cowardly Republicans, Trump also means business, and is willing to fight. I might not always agree with him, but so far he has been very straight about what he wants to do, and he has done everything he can to aggressively achieve those goals.

I just wish we had a few more people on the right side of politics with the same courage.

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The battle over Trump’s Moon effort exposes Washington’s power-hungry bureaucracy

This analysis by Eric Berger at Ars Technica of the political situation surrounding SLS, Orion, Gateway, and the Trump administration’s desire to quickly get back to the Moon is quite cogent and worth reading in full. It suggests that it will be very difficult for Trump to get his lunar landing, for several reasons. First, the Democrats in the House will likely not fund it. Second, because to get it done by 2024 will likely require switching to private rockets, and that action will be opposed by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). And third because there are factions in the NASA bureaucracy that are in love with SLS and Gateway and will work to save it.

This quote is most telling:

At NASA headquarters, [human spaceflight chief Bill] Gerstenmaier and this team that plays a central role in developing policy for the space agency are likely content to play a waiting game. Without an increased budget he can continue to spend money on developing the SLS rocket for some future launch date and begin procuring elements of the Lunar Gateway. He can make some small investments in a lunar lander but doesn’t have to commit to its development before the end of next year, which may bring a new president and new priorities.

In other words, Bill Gerstenmaier, an unelected bureaucrat at NASA, has more power to determine U.S. space policy than elected lawmakers.

I ask, how does Gerstenmaier have the right to “develop policy for the space agency?” What legislative authority gives him the right to “play a waiting game” while continuing to “spend money on developing the SLS rocket… and procuring elements of Lunar Gateway?” These are policy decisions that belong solely to Congress and the President, not some hired government bureaucrat.

In a sense this story is only another reflection of the entire Russian collusion scandal. Hired government officials with no legal authority decide that they really know best, and this hubris allows them to supplant the decisions of lawmakers, and even attempt to overthrow them if necessary.

I reluctantly predicted this behavior back in June 2016 when I visited Washington and wrote this essay: The think tank culture of Washington:

What will this elite community do should Trump win the presidency and start demanding that they do things differently? Will they recognize that we are a democracy and work with him, the elected choice of the American people, or will they resist because he isn’t the politician they wanted and wants to institute policies they disagree with?

…I fear that the culture of Washington is becoming increasingly hostile to and insulated against the choices of the American electorate. I fear that they will one day soon decide to team up with the politicians they like to use the concentrated power we have given them in Washington to reject those choices, even to the extent of tossing out the Constitution and the democratic legal system that made the United States once the freest and wealthiest nation in the history of the human race.

I hope I am wrong. I pray that I am wrong. I think we might very well find out in the coming year.

Sadly, what we have learned in the past three years is that this Washington think tank culture is quite willing to overthrow the Constitution and the law, to get what they want. The situation at NASA only gives us another example of this terrible reality.

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Trump & Democrats work out $2 trillion spending deal

The coming dark age: President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats have come to a preliminary deal for spending an additional $2 trillion for “infrastructure.”

The dozen Democratic lawmakers in the meeting with the president called it a constructive start. They said Trump agreed that infrastructure investments should go beyond roads and bridges and include broadband, water systems, and enhancements to the electrical grid.

Democrats also put the onus on Trump to come up with a funding source, and said they would meet again in three weeks, when the president will present his ideas. The nation’s top business groups and labor unions support increasing the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.3 cents a gallon. It was last raised in 1993. [emphasis mine]

Everything about this deal illustrates the corruption and bankruptcy in Washington. They all think money falls from the sky like rain, and can be spent freely without any thought or discipline. Instead of looking for available cash to pay for this work, they will make a deal to spend the money, and hope new gas taxes will pay for it. They won’t, not by a long shot, and we will fall deeper into debt, even as we cripple the already handicapped citizenry with more taxes.

Worse, most of this spending is for local projects that should be paid for by local governments, as had once been the tradition. Now every Senator and Congressperson is making deals to bring federal cash back to their state or district, even if the federal government doesn’t have the money. And Trump is joining in the game, to win votes and claim he helped rebuild the country! No one mentions that we are going bankrupt, including the bankrupt press which joins the politicians in playing this gamel.

The politics of this deal also illustrate the corruption that is rotting the heart of the country. Too many voters cheer this wild spending on, voting for these very politicians because they bring home this bacon, even though it is bacon no one can afford. It is why the politicians spend the money. They benefit from it at the voting booth.

A dark age is coming. Be aware.

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Independent study finds NASA’s Mars plans infeasible

Surprise, surprise! An independent study, ordered by Congress, has determined that NASA’s Mars exploration plans are infeasible and cannot get the U.S. to the red planet in 2033 as NASA claims.

STPI, at NASA’s direction, used the strategy the agency had laid out in its “Exploration Campaign” report, which projects the continued use of the Space Launch System and Orion and development of the lunar Gateway in the 2020s. That would be followed by the Deep Space Transport (DST), a crewed spacecraft that would travel from cislunar space to Mars and back. NASA would also develop lunar landers are related system to support crewed missions to the lunar surface, while also working on systems for later missions to the surface of Mars.

That work, the STPI report concluded, will take too long to complete in time to support a 2033 mission. “We find that even without budget constraints, a Mars 2033 orbital mission cannot be realistically scheduled under NASA’s current and notional plans,” the report states. “Our analysis suggests that a Mars orbital mission could be carried out no earlier than the 2037 orbital window without accepting large technology development, schedule delay, cost overrun, and budget shortfall risks.”

I guarantee that even if NASA got a blank check from Congress it could not make the 2037 date above either, not if they intend to use SLS, Orion, and Gateway.

This report was ordered by Congress as part of the building political desire in Washington to shift gears away from SLS and to the private sector. SLS has too many vested interests, both in and out of Congress, for the cowards in Washington to just shut it down. In order to do so, they need ammunition they can use against those vested interests. This report, though stating the obvious, gives them that ammunition, as it carries an official think tank stamp, something the mediocre minds in DC require for them to take any forthright action.

At the same time, I can see the corrupt porkmeisters in Congress, such as Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), drooling over this report. They see the gigantic budget and endless time it estimates NASA will need to go to Mars with SLS, Orion, and Gateway as a feature, not a bug.

“As such,” the report concludes, “a mission to Mars orbit in 2033 is infeasible from a technology development and schedule perspective.” The next launch window, in 2035, was also deemed infeasible because of technology development work, pushing the earliest possible date for flying the mission to the following launch window in 2037.

STPI also estimated the cost of carrying out this first Mars mission in 2037. The report estimated the total cost of just those elements needed for the Mars mission, including SLS, Orion, Gateway, DST and other logistics, at $120.6 billion through fiscal year 2037. Of that total, $33.7 billion has been spent to date on SLS and Orion development and associated ground systems.

Another $90 billion in pork, spread over twenty years! Wow, that’s exactly what many of the thieves in Washington like. This wasteful spending won’t serve the nation’s needs by making us a competitive space-faring nation, but it will distribute a lot of money to the people who donate campaign dollars to these politicians.

Which way will we go? I have no idea right now. The voters could make a difference, if the voters finally decided to clean out Congress. I see no evidence of them doing so, however, so expect bad things for the future.

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ESA agrees to subsidize Ariane 6 should it fail to sell

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed an agreement with ArianeGroup, the private company building its next generation rocket Ariane 6, to provide subsidizes to the company should the rocket’s inability to get launch contracts continue.

The problem is that ESA had promised ArianeGroup seven launch contracts from its various governments during the rocket’s development, but only three so far have been signed. Ariane 6, though less expensive than Ariane 5, still costs too much (it is not going to be usable), and it appears that too many member nations in ESA don’t want to pay the extra bucks when they can get the same service cheaper from SpaceX.

This lack of contracts has caused ArianeGroup to slow development.

The new agreement gives the company a financial guarantee should the additional four launch contracts not materialize.

“If seven launch service contracts are not signed by the ministerial at the end of November, then the ESA DG [Director General Jan Woerner] will propose for decision to member states to complement the revenues needed for the first Ariane 64,” said [Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s director of space transportation].

In other words, Ariane 6 is going to turn out just like Ariane 5, an expensive rocket that never makes a profit. Moreover, if ESA requires its members to use its cost will handicap Europe’s future space efforts.

This isn’t a surprise. I predicted this likelihood back in September 2017 when ArianeGroup first announced the prices it planned to charge for Ariane 6 launches. Those prices, for launches in the 2020s, were higher than what SpaceX charges now, and were certainly going to be more uncompetitive in the future.

It seems that Europe’s aerospace industry, both in and out of government, can’t seem to understand these basics of the free market. You have to be competitive, and if you are not, the worst way to fix the problem is pour more money into an uncompetitive product. From the get-go they designed Ariane 6 as if it was 1990, when the industry said reusable rockets were impossible. The result is a rocket no one wants to buy, because everyone knows that by the mid-2020s they will have many inexpensive reusable rockets to choose from. Why buy an overpriced dinosaur?

So, instead of pouring subsidies into Ariane 6, as designed, ESA should be demanding for its money new designs from ArianeGroup that make the rocket cheaper to launch.

Europe does not appear to be doing this, however, so expect Europe to be badly crippled in the upcoming 21st century space race.

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How not to fall for modern news propaganda

Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist yesterday posted a very cogent and honest essay entitled, “Here’s Why I Didn’t Fall For The Russia-Trump Conspiracy.”

To preface, during the past two years Hemingway, along with a small cadre of honest Washington reporters, maintained their objectivity and did not fall for the Russian collusion scam. Instead, they documented the absurdity of the mainstream press’s claims and its never-ending “bombshells” (all of which ended up to be duds).

Hemingway outlines how, living deep within that Washington press culture, she at first found it difficult to resist peer pressure to accept the anti-Trump claims. She then describes how she did come to resist, and concludes as follows:

I didn’t fall for the Russia hoax that CNN and other media outlets did because I worked hard at understanding the appeal of his candidacy even before the Russia narrative started. At the same time, I recognized how disruptive he was to the established order and the livelihoods of those who had grown comfortable in D.C. Unlike many reporters, I knew and loved many people who voted for Trump. My background as a media critic made me aware of information campaigns and how to resist them. My dislike of the interventionist foreign policy made me less susceptible to scaremongering about realist foreign policy.

Her essay is worth reading because it provides a nice summary of the dishonesty rampant the past two years in the leftist press and Washington culture.

Reading her essay, however, made me wonder why I never fell for the Russia-Trump conspiracy. The answer was obvious. Hemingway, seeped in that mainstream press culture, as a Washington reporter, found increasingly she had to check what that press was telling her, and repeatedly found what it was saying was a lie.

I however long ago realized how dishonest and untrustworthy that mainstream press is, and thus have not relied on it for information, in the slightest, for about two decades. When a news source routinely gets its story wrong and then does nothing to correct the problem, I then decide that news source is not a source I will rely on for information.

For the past two years I have routinely ignored the anti-Trump claims and “bombshells” put forth by the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, and all the other mainstream news sources. I simply don’t go to them for information. I knew from much experience that information would be wrong, and not worth the electrons that broadcast it.

Thus, I found it easy to dismiss as hogwash their claims that Trump was an agent for Russia. I already knew the people making the claim were clowns not to be listened to.

Does that make me uninformed or close-minded? No. Instead, I avoid being misinformed, as the facts I dig up from many other news sources, checked against each other, generally turn out to be trustworthy.

Everyone in the U.S., going forward, should keep this in mind. These leftist news sources are merely propaganda operations for the Democratic Party. If you rely on them for information you will definitely not know what is going on. Instead, you will be a puppet for that political party, someone unfit to call themselves a free citizen of a free nation.

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Cruz’s Space Frontier Act reintroduced; extends ISS to 2030

This week a bi-partisan group of senators reintroduced Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) Space Frontier Act.

The bill closely follows last year’s version of the Space Frontier Act, which Cruz and then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) shepherded through the Senate. Most of the bill covers efforts to reform commercial launch and remote sensing regulations in parallel with rulemaking activities currently underway by the Commerce and Transportation Departments. The bill also authorizes an extension of the International Space Station from 2024 to 2030 and elevates the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department to the Bureau of Space Commerce.

They have changed one item that caused the House to reject the bill last year, one that exempted space-related bureaucracies from “the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets requirements for public meetings by such committees.” I suspect the exemption was an attempt to keep the job simple for these bureaucracies. At the same time, allowing them to function in the dark as they make regulations is not good either.

I have read through the bill [pdf], and my impression is that it really won’t change much. That it mandates the extension of ISS to 2030 however is important, as this means this big government project will continue to be funded, whether or not it makes sense to do so. Many in the space station private sector have said that it would be better that ISS was gone so that their efforts would not have to compete with it. I’m not sure this is true, however. All NASA really has to do to make ISS more commercially viable is to allow more commercial activities on it, including allowing private companies to attach their own modules that they own and control. Should NASA do this, the objections of the private space station community would become moot.

On a positive note, forcing NASA to continue to support ISS — which does have great value — will make it harder for NASA to find money for its Lunar Gateway boondoggle, a project that to my mind has far less obvious value, especially because it will cost far more than ISS to build and operate.

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Senate rejects Democratic New Green Deal 57-0

The Senate yesterday rejected the Democratic New Green Deal proposal by a vote of 57-0, with 43 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders) voting present.

No senator voted to begin debate on the legislation, while 57 lawmakers voted against breaking the filibuster. Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined 53 Republicans in voting “no.” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted “no.”

The vote had been teed up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a bid to make Democratic senators — including several 2020 presidential candidates — go on the record about the measure. McConnell had called the proposal “a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy.”

The speech that Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave prior to the vote is worth watching for every one of its 13 minutes. He describes the substance of this bill quite accurately, and he does so in a most amusing manner.

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The National Space Council’s full recommendations

Yesterday’s meeting of the National Space Council resulted in a number of recommendations beyond vice-president Mike Pence’s announcement that the Trump administration is quite willing to dump SLS if it doesn’t get its act together.

First, see this statement by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He outlines the tasks that NASA has now been given, including getting astronauts on the Moon by 2024. Those tasks also require NASA to “[s]tay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022.”

This article at SpacePolicyOnline outlines those tasks in more detail, stating that:

NASA will create a Moon-to-Mars Mission Directorate and make all necessary efforts to achieve Exploration Mission-1 no later than 2020 and Exploration Mission-2 no later than 2022. [emphasis mine]

These announcements inadvertently reveal two facts. First, the establishment of a new directorate at NASA is Bridenstine’s attempt to shake up and take control of NASA’s bureaucracy. This will allow him to put people in place that support his agenda.

Will this work? I doubt it. I have watched NASA administrators do this time after time in the past twenty years, with nothing really changing. In a sense, it is really nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Second, they are admitting here (as indicated by the highlighted words) that the first SLS unmanned launch will not happen in June 2020. They have reviewed everything and realized the fastest way to get this launch off is to allow SLS to launch it, but they have also realized that the June date can’t be met. This announcement gives NASA and Boeing an extra six months, to the end of 2020, to get the mission off the ground.

The recommendations also included the release of major suggested changes to streamline how both the State Department and the FAA regulate commercial space. Neither appear to streamline things much. For example, the FAA’s new rule [pdf] on federal commercial space transportation requirements is only 580 pages long. My eyes glazed over as soon as I started reading it. Similarly, the new State Department procedures appear as complex. I haven’t digested either yet, so my pessimism might be unfounded. We shall see.

All in all, the significance of these policy announcements is not so much in the details, all of which illustrate the continuing incompetence and failures of the federal space bureaucracy. What these announcements instead tell us is that the Trump administration is finally attempting the first baby steps for gaining some measure of control over that federal space bureaucracy. It is telling that bureaucracy that it had finally has to do something, or face the consequences.

Whether the administration’s efforts will succeed however remains very questionable. Many in that bureaucracy and in Congress will oppose this effort. They like things as they are, where billions get distributed throughout the country to their friends, and no one is ever required to accomplish anything. And they have managed for the past twenty years to maintain this status quo. It will not be easy to force a change now.

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Pence reiterates Trump administration’s willingness to abandon SLS

Turf war! At today’s National Space Council meeting, vice-president Mike Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s willingness to replace SLS with commercial rockets, if that is what it will take to get Americans back to the Moon by 2024.

Pence said the schedule for completing SLS must be accelerated, but also opened the door to using rockets built by a commercial spaceflight company for the lunar mission. “We’re not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will,” he said. “And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be.”

It is very clear now that the Trump administration is beginning the political war necessary for shutting down the SLS boondoggle, something that cannot happen easily considering how its large workforce is scattered in so many states and congressional districts. To make it happen, they need to publicly illustrate its failure, repeatedly, but do so in a manner that does not overly antagonize SLS’s supporters. This is why both Pence and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine have been careful to express support for SLS, even as they hint at its replacement.

The battle is joined, however, and that could be a very good thing for the American space industry, in the coming years.

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Key House Democrat announces opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal

Adam Smith (D-Washington), the House Democrat who now heads the committee that approves military space funding, has announced his opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal.

He revealed two objections. One, he claimed the proposal was top heavy in management, with its leadership delegated to one civilian and two generals. The second complaint I think is more pertinent.

The Trump proposal includes language about the Space Force’s civilian workforce that the Democrats just can’t stomach. In his statement, Smith says that “a large part of the proposal is an attack on the rights of DoD civilian employees. It asks for broad authority to waive long-standing and effective elements of civil service rules, pay rates, merit-based hiring, and senior civilian management practices.”

As usual, the Democrats are more interested in acting as union reps for the government workforce than serving the needs of the country. Trump’s proposal, as put forth, might not make sense, but Smith is clearly not interested in fixing it. Instead, he wants shape this new bureaucracy so that it provides him and DC with more funding and power. The country can go to hell.

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Air Force’s launch contracting plans under scrutiny

It appears the Air Force wants to decide now which two rocket companies it will use for its launch needs in the 2022 to 2026 time period, and this desire is raising hackles among those companies.

[T]he Air Force will choose only two companies to meet its launch needs from 2022 to 2026, with one provider winning 60 percent of the contracts and the other taking 40 percent. There is no provision to on-ramp other companies during the time frame.

This sets up a rather frantic competition between the incumbents, ULA and SpaceX, and newcomers Blue Origin (with its New Glenn booster) and Northrop Grumman (with its Omega rocket). Moreover, the timing appears to prejudice the competition in favor of the incumbents, which already have existing launch systems the government can assess.

Something is really fishy here. Why does the Air Force need to limit its services to only two companies? And why do they have to make this decision now, three to seven years before the launches will occur? Common sense says you instead issue specific contract bids, for each launch, as they are needed, thus allowing as many companies as possible to compete for the business.

In fact, this policy seems to directly contradict the Air Force’s stated goal, repeated many times in the past few years, to widen competition in the launch industry, both to lower cost and to give the military strategic redundancy in its needed launch services.

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Andrew Yang: the fascist future of the Democratic Party

Want to know what the future of the Democratic Party will be? You need only take a look at the stated presidential goals of Andrew Yang.

Yang’s proposals in the first two stories would violate the first amendment of the Bill of Rights, having government impose its will on both free speech and religion. His proposal in the third story would bankrupt the nation while imposing back-breaking taxes on everyone. The result would be Soviet- and Venezuelan-style socialism/communism. And anyone with even the slightest education can imagine where that will get us.

The fourth story illustrates his uneducated narcissism. He fears that automation and robots are going to put people out of work forever, and wants to use the power of government to fix this danger.

Even if he is right about the dangers of automation, however, what makes him think he is so smart that he has the slightest idea what to do? He doesn’t. No single human ever does on problems of this complexity. Instead, the free market usually answers the problem quite effectively. Remember Aesop’s fable about necessity being the mother of invention?

If automation kills some jobs, others will pop up to replace them. This is what happened in the 1960s and 1970s when the first wave of panic occurred over automation. Then there were numerous articles about how automation was going to put everyone out of work. It never happened, and it won’t happen in the future.

Yang will probably not be the Democratic Party candidate for president. Still, his stance and nonchalant willingness to violate the Constitution to impose his will on others is very typical of most young Democrats. This is where that party is heading, even as it embraces bigotry and anti-Semitism, while working to corrupt the election process.

Yang is typical of the young Democratic Party. That future should send chills up the spine of every free American. As I’ve said repeatedly, they’re coming for you next.

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A review of the Trump administrations’s SLS/Orion reprogramming options

Link here. This is a nice summary of the technical and political options being considered for the first unmanned Orion test flight, presently scheduled for June 2020, including replacing SLS with commercial launch rockets.

The article also noted that NASA is also looking at simplifying that test flight, because both SLS and Orion are behind schedule and this would make using a commercial rocket easier.

The currently baselined EM-1 [the test] mission would launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a trans-lunar injection (TLI) trajectory; once released from the launch vehicle, it will fly solo for the first time. The Orion would then make two large engine burns to insert itself into a Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO) around the Moon. Depending on the time of year, Orion would stay in the DRO for a half or one and a half orbits before making two more large engine burns to return to Earth. Preliminary analysis indicates a June, 2020, launch of the full-up mission would fall into the “long-class” category, with Orion staying in a DRO with a twelve-day long period for one and a half laps and flying a five-week long flight.

Prior to Administrator Bridenstine’s announcement of the alternate launch study for EM-1, notes passed to [this website] indicated that NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier had sent out a memo in early March indicating that studies to look at ways to keep the EM-1 launch in 2020 could not compromise any of the mission objectives; besides that, everything else was on the table.

The highest priority objective of the EM-1 mission is a lunar-velocity reentry test of the redesigned Orion heatshield, along with a full end-to-end test of the re-entry sequence and an in-space demonstration of Orion systems, many of which are flying for the first time.

Although Bridenstine’s public comments stressed flying EM-1 as a lunar orbit mission, there has been speculation that launching Orion out to near lunar distance without attempting either a lunar orbit or a lunar flyby could meet the highest priority objectives. Dropping the lunar orbit requirement or lunar flyby options would also relax launch opportunity constraints created by flying to the Moon and could perhaps reduce launch vehicle performance requirements enough to drop the [Earth orbit rendezvous] proposal and [docking] development work. [emphasis mine]

To use commercial rockets and still go into lunar orbit would require at least two commercial launches to get the required material up to orbit. It would also require developing Orion’s docking software now, something NASA had not planned to do until prior to Orion’s third flight several years hence. Avoiding lunar orbit means they can use a single Falcon Heavy launch and avoid these issues.

The highlighted phrase above indicates the most important priority of the test flight. This does not require lunar orbit. In fact, the Apollo mission tested its heat shield without leaving Earth orbit, and Orion can do the same.

It is still bothersome to read how haphazard NASA’s SLS/Orion program remains. They aren’t doing enough testing, their future flights are always in flux for political, schedule, and budgetary reasons, and they always seem to be in too much of a hurry to fly humans on very unproven vehicles. If NASA’s corrupt safety panel applied the same standards to SLS/Orion as it does to SpaceX and Boeing, the whole program would be shut down. It does not, because safety isn’t really its purpose. That panel’s goal is to serve NASA’s bureaucracy, and to protect its biggest projects (SLS/Orion) from any competition.

As for replacing SLS for that first Orion test flight, we shall see. The political forces opposing such a move are vast, and wield a lot of power.

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The Washington Empire strikes back!

In response to the revelation earlier this week by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine that the agency is considering replacing SLS with commercial rockets for Orion’s first unmanned lunar test mission in June 2020, the swamp in Washington quickly rallied to SLS’s defense.

Not surprisingly, porkmeister Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) led the charge:

“While I agree that the delay in the SLS launch schedule is unacceptable, I firmly believe that SLS should launch the Orion,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a statement to SpaceNews.

This was followed by statements from industry groups and other lawmakers, all supporting SLS. Next came Bridenstine himself, who emphasized his strong support of SLS at a conference yesterday, then issued a memo to NASA employees reiterating that support.

As far as I can tell, the only way SLS will eventually die is when private companies begin doing things that SLS is designed for, for less money and faster, and for profit. And that won’t happen if this Washington swamp has its say. Rather than see an American success, these cronies have made it clear in the past decade that they will work to squelch any such success if poses any threat to their boondoggles. And it appears now that they are moving to block Bridenstine’s suggestion for that first Orion flight.

Whether this new big government campaign against private enterprise succeeds however is not clear.
» Read more

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Water system in Caracas goes dry

The water system in Caracas, capital of the socialist paradise of Venezuela, is now shutting down because it needs electricity to operate and it does not have it because of the collapse of the power system.

Caracas began going dry Monday as Venezuela’s power crisis put utilities out of commission, risking supplies for 5.5 million people, many of whom found themselves reduced to carrying buckets of filthy river water.

Service, intermittent in normal times, was scarce to nonexistent in large swathes of the capital and experts saw little reason for hope. Caracas is 900 meters above sea level and water comes from the Tuy system of reservoirs and pumping stations below. Those depend on a reliable electric supply of 2,000 megawatts, said Norberto Bausson, who was the head of state utility Hidrocapital in the 1990s. “As of this morning, this system hasn’t been restarted yet,” Bausson said Monday. “The supply of water for the city is at risk.”

The power crisis — and now the water crisis — are testing the hold of strongman President Nicolas Maduro. Opposition leader Juan Guaido is trying to topple him after a re-election widely viewed as fraudulent and using as his main argument widespread deprivation after six years of Maduro’s rule. Hunger is widespread in the nation. Its infrastructure has decayed to critical levels.

But wait! Think of the wonderful things these people are doing to prevent climate change! No power system, no burning of those evil fossil fuels, and less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere! This is exactly what the modern luminaries of the Democratic Party like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) want.

We should all congratulate Maduro and work to emulate him here in the U.S.

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Trump’s budget will not “destroy” or “gut” science

Our terrible press does it again. Yesterday the Trump administration released its proposed 2020 federal budget [pdf], and as usual the pro-government propagandists in the media got to work to lobby against it.

This proposed budget will do none of these things.

These articles all fail to apply even the slightest and tiniest bit of context to their analysis. The budget numbers proposed by the Trump administration might reduce the budgets of some science agencies from what they had gotten the year before, but overall the proposed budgets remain gigantic, far more than received by these same agencies only a few years before.

You don’t believe me? Let me open your eyes.
» Read more

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The nationwide Venezuela power outage

Link here. The article gives a good overview of the now days-long blackout that will go on for days more. Key quote:

How did the country reach this point, in terms of its power network?

Years of disrepair, lack of maintenance and investment. From a human capital point of view, repressive management, terrible wages, and unsafe working conditions. For instance, the technicians are forbidden to talk about this. In February 2018, union leader Elio Palacios was detained because he said that a national blackout was imminent.

The one detail that would have accurately described those years of neglect would have been “socialist rule.” The people who have been in charge of Venezuela since the 1990s have all been heroes of today’s modern American socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as most of the leaders in the Democratic Party.

Be prepared for the same here. We already see signs of this collapse in urban cities that have been solid Democratic Party strongholds for decades, such as San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. These fascist political leaders like political and economic collapse, because they can use it as a lever to garner more power and wealth to themselves.

Note also this quote from the second link above:

“What can you do without electricity?” said Leonel Gutierrez, a 47-year-old systems technician, as he carried his six-month-old daughter while he walked to find groceries. “The food we have has gone bad.”

Yet this is exactly the future envisioned by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) in her New Green Deal, where all future electricity will come only from renewable resources, a concept that is simply impossible. The result will be no electricity at all.

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A Russian speaks truth to power about Roscosmos

Link here. The article outlines the obvious Russian ambivalence towards the success of SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule this week, and then provides some insightful comments about this ambivalence from a Russian.

One person who would probably know is Vadim Lukashevich, a Russian-based space expert. He was fired from an aerospace think tank at Skolkovo in 2015 after writing articles opposing the transformation of Roscosmos from a government agency into a state corporation. On Monday, he gave an interview to Russian television station Moscow 24, which was published on YouTube and translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell.

Lukashevich then proceeds to describe what readers of Behind the Black already know, but in much greater detail: The Soyuz capsule is outdated and cannot compete technologically or economically with SpaceX’s Dragon. Their business model of earning money by selling seats on it is over. And the Russian government is apparently unable or unwilling to do what must be done to make them competitive again. Its decision to form a single giant government-controlled aerospace corporation to run Russia’s entire space industry has failed, and they seem unable to recognize this.

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