The Beer has Landed: Astronauts4Hire Completes Space Beer Microgravity Test

The beer has landed: The first test of space beer in weightlessness has been completed. Key quote:

Astronauts4Hire Flight Member Todd Romberger was selected to perform the flight research. Todd sampled the beer during 12 microgravity parabolas, each reproducing the weightless conditions of space for 30 seconds at a time, and recorded qualitative data on beverage taste and drinkability as well as biometric data to gain a first look at alcohol effects the body.

Why more railroad subsidies make no sense

Why high-speed rail makes no sense. Key quote:

High-speed rail would transform Amtrak’s small drain [on the government] into a much larger drain. Once built, high-speed rail systems would face a dilemma. To recoup initial capital costs — construction and train purchases — ticket prices would have to be set so high that few people would choose rail. But lower prices, even with favorable passenger loads, might not cover costs. Government would be stuck with huge subsidies. Even without recovering capital costs, high-speed rail systems would probably run in the red. Most mass-transit systems, despite high ridership, routinely have deficits.

A victory for aerospace pork

Update: See my partial retraction here.

The NASA budget announced today by the White House proves how right I was when I stated back on July 8, 2010 that I had no faith in Obama’s new-found commitment to private commercial space. The new budget reduces the funds for private commercial space while putting the bulk of its support behind the unbuildable program-formerly-called Constellation. First read what I wrote in July:

The problem is that I simply do not believe the Obama administration. Everything I have learned about the current President, including the specifics (or lack thereof) of his proposal, tells me that none of his promises are going to be fulfilled. » Read more

Companies team up on new rocket

The competition to build rockets continues to heat up: A U.S. and European partnership is proposing its own new cargo rocket for NASA, using the Ares I first stage and the Ariane 5 second stage. Key quote:

Dubbed Liberty, the launcher looks similar to the Ares I rocket that was being developed for NASA’s Project Constellation, which was cancelled by the Obama Administration. For its first stage it employs the same advanced, five-segment version of the shuttle’s solid rocket booster. But in a move that significantly lowers development costs, the second stage of the rocket is based on the flight-proven core stage of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket.

Falcon 9 signed to launch Google Lunar X prize competitor

One of the competitor’s for the Google Lunar X prize has signed a contract with SpaceX to use the Falcon 9 to get its spacecraft to the Moon. Key quote:

The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon. Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing. The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars. The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights. The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.

Contractor proposes taking over two shuttles and flying them for NASA through 2017

The contractor who manages the shutte program for NASA, United Space Alliance (USA), has proposed taking over two shuttles and flying them privately for NASA through 2017. Key quote:

USA’s current estimated price tag of $1.5 billion per year would represent a substantial drop from previous funding levels, which have seen shuttle program costs rise as high as $4 billion per year. United Space Alliance says its plan would take advantage of shuttle infrastructure and a workforce already in place. Some shuttle production lines would have to be restarted — for example, the operation that builds the shuttle’s external fuel tanks. But USA says the first commercial shuttle flights could take place in 2013. That would beat the 2016 deadline specified in last year’s legislation, as well as the development schedule laid out by SpaceX and USA’s other commercial competitors.

Remembering Boris Yeltsin

A monument to Boris Yeltsin was unveiled today in his hometown on the 80th anniversary of his birth.

In this week of memorials to American space tragedies, this event in Russia brings to mind the far more important and significant events, affecting millions of people worldwide, that unfolded in the Soviet Union during the late 1980s and mid-1990s. The communist superpower was collapsing, and there was the real possibility that that collapse could lead to worldwide war and violence.

Yeltsin, far more than any other man, helped shepherd the former Soviet Union out of that chaos, and he did it as a civilized man, with relatively little bloodshed. As he shouted defiantly as he stood on a tank in front of the Russian parliament building on the day of the August coup, “Terror and dictatorship . . . must not be allowed to bring eternal night!”

Unlike many former communist leaders, Yeltsin had the openness of mind to recognize that the state-run centralized command society that he had grown up in and had helped run for years simply did not work. “We have oppressed the human spirit,” he noted sadly during a press conference shortly after the coup. More importantly, he also had the courage to take action on this realization, and force the painful changes that were necessary to save his country.

Yeltsin was no saint, and the Russian transition from dictatorship to freedom was far from perfect. No one even knows if that transition is going to hold, today, twenty years later. Nonetheless, the world should remember Yeltsin for his success, and honor that memory.

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