David M. Kelly

Character-based SF and more…

Free FictionWant to check out some of my writing at no cost? Not sure if I’m worth reading or not? Looking for something to fill a bit of idle time?

Take a look at my free fiction, available in three different downloadable formats.

NASA has a long history of making goofs (or “poor decision” making if we want to be more formal) over the years. After all it’s a government organization so anything forward-thinking, innovative or bold will get quickly squashed under the fat boot of bureaucracy and risk-aversion – despite any claims to the contrary.

So it should really come as little surprise that NASA’s competition to find a commercial supplier of space crew ferrying to Low Earth Orbit has resulted in the choice of two companies: SpaceX and Boeing.

The choice of SpaceX is admirable and not entirely unexpected; the company already privides NASA with non-crew launch services using its in-house systems and has been dedicated to developing access to space since its inception in 2002.

Boeing is somewhat less obvious. Although they have been involved in space missions before, their primary role was as a weapons and defense contractor. They have shown no passion for space outside of what money they could pick up from government contracts and apparently were seen as out of the running as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Inexplicably, Boeing has also been awarded almost twice as much in funding as SpaceX! When asked repeatedly why this was the case the NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager, Kathy Lueders, refused to give a clear answer and resorted to the evasive response that the awards were “based on the price submitted by the companies in their proposals.”

You have to wonder just how long it will be until senior managers at NASA take up their new highly-paid positions at Boeing…

 

 

A while back I wrote about how the U.S. government is handing millions of dollars over to private fruit growers in Florida to fund research that the fruit growers should pay for. Well now there’s another example closer to home. The Canadian government just announced it is “investing” $6.7 million in “Earth Observation products”; euphemism for giving more large cash handouts to private companies.

According to the write up twelve (12) companies will receive contracts all suspiciously around the $550, 000 mark. So closely aligned are these figures, you might almost wonder if there is some kind of extra scrutiny that comes into play around the $600, 000 mark that they want to avoid. Not only that, but some of the numbers are laughably over-precise: $568,260.05, $551,871.95 and $537,994.29 are just some examples.

The projects include a pipeline monitoring system, which the announcement clearly indicates will benefit “pipeline developers and operators” with the development being carried out by a private company in BC. There’s also a rapid response monitoring system for mines, oil and gas fields being awarded to another BC company, also a direct benefit to those “poor” resource industries. In fact there are quite a few of these systems that benefit “oil and gas and mining companies” along with “pipeline developers and operators”, so many in fact that you’d think that those companies didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Several projects directly benefit the Forestry industry too.

One project is so blatant that it beggars belief – “Development of a Commercial End-to-End Interferometric Processing Capability for Environmental Monitoring” which is being awarded to PCI Geomatics, in Quebec. Imagine that, the Canadian government is paying a private company to develop a commercial product from which the company receives all the benefit!

If any of this seems to smell, that’s because it does. It stinks of graft. It stinks of corruption deep at the heart of the Canadian government, whether dressed up as “scientific research contracts” or any other misleading phrase. I wonder how much scrutiny the owners and operators of these companies could stand up to.

 

A few days ago I saw this news story. It discusses how SpaceX is challenging a patent Blue Origin has obtained on “Sea landing of space launch vehicles”.

Not only has SpaceX already carried out test landings at sea, but this concept has been detailed several times previously by other groups, including NASA and the Russian space program. So to grant a patent in this case is rather ridiculous. For a patent to be awarded, the subject is supposed to be “useful, novel and non obvious”, but these seems to be entirely absent from the Blue Origin claim.

As others who work in the IT field will know, this kind of patent troll is all too familiar. The only people to gain from this will be Continue reading

A recent article announced that the U.S. Government is going to provide $25 million per year (up to $125 million) plus millions in other funding to fund research in to a cure for Citrus Greening. A disease currently threatening the citrus industry, especially in Florida where almost all of the orange groves are infected to some extent.

The infection is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a form of lice, that feed on the trees and infect them with bacteria, turning the fruit sour and ultimately killing the trees. As a result the citrus industry is facing it’s lowest crop yields in twenty-nine years.

According to the article the citrus industry in Florida alone is worth $9 billion and employs 75,000 people.

So shouldn’t the citrus industry itself be funding this research? They’re the ones who will ultimately benefit after all and $25 million represents a meager quarter of a percent of the industry’s value.

What this amounts to is simply your hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to private companies Continue reading

I read an interesting piece recently about how not teaching handwriting appears to lead to a lack of creativity and overall learning ability. The idea put forward is that the brain develops more pattern recognition ability and cognitive skills by learning to write the “old-fashioned” way. Tests carried out show that the brain’s learning centers are not activated to the same level in children that learn “writing” through tracing of letters or just by computer typing. Even more significantly the studies also show that these effects seem to cascade over time with children who aren’t taught handwriting skills performing at lower levels in later life.

In these days of Google-Almighty and the general vogue for making everything “easy,” we seem to have completely lost sight of Continue reading

After another successful launch and docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule late last week the company appear to have established itself as a major player in the ground-to-LEO (Low Earth Orbit) sector of the space industry. The latest mission is the third flawless flight made by the California-based company to the International Space Station (ISS) using the combination of it’s Falcon 9 Launcher and the Dragon capsule.

Contrast this with the massive problem facing the U.S. since the loss of the Space Shuttle Continue reading

The Mars One project has announced that it’s planning to set-up “simulated” outposts here on Earth. During the announcement co-founder¬†Bas Lansdorp said, “We are very eager to get started constructing actual hardware for our mission that is important for training future Mars One crews and preparing them for their life on Mars. We are going from theory to practice.”

While this sounds very exciting and forward thinking I’m afraid the skeptic inside me is shouting and waving big red flags Continue reading

This weeks “Cosmos“, featured an interesting segment on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. On the show they explained how the moon is the only other celestial body known to have rain and oceans, although these aren’t water based; instead they consist of ethane, methane and other hydrocarbons.

In another story a few days ago we see that scientists have detected what may be evidence of ripples on the hydrocarbon oceans on Titan, the first time Continue reading

When researching self-publishing and self-promotion it quickly becomes obvious that there’s a wealth of information out there. Although maybe “information” is the wrong term. Perhaps it’s fairer to say that there are a lot of words.

I’ve found that the sheer amount and diversity of opinions is overwhelming to the point of confusion. Not only that but the “signal to noise ratio” is very high; little of what’s written seems to offer any real hard facts. From what I can see, there’s no “secret” Continue reading

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