Things were swell on the morning of September 18, 2002, right up until the web site that I had been writing the Klyde Morris cartoon for fired me. Indeed, I had been fired for using the word “dominatrix” in my most recent cartoon. The aviation web site that canned me was one called AvWeb, where I had previously enjoyed a few years of cartooning. What I did not know at the time was that the site had been sold to some big New York publishing house and one of their low level “editors,” who was probably some politically overcorrect nit who fetched coffee, found that word to be “offensive.” They demanded that I change the cartoon. I told them, as politely as I could, to pound sand; and they fired me.

It was quite similar to Dr. Johnny Fever getting fired from a radio station for saying the word “booger” on the air.

To my surprise the firing caused something of a small stir in the aviation community. It was enough to get the attention of another aviation news site called the Aero News Network, (ANN) who ran the story as news. While my former employer was busy scrubbing all references to my cartoon from their servers and posting only reader comments that condemned me personally, ANN’s Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell decided that his site could really use a cartoonist. Thus, on November 8th, 2002 Klyde Morris appeared on for the first time. Meanwhile, I was later informed, that someone attached to my previous employer had been going around behind me telling perspective publishers that I was “trouble” and “very difficult to work with.” In one case that person, unknown to me, had been actually following me around an event. When I’d talk to a prospect, the little worm would come right up behind me and poison the water. Unfortunately, I did not get wind of this cheap little creep until a few years later- it seems that the bunghole had actually done its little act for a friend of mine from college. I doubt that this person had done this nastiness under direction of my former employer’s new owners. They’re cheap, but I don’t think they are that cheap.

In my parting phone conversation with the new “editor” of AvWeb, he warned me to not use the terms, “aviation consumer,” “aviation safety,” “IFR refresher” or “light plane maintenance,” ever in anything I wrote or happened to draw (including this ) because his company had the copyright to those words which were the titles of their publications. Unfortunately, once again, he was too dense to know that aside from being a cartoonist, I am also a published author with, at that time, nine books in publication. I’m quite familiar with copyright law; you cannot copyright common words, terms or phrases and more often than not, you cannot copyright titles. Thus, in my very next cartoon I used every single one of his so-called copy-written terms. In essence it was a fun way to say “In your face asshole.” There was no response, of course, from the blow-hard or the publishing house for which he worked.

My firing from AvWeb increased my readership stats by just over 13,000 in less than a week. I was told by persons still inside the place that their readership had fallen, by a similar number. In his final e-mail to me, the person in charge of AvWeb at the time said, “I have no doubt you've earned a following, but we will weather any disappointment voiced by the subscribership until we can audition and secure a replacement” Although I’m sure they “weathered” the disappointment of those readers who left them with me, they have never managed to secure a replacement. Although I was told that they tried some second-rate cartoons, nothing had the legs that my cartoon has.

Today, I celebrate a DECADE of working with the Aero-News Network. That is some 1,040 cartoons so far since the first one appeared on ANN on November 8th, 2002. If anyone reading this still believes that I am somehow “hard to work with” they would do well to contact Jim Campbell of ANN and ask him that question. You see, a funny thing happened to me on September 18th, 2002, I got fired from AvWeb, and went to a much better news site.

To read the entire e-mail exchange between me and AvWeb- visit here:

Oddly, they never expected me to take their own e-mails, remove the personal information and use it all against them.

Oh yeah, “… and by the way fellow babies, I almost forgot… BOOGER!!!!” – Dr. Johnny Fever, WKRP.



Starting today, I am no longer teaching my two daughters to try. I'm no longer teaching my kids to do well in school. In fact I'm teaching them to get as dumb as possible. "Why?" you may ask... because that is the best way to get along in Obama's America. The dumber you are and the more lazy you are, the more free stuff you get..

You see, the key to survival from now on is that in order to live, you must get free stuff from the state, the government, from The Leader- Obama. The dumber you are, the more you will get. I'm teaching my kids where to stand in line to get the paperwork to get the free stuff. I'm teaching them to game the system- they are no longer Americans- they are Asian-Females, a double minority. They can get more free stuff.

I'm also teaching my kids to join the Democrat Party- right now. I want them to work their way up into "The Party" as high as they can. Because in The Leader's america, just like in other communist nations, only high-up party members will get the best free stuff, the best housing, the best cars, the best food and of course the best, free, health care. The key to The Leader's dream is to rise in The Party, thus, rise to the best free stuff. There will no longer be a party divide, there will be only one party- The Party, The Leader's party.

When The Leader changes the nation's flag, we will fly the new flag, when the leader orders that every loyal american has a photo of The Leader in their homes, we will have one and when The Leader sends his federal housing authority to our home and deems it as too large we will turn it into apartments for other people who were not savvy enough to get as much free stuff as they need.

My children must now learn that the military means nothing- unless they are escorting The Leader. The big dogs in The Leader's america will from now on be the EPA, the IRS and especially the un-elected board of persons who will decide who gets what medication, doctor's care, who lives and who dies. Those are the powers that be from now on.

We will stand by uncaring when the leader deems the Constitution to be invalid and holds a party convention to write a new document and thus making himself "President for Life." After all, who is to stop him? The news media? The voters? There will be no more votes for president that do not re-elect The Leader.

If my kids actually do grow up wanting to work, I'll teach them to work in the government. From then on they will always have a job if they are in the government. They will also have the title of "employee" rather than those poor fools working outside the government who are now and forever more referred to as "workers." My kids will be savvy to the fact that they cannot earn more than five figures of annual income- because they will then become "the rich" and they will have everything else that they earn taken from them by The Party.

In our household, my kids will tell you that the worst thing they can do is tell a lie. We had held truth as the highest standard. Now, however, I'll be teaching my kids to lie- and to lie as good as they can. When asked a question, just tell the person listening exactly what the want to hear. There is no truth, there are only the words that will get you ahead. If you get caught in a lie, lie some more- twist the words and if need be, throw someone else under the bus. Those who lie with the greatest of ease will be those who get ahead in The Leader's america.

The Leader's america is not the result of voter fraud, voter suppression or any other type of wrong-doing. THIS is what american voted for on November 6th, 2012. Now we all must conform to The Party way and to serve the needs of The Leader. The nation voted for this- and now we are going to get it. I just want my kids to NOT be the ones assigned to polishing the railroad rails in The Leader's america.

All hail The Leader, all hail Obama.


What to do during the debate.

Tonight during the debate I'd advise everyone that, while the media is focused on the political and the politically correct, you should do something just the opposite. In my case, I'll not be watching a moment of the debate... instead I'll be watching a movie that could NEVER be made today... Blazing Saddles!

Of course, any Mel Brooks movie will do... but this one is the most politically incorrect ever. Thus, I love it. Saw it in the theater in 1974 among a VERY mixed race crowd- and we all laughed our asses off. Remember those days, when we could all laugh at each other, and all laugh together? Those days before everyone seemed so spring-loaded to the "offended position."

Frankly, the only thing that offends me are people who are always offended by stuff.


What's wrong with this world? Here's a sample.

If you ask "What is wrong with this world?" ... well...

A while ago a storm blew through our neighborhood and a stray beach ball came bouncing down the street and over our fence and lodged in our yard. On the ball is written the following:


 It is printed there in, as best I can count, 27 different languages!

A note to humanity, from me... IT'S JUST A F%#&ING BEACH BALL!

A message to the President... as if he'd care

During the first presidential debate on Wednesday night, October 3rd, 2012 the current President of the United States once again took a shot at “corporate jets.” When talking about Exxon and big oil the president chose to hold up general aviation executive aircraft as if they were a red flag pointing to part of what is wrong with America. This, from someone who routinely and sometimes frivolously makes use of the world’s most exclusive and America’s most expensive executive jet.

My personal revulsion for this demagoguery of executive jets and their users is rooted in the fact that I have a long history with that part of general aviation- from the VERY bottom, up.

Folks who know me, know full well that I took a full 10 years to work my way through the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. By work-my-way-through I mean that I paid for 100% of the cost from my own pocket and with whatever student aid I could scrape up. Working jobs from running a cash register at Kmart to washing rental cars to walking the floors at hotels, I wore a lot of name-tags and ate a lot of Rice-a-roni. As a part of that process I spent some of those best working days employed at a Falcon Jet service center.

In 1978, my first summer away from school, I got fed up with National Car Rental and car-hiking at MBS International Airport and walked across the field to Hangar 6 and a company called Airflight and Serve-A-Plane, which was a Falcon Jet service center. They hired me as a clerk in the parts department. For the majority of that summer I shuffled, received and stocked tiny components for the dozens of Falcon Jets that came and went through Hangar 6. Those evil “Corporate Jet” owners and their sinful machines paid for nearly a full semester of my college.

The following year, 1979, was the first time that I went so broke that the university would not allow me to register. Thus, I returned to Hangar 6 and Airflight, looking for work. This time they hired me as the “hangar rat.” For those of you who may not know it, the hangar rat’s job is to “Empty what’s full, fill what’s empty and everything else, ya’ paint yellow.” Thus I took out trash, mopped the hangar floor and cleaned the aircraft when they were finished with whatever maintenance had been needed. I earned extra cash by washing the jets and copped overtime by working on-call to do after-hours turn arounds of Dow Corning’s fleet. Likewise, when a big project came in, I was tasked with “dropping panels” or taking a speed-handle and unscrewing access panels on the aircraft. In doing that lowest of the low level jobs, I earned enough money to pay off what I owed to the university and finance yet another semester of my education.

Finally in the summer of 1985 I was hired for the third time to work at Hangar 6, where the company was now called Aero Services. This time, I was hired to work as a mechanic under the shop’s certificate. The task was one that I’m very proud to be able to say that I was a part of- the first ever “D” inspection done on a Falcon 20. This check involved removing everything that could be removed from the airframe, and inspecting, replacing, and re-installing it. And I mean everything, was removed, the windows, every stitch of the interior, the landing gear, the engines- even the fuel tanks had their bottoms dropped and were cleaned by a special team sent up from Florida. We were acting on procedures sent fresh from the engineers at Dassault. It was new stuff that in many cases no other wrenches had done before. For example, we uncovered the wing bolts, by use of dental tools, and inspected them- then we took specially shaped styro-foam plugs and inserted them back into the holes amid a bath of Mastinox compound. It was an all-day process, with no breaks or lunch, that two of us did in throw-away cloths because Mastinox compound is messy stuff- I loved it! The “D” inspection took the entire summer and we turned the aircraft over to the owner just two days before I left to go back to school. I recall sitting in turbine engines class the following week, still having Mastinox compound under my fingernails and a summer’s worth of earned income to invest in school.

My point here is that those “corporate jets” that Obama so easily condemns are not just a luxury for billionaires and millionaires, (one of which he happens to be), but rather they are instruments in the economy. They provide gainful employment by which hundreds of thousands of honest hard-working folks earn their living. In all of my years around Falcon Jets, I rarely met those millionaires and billionaires until I became a Falcon Jet pilot. And even then, the VAST majority of people whose work, I repeat, WORK, involved those evil “corporate jets” were just regular middle-class folks. They’re the ones who shuffle the parts, pump the fuel, answer the phones, mop the floors, turn the wrenches and do a thousand other jobs that Mr. Obama has never stooped to do. I can say that because, unlike the president, I HAVE done those jobs in the world of executive jet general aviation. I have punched the time clock at two in the morning and gone out to meet the arriving flight with a trash bag in one hand and bottle of spray cleaner in the other. And on those occasions, I was not alone- there were fuel trucks with amber flashing lights, there were limo drivers waiting for passengers and there were countless other airport employees. Then there were the off-airport people, the hotel alone- which would accommodate passengers arriving on those late night flights employed dozens on that shift. Then there were the food service people who brought out the tray of goodies that that cost enough to feed a slob like me for a week. Up the line were the people who manufactured the parts that supported those flying machines, the people working in the warehouse that stocked the parts, the companies that shipped those parts and its people. Those thousands of hands that reached out to do the work rather than reaching out to take a government hand-out.

So, when President Obama waves “corporate jets” like a red flag to represent the evil rich, (again- of which he is one,) what he is really doing is blindly slapping the faces of all of the hard working folks who support the use of those machines. As having been one of them, I find that to be beyond repulsive.

Today, I’ll be wearing my Falcon Jet hat and shirt all day. This just to illustrate the point that I’ve been where the president has not, and I’ve met the people that he, in a single swipe of his words has slapped in the face. In fact I’ll be wearing the hat until the voters of the United States re-distribute Barack Obama to Chicago- where he’ll spend the rest of his life traveling, exclusively, by way of private Jets.


How the Civil Air Patrol rescued me.

Recently I was contacted by a Civil Air Patrol squadron. They wanted to buy a bunch of my Dr. Zooch Rockets Space Shuttle kits so that they could launch them in a multi-squadron event. Cadets of the Lone Eagle and Curtiss-Wright Squadrons in New Jersey got together on Sept. 29th, 2012 and made 105 Shuttle flights. That’s exactly 105 more than NASA can presently do. Everyone had a good time and in exchanging messages with the group it brought to mind something that I had almost forgotten- it was 40 years ago, this month, that I joined the CAP… damn, am I old.

I have to state that the CAP saved me from some of the worst months of my life. At age 15 I was in my third miserable year at a stinking rat-hole called Webber Junior High School. This was a crummy public “school” on the wrong side of Saginaw, Michigan where the workin’ class kids were herded together with the non-workin’ class kids in a rude mixture. I learned fast that you never wanted to make the honor roll- you’d get beat up. You always carried your lunch money in your shoe. The term “Borrow me a nickel” actually meant give me the coin or I’ll punch you in the gut. You never wanted to be late for school- not by a single second, because when that bell stopped ringing, the doors were locked and buzzards hanging out around the building would rob you, beat you or worse. Every single day there was a fight, or some sort of trouble. Very often there were disturbances in the class room- so often, in fact that anyone not wanting to witness it, again, could simply ask for a library pass- which was always easily granted. Mr. Parr, the principal, was proud of the fact that in a fire drill he could empty the building inside of three minutes, that when there was one of the frequent bomb threats “at two o’clock the building is gonna blow up” that he would hit the fire drill at five minutes before the bomb, and wait for the school to blow up, which, unfortunately, it never did. The school never had a dance, you could never attend a full football game or a basketball game- because sometime during that event you would be robbed. Thus, there were no extracurricular activities for kids who didn’t want to rob, beat, do drugs or be arrested.

I had survived two full wasted years at that place, often by taking my all-consuming passion for the space program and aviation and pulling it over my head like a security blanket and spending lots of time in the 629 section of the Dewey Decimal System. I also always had a nickel in my pocket and never touched a basketball. Then, one day a pal of mine came into class and was telling me about going to a CAP meeting. Knowing that I was into aviation he encouraged me to go with him to the next meeting. I attended that single meeting and I was hooked. At long last there was a constructive after-school activity that I could do and it involved aviation. Soon we had four of us from Webber Junior hole in the CAP- Saginaw Valley Composit Squadron 7 dash 2. It was terrific- SAR (Search And Rescue) CAPs, CD (Civil Defense) training, orientation flights, camp-outs, canoe trips, First Aid classes and Red CAPs (actual search and rescue missions). I made friendships that last to this day. One of the other cadets and I even ended up flying together for the DNR when I was fresh out of college with my new commercial certificate.

Joining the CAP was one of the best things that I did in my youth. It saved me from a sizeable portion of the suffering that my third wasted year at that stinking school would have inflicted. Thus, when I was contacted by the CAP about the Shuttle kits I was more than happy and willing to help. The CAP is about search and rescue- and it sure as hell rescued me.



History is scheduled to repeat itself.

Sometime in early 2014 a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle will be erected at Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 37B. Atop that booster will be positioned an Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). As if to mark 50 years since the first Apollo command module was launched into space from that same launch complex, the Orion will be lofted into space for the first time from the same site on its orbital flight test.

On May 28, 1964 a Saturn I, Block II (the SA-6 launch vehicle) lifted off from Launch Complex 37B. On the top of SA-6 was the Apollo boilerplate 13 command module, its boost protective cover (BPC) and its launch escape tower. This payload was the first piece of Apollo-configured hardware to be sent into space. In that era the plan was to one day have astronauts fly aboard an Apollo spacecraft boosted by the Saturn I, Block II, so the entire Apollo configuration and the booster were being tested as a unit. Also being tested, however, were a number of other things- such as aerodynamic heating on the braces of the launch escape tower as well as on the external protuberances of the overall spacecraft, the integrity of the BPC and the ability of the jettison motor to pull the escape tower from the command module. The flight went into Earth orbit and performed four orbits prior to the planned depletion of battery power. Once the batteries were depleted the boilerplate command module was left on its own as no recovery had been planned. After an additional 50 orbits the inert command module reentered over the Pacific Ocean near Canton Island. All mission objectives were accomplished satisfactorily.

Four more flights similar to SA-6’s configuration were launched from Complex 37B and following SA-10 the launch complex was adapted and used to loft two Saturn IBs. Complex 37 was later abandoned in 1971. The following year all of the launch service structures were removed and the facility remained idle for the next 30 years. In 2002 Complex 37 was "repurposed" for use by the United Launch Alliance for their new Delta IV vehicle. Since then scores of these new launch vehicles have flown from Complex 37.

In keeping with the Congressional mandate that the United States must have a Federal manned access to space beyond low Earth orbit, NASA resurrected the Orion spacecraft from its cancellation by the Obama administration. Under development by the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the political winds have blown the Orion from being the exploration architecture of tomorrow, to a canceled piece of hardware, to a rescue pod for the international space station. Finally, in 2011, it was returned by Congressional mandate to its proper place as America's space exploration vehicle for the future. Oddly, in what can easily be considered as a political face-saving move for the Obama administration, NASA pointlessly renamed the Orion vehicle, (which the president had previously cancelled,) the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle or “MPCV.” Of course much like the additional four digits that the post office pointlessly added to everyone's zip code, almost no one outside of NASA's politically appointed upper management actually calls the vehicle the MPCV- instead everyone just uses the name Orion.

In order for its development to mature, the Orion will have to be flight tested in space. The only operational United States booster capable of lofting the Orion is the Delta IV Heavy. Thus, circumstances have set the stage for history to repeat itself at Launch Complex 37. In the first week of November 2011, NASA officially decided that it would conduct an unmanned Orion flight that is being titled the Exploration Flight Test 1, or “EFT-1.” Now scheduled for some time in early 2014 and using the next Delta IV Heavy in the pipeline, the EFT-1 will fly a mission that is somewhat similar to the SA-6 flight that launched from Complex 37 some 50 years earlier.

Current plans, as of this writing, call for an un-crewed Orion capsule to be mounted atop the Delta IV Heavy and topped with an inert launch escape system. Although that escape rocket will be inert it will carry a live jettison motor. Just like the SA-6 flight, an integral part of this test will be the jettison of the escape system and its boost protective cover. Aerodynamic and thermal effects on the vehicle will also be recorded and studied similar to how they were a half-century ago. Thus, history is currently scheduled to repeat itself at Launch Complex 37.

Unlike the SA-6 flight, however, the EFT-1 mission will also test reentry characteristics of the Orion command module at speeds near to those experienced on a return to Earth from beyond low Earth orbit. The current plans are for the upper stage of the Delta IV Heavy to boost the spacecraft into elliptical orbits with the highest having a 3,671 mile apogee. During the mission the upper stage of the Delta IV Heavy will make the initial orbital insertion burn and then a second burn to alter the orbit to its maximum apogee as well as back into the Earth's atmosphere. NASA hopes to reach a velocity in the neighborhood of 21,000 miles per hour upon reentry. This will test the spacecraft’s heat shield in dynamics similar to those of reentry from beyond low earth orbit. Following reentry the Orion will also conduct a test of the parachute recovery system and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California.

So it is that this EFT-1 mission also mimics another historic spaceflight from nearly a half century ago; Apollo 4. Launched on November 9, 1967, it lofted an unmanned Apollo command module atop the first operational Saturn V booster to an altitude of 9,767 nautical miles. It was then thrusted down into the atmosphere by its service module engine in order to simulate the conditions of reentry from the moon.

In its entirety the EFT-1 flight will last just a little over six hours. It will be a spectacular step toward the return of United States leadership in spaceflight. This will also be a terrific demonstration of the Delta IV Heavy’s capability. Although some in the spaceflight community will quibble that the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy could to do the same job, it's important to point out that the Delta IV Heavy is an operational vehicle at this moment, but the Falcon 9 Heavy is still on the drawing board. It is highly unlikely that the Falcon 9 Heavy can be made ready for the EFT-1 mission within the next 18 months. It is also important to separate what we can do, from what some space fans wish could be done.
In the end of June, 2012 the pressure hull of the EFT-1’s Orion spacecraft arrived at KSC from Huntsville. On the second day of July a large group of the remaining KSC employees as well as political and contractor VIPs gathered in front of the zinc chromate colored vehicle at the Operations and Checkout building and celebrated its arrival. Chief among those speaking was NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who spoke in glowing terms about the Orion and NASA’s future saying that it “…marks a major accomplishment in the ambitious new American space program that President Obama and Congress have approved.” She neglected, however, to mention the fact that the president had earlier canceled the Orion, then turned it into a rescue pod before the Congress wrote it back into existence as an exploration spacecraft by way of a law which the president grudgingly signed. She then went on to boast that it was just two years prior, in that very same building that, “…President Obama set a goal to send humans farther into space than we have ever been…” Of course she left out the fact that on that same day he had also decreed that the Orion would become nothing more than an escape pod for the International Space Station. Additionally she boasted that the president’s plan would send us to an asteroid 13 years from now and then on to Mars “…sometime in the 2030s…” Gee, how inspirational that schedule is. Later she gleefully announced that the Orion would bring back to KSC about 350 jobs, yet failed to mention that such a job count is about 5% of those lost with the end of the Shuttle program.

In spite of the political slight-of-hand with NASA’s human spaceflight program, at least Orion has survived. With any luck it will be completed and then stacked atop the its Delta IV Heavy. The EFT-1 will become the first launch of a NASA pathfinder spacecraft intended for humans in more than 30 years. It is predictable that the excitement surrounding the mission will be similar to that surrounding the first free-flight drop test of the Shuttle orbiter Enterprise, which took place two years after the final flight of an Apollo spacecraft. That is, of course, if the politicians can keep their hands off of it. Thus, the answer to the question; “What is the EFT-1?” goes a bit beyond the technical explanation of the mission itself. The EFT-1 will be a shot of adrenalin to a NASA that is currently on life-support and in guarded condition.


Doubt Replaces the Shuttle

Doubt replaces the Shuttle

On April 14, 1981, after landing the first Space Shuttle, Astronaut John Young spoke to the cheering crowd at Edwards AFB. In his speech he said “I saw a newspaper headline that expressed it way better than I could. It showed a Space Shuttle orbiter and it said The Dream Is Alive Again. Let’s keep it that way.” Just over 30 years later the Space Shuttle program and that dream ended as the orbiter Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center in what the media repeatedly called a “bitter-sweet moment.” My question is- where’s the sweet?

The date of the Atlantis’ landing was July 21, 2011, exactly one half of a century after Gus Grissom flew a Mercury Redstone from Cape Canaveral on a sub-orbital flight. He flew that sub-orbital mission because in 1961 the United States did not yet have the capability to actually orbit a manned spacecraft. Fifty years later to-the-day, with the wheels of the Atlantis coming to a stop, the United States once again did not have the capability to orbit a manned spacecraft. There is no man-rated launch vehicle in production, no man-rated spacecraft in ready to fly anytime soon and NASA has not produced a complete plan for any such hardware in the future. Instead all that we have are vaporous circle speeches about undefined “path breaking” and “game changing” technologies and assurances from NASA’s politically appointed administrators that the future is bright and this is far from the end for NASA’s human spaceflight program. We’re told that we will visit an asteroid… sometime, about a decade and a half from now and that we’re going to Mars in a little more than quarter of a century from now. Oh boy… that’s real inspirational.

What is really represented by the end of the Space Shuttle program is not a pinnacle of technical success, but rather a failure of political leadership. It is a demonstration that our so-called “leaders” in the 21st Century have taken their lessons not from John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, but from Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Rather than leading us to a challenging bright future of national excellence, they are concerned only with leading us toward the ballot box and their own re-election.

NASA’s politically appointed “leadership” has joined in taking this sandwich made of excrement and are calling it peanut butter. The man who likely will go down in history as being the worst NASA administrator in history, Charlie Bolden, repeatedly appears in front of Congress and in the media and assures that “This is not the end of Americans flying in space.” and “We still have a manned space program.” Indeed- Americans will be flying to the International Space Station, by way of rented seats on Russian rockets and there is no date ever mentioned as to when that rental space program will end.

It is time to tell the truth- such spaceflight is NOT an American manned space program. To settle that point, simply ask yourself this question: Is space tourist Dennis Tito a country with a manned space program? He may have enough money to qualify as a small country- but otherwise, the answer is “No.” Is space tourist (although she prefers the term “participant”) Anousheh Ansari a country with her own human spaceflight program? No? Well, both of these people went to the ISS on a rented seat aboard a Russian Soyuz. That’s exactly what the United States will now be forced to do- except for the fact that the space tourists paid about $40 million less for their seat than the United States will have to pay for each of its. If we cannot call Mr. Tito and Ms. Ansari a nation with a human spaceflight program, than we cannot call the United States a nation with a human spaceflight program.

Additionally, Administrator Bolden has continually overseen and perhaps directed the foot-dragging by NASA that is obstructing the development of the Shuttle replacement vehicle- the Space Launch System, or SLS. Directed by law to immediately begin and expedite the SLS back in 2010, NASA’s Administrators delayed progress for nearly a full year. That forced to Congress to go as far as to threaten to open an investigation into the administrator’s foot-dragging. Charlie Bolden was finally subpoenaed by the Congress, and still continued to delay. No other NASA administrator has been openly threatened by Congress with such an investigation nor has one ever been subpoenaed by the Congress. Of course Charlie probably does not care much about such issues- he was often away on overseas junkets as his agency fell into ruin.

Charlie Bolden, it should be noted, serves “At the pleasure of the President.” And Bolden himself recently testified in front of Congress that his president is one of the most engaged and interested presidents in history when it comes to spaceflight. Then he cited President Obama’s visit to KSC for the STS-134 launch when he toured the space center with his family. Indeed, the only President who spent a similar amount of time appearing in front of space hardware was Richard Nixon- who, by the way, at the same time was working hard behind the scenes to cancel the ENTIRE manned space program. History alone will tell us what this president is doing behind the scenes while at the same time posing in front of space hardware. Currently, as evidenced by his last three budget proposals, President Obama appears to be working very hard to gut NASA’s human spaceflight program. Each proposal sought to funnel most of the human spaceflight dollars to “commercial” operators and his 2011 proposal defunded the vehicles that were to replace the shuttle which also canceled our return to the moon.

Yet we are told that there is always “commercial” spaceflight to bail us out… right? Well, that is where Obama proposes that we spend our funds. Although I am all for SpaceX, and the other “commercial” space start-ups, it is about time we knock down to political facade of “commercial” that is being used to prop-up a few companies that are Obama approved to do spaceflight. The best filter here is to look through is Project Gemini. The Titan II booster was built by Martin, a “commercial” company. The Gemini spacecraft was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corp., a “commercial” company. Many other components were made by other private “commercial” contractors and the entire program was run by NASA. Government funds along with investments by those companies made Gemini happen. This is the same basic formula that is being applied to the Obama approved “commercial” operators such as SpaceX and Orbital. Yet, the SLS is not considered as “commercial” by Obama even though the Orion spacecraft is being made by Lockheed-Martin, the booster core tank is being made by Boeing and the SRBs are made by ATK- all being private “commercial” companies. The difference? These companies are apparently not Obama approved for taking us into the future of spaceflight. So the production of the SLS is being delayed and stalled by, not only NASA’s politically appointed upper administrators, but by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which operates exclusively at the direction of the office of the President.

There is no real need to end the Shuttle program at all. In fact, the “retirement” and replacement of the Shuttle architecture was a recommendation made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in the wake of the STS-107 accident. For the Bush administration it became a handy, politically acceptable knee-jerk reaction to the accident. Additionally, it was supported in the public eye by some commonly held myths about the Shuttle. First, the Shuttle is too dangerous to continue to fly because in the event of a catastrophic failure on takeoff- because it has no escape system. Indeed- that is correct, it has no escape system to can be used in such a catastrophic failure… neither does ANY modern jet airliner or corporate jet- yet we do not see them as too dangerous to fly. Next- the Shuttle system as a whole is simply dangerous. Yes- IT’S A ROCKET that flies into space! Of course it’s dangerous overall. Additionally, the SRBs are dangerous to operate. The SRBs have made 270 flight cycles with only one failure, which was caused when management elected to fly the unit outside of its operational flight envelope. Also, we are told that the Shuttle has an unacceptable loss rate. In fact, when the Shuttle was originally proposed the Loss Of Crew (LOC) rate was calculated at 2%. With the end of the 135th flight, there have been two LOCs- that is a rate under the original prediction of 2%. Finally, Charlie Bolden himself said, in front of Congress, that every time NASA launched a Shuttle it was playing Russian roulette. This was a slap in the face to all of the hundreds of people who worked meticulously to ensure that every time the Shuttle played that game that Charlie called Russian roulette- there were no bullets in the gun. Now, however, the Shuttles will be totally safe forever… as museum pieces.

So here we are, left with no human rated flying space hardware, with the standing army of spaceflight professionals devastated by lay-offs as the shuttle replacement architecture is being slow-walked by political brats and we have no choice other than paying whatever price the Russians wish to charge us in order to get to the space station that we paid ~$80 billion to build. Meanwhile our best hope depends on so-called “commercial” operators who have yet to fly a single human-rated vehicle. Plus our so-called “leaders” seem to believe that simply talking about doing fantastic things is just as good as actually accomplishing them. As of the wheels-stop of the Atlantis and the end of the STS-135 mission, we are left with nothing more to do other than to look back at exciting videos of what we once accomplished in space and say “The dream WAS alive.”


SpaceX: A New Chapter In Spaceflight- But Not The Whole Book

Although I am a big fan of SpaceX, I am a bit more reserved than many who have followed the COTS 2/3 mission.

Rather than saying that this is THE future of spaceflight, I'd rather think of it as a whole new chapter in the spaceflight story - a REALLY fun to watch and exciting chapter that reflects back to the grand old golden era of spaceflight with those all-liquid fueled boosters launching from Cape Canaveral, going into orbit and then splashing down to be recovered.

It's something that some of us who grew up with Mercury and Gemini and Apollo have always longed to sort of see "come back" in some form. With the Shuttle now gone, this makes a great chapter to "get into" and follow and cheer for. It's also the excitement of vehicle development. Personally, I cannot wait for the next step, the next glitch, the next fix and the next success; I love it!

Does the success of SpaceX mean that we should defund NASA and hand the whole basket of eggs over to "commercial space"… of course not. In large part, it is exactly that sort of de-developmental thinking that was the death-stroke for the Space Shuttle and has put America's human spaceflight program on life support. Rather, what is desperately needed at this moment is exactly what SpaceX is poised to offer; robust, reasonable cost, frequent access to the International Space Station. Thus far, SpaceX is on the doorstep of being able to provide that for cargo -- both going to the ISS and -- quite importantly -- from the station as well.

Critics of SpaceX and "commercial" spaceflight efforts may look at the recent COTS 2/3 mission's successes and scoff that what was accomplished only got as far as about 1965 on the spaceflight ruler. My reply would be, "and what's wrong with 1965?"

Gemini flights were lifting off from the Cape about every two months, there were great strides in spaceflight technology and new hardware was being flown, rung out and adapted for use on nearly a daily basis. With SpaceX and the other "commercial" participants, we are seeing the same basic trend. It is not just important, but critical, to keep in mind that every single time we fly anything in space we peacefully advance the technology of our civilization.

Frankly, I would be delighted to see SpaceX mirror 1965.

Let us also keep in mind what is currently planned is for the "commercial" side to take over the low earth orbit part of spaceflight while freeing up NASA to take on the task of advancing us beyond low earth orbit. I've heard some who smirk and claim that the success of SpaceX is going to lead to the cancellation of NASA's Space Launch System thereby leaving everything to "commercial." We should all hope that this scenario never comes to pass. Where NASA insanely overloads everything with masses of paperwork, private companies cut corners and wink at their own procedures and rules. And if you think it doesn't happen, sit down with any FAA inspector or NTSB investigator and have a serious talk. If you are dreaming of a pure commercial space program- be careful what you wish for, we just may get it.

Another mindset that I have often encountered is the one that seems to hold that SpaceX is now on an ultra fast-track to flying crews aboard Dragon. Indeed; the crew aboard the ISS reinforced this by stating that they would be comfortable inside the spacecraft.

It was a casual comment that many folks have latched on to. The fact is, that although SpaceX has made fantastic strides in the COTS program recently, they are still a good ways from actually flying a crew. A good yardstick for this is the requirement for launch abort capability.

Although SpaceX has done some static firing of their proposed abort motor, the SuperDraco, the roadway to using it in an integrated system will require actual flight testing. If they intend to use it in an operational manned vehicle, in anything resembling the near future, they need to be flight testing that system now. Additionally, SpaceX states that they intend to use those motors as a recovery and landing device -- and that will require a great deal of testing. This is not to say that SpaceX cannot do it, it is simply a valid yardstick by which to measure the reality of operational hardware against corporate hyperbole.

The bottom line is that, yes indeed, the events of the COTS 2/3 mission have made for an historic event.

Yes, SpaceX has accomplished a magnificent series of engineering and technical feats.

Yes, they have innovated a new way of doing many tasks in spaceflight and streamlined the process.

Yes, NASA should take many pages from their book.

And yes, this was indeed a great day in spaceflight.

But, this historic event is not everything in spaceflight. SpaceX, although a terrific company, is not the do-all, be-all of spaceflight from now on. What we saw here was not the entire book -- it was simply a new and exciting chapter in the story. For those of you who choose to bathe in the SpaceX ideal, go right ahead - enjoy the moment, savor the success, cheer on the team; this is big stuff. For the rest of us, I would advise that we take in this chapter and look forward to what the amazing people at SpaceX have in store for us in the future. Yet, please do so with a healthy dose of reality - this is still spaceflight, and it is not easy, even when they make it look that way.


At the Press Site for the Falcon 9 launch attempt

Cape Canaveral, T-02:29:20 and counting- the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle stands poised on the on the pad- GOX’ing billows of white vapor into the humid Florida night. Gleaming white with its upper two thirds illuminated by floodlights the vehicle has finished fueling. Occasionally large chunks of ice can be seen falling from the side of the vehicle in a scene reminiscent of the early days of rocketry at the Cape. That is indeed appropriate, as tonight’s mission is one of a flight test nature rather than one of satellite placement, or planetary exploration. On the line tonight is the budding Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) concept and the launch system put together by a “private” service provider- SpaceX.

Started by NASA in 2006, the COTS program was designed to provide a foundation that private companies could build upon and develop systems for sending cargo up to the International Space Station (ISS). Out of the process emerged two companies who were given the task- Orbital Sciences Corp., or “Orbital” and Space Explorations Technologies or “SpaceX.” Following years of testing, development, some failures and many successes SpaceX came forward with a 158 foot tall booster it calls the Falcon 9. Burning the same propellants as the historic Saturn V moon rocket, RP-1 (a form of purified Kerosene) and liquid oxygen, the Falcon 9’s first stage sports nine engines and produces 854,000 pounds of thrust. The second stage has a single engine that also burns a combination of LOX and RP-1. That stage produces 93,000 pounds of thrust. Atop the stack is mounted the Dragon spacecraft, a capsule and service module combination that is designed to not only carry cargo, but to also one day carry astronauts. After a successful June 2010 test flight of the Falcon 9, SpaceX went on to pass NASA’s “COTS 1” milestone in December of that same year by orbiting and recovering a dragon capsule. The next two milestones were to orbit a Dragon spacecraft within about 7 miles of the ISS in “COTS 2” and to actually rendezvous with the ISS in “COTS 3.” SpaceX decided to save both time and money by combining both milestones into one mission “COTS 2/3” which is counting down tonight.

Perhaps the most important point for everyone to keep in mind here tonight is that above all tonight’s launch attempt is a test… period. Along with that sobering reminder two other facts hang over tonight’s effort like a lattice of doubt. First, due to rendezvous fuel constraints, the mission has an “instantaneous launch window” meaning that eve a delay of a single second in the terminal countdown will result in a scrub. Second is the fact that SpaceX has never before conducted a terminal countdown to a launch without a “hold” and a recycle. That combination has resulted in a large degree of pessimism among the press corps tonight- in fact, I suggested that we should start taking bets on a launch getting off without a scrub- there have been no takers.

Here in the press site the silence is deafening. Of course there is the ever present din of conversation, but missing is “the loop.” The constant chatter of the voices of the members of the launch team that was always openly broadcast by NASA during Shuttle launches. We’re not used to this silence, not used to this not knowing the details of what is happening as the countdown takes place. The cause of this silence is rooted in the nature of this new “commercial” space program. Private companies are exactly that- private, and as such most of what they do is protected by a proprietary firewall. In other words, they reserve the right to not have to tell the public a darned thing. Anything that does come out is also heavily censored by the company. This is simply how all private companies do business, no matter if it is the development of toothpaste or spacecraft- it is how a private firm survives in a competitive environment. We will simply have to get used to it. Largely, conflict here comes when hundreds of millions of tax dollars are being used to seed a program that needs wide public and Congressional support and the proprietary firewall is in use. Meanwhile all we have is “the voice of NASA” giving us sanitized updates on the countdown rather than live information. It is a throw-back to the 1960s when NASA’s Shorty Powers told the press all they “needed” to know. Finally at T-00:40:00 the loop comes alive. NASA and SpaceX have come to a compromise- a few blurbs of launch control conversation in the waning minutes of the count will give the feeling of how it used to be.

Thus the countdown clock keeps ticking tonight and as long as it keeps going the launch is still “GO.” Oddly, there is a lot more riding on tonight’s test as a result of those who fail to remember that this IS after all a test. COTS and its two providers are currently more than two years behind schedule, and the Congress has taken a high degree of notice. There are several failure scenarios that could take place tonight- some are easy to swallow and some could have deep consequences for SpaceX and COTS. In the event that there is a glitch in the count that causes a hold and thus expires the launch window, such a thing would be an easy delay to live with. Likewise, an ignition and on-the-pad shutdown also would be an easy glitch to live with. If, however, the booster needed to be aborted and thus destroyed in flight, raining kibbles and bits into the Atlantic Ocean, the results would devastating for SpaceX. Recent Congressional hearings have raised questions about the ability of these “commercial” operators to deliver in the manner that they have boasted. A few in Congress appear poised to, at worst, pull the plug on COTS or at least make funds harder to obtain unless some big successes are seen. Most of this appears to be based in the loss of the ideal of what rocket test flying is all about.

T-00:32:24 and outside of the press site the famous countdown clock ticks down with an amber glow in the haze of the night’s humidity, the historic Complex 39 launch pads sit inert in the darkness and in the grassy field where crowds normally gathered to watch America’s conquest of space, there is now no one- not one soul. The voice of NASA echoes hollow in the night, but the bleachers are empty- it’s actually spooky.

T-00:21:18 NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden comes in to meet with a crowd of “NASA Social” visitors who have been accumulating in the press building. They gather in the back of the room and chatter as they take photos. In less than four minutes, he is gone and the NASA Social folks disburse outdoors to watch the expected launch and feed the bugs for the next 20 minutes. The rest of us remain indoors writing and working.

T-00:08:14 NASA PAO reports that “The International Space Station is passing over Florida now.” A lot of us hustle outside and look up into the night’s sky, but we see nothing. Either the pass was too low to the horizon for us to see it, or PAO was late on their call. Six minutes later we head out to the field for the final countdown. Some find seats in the distant bleachers, but even there the rocket itself is below the tree-line and out of sight. A half dozen of us, however, find a spot where the trees have a low gap and the rocket itself is actually visible. Listening to the echo of the P.A. system we hear the count move toward zero, “This may actually go.” someone says. “Three, two,” NASA PAO counts, “one, zero…” There is a dim orange glow at the base of the Falcon 9, “and lift…” the voice tails off as the orange glow rapidly diminishes as does the launch window. “We have a cutoff” is the announcement followed by rapid checklists as the launch control team goes into the abort and safing procedures. The first report is that the flight computer was not “in start” but a later call says, “Abort, engine five chamber pressure high.” Later we are told that a fuel lean mixture caused the temp. in engine number five five to increase into the abort limit. The software did its job and shut down the booster on half a second before the hold-downs let go. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell stated in the post abort press conference, “We can’t blame the software people this time.”

We are done for the day, the instantaneous launch window has expired instantaneously. Yet the Falcon 9 is intact, it is in a safe condition, today’s test has found a glitch, the cause will be determined and fixed. That’s what test flights are for.


Discovery Overflies Washington D.C.

“Tisk, tisk, tisk…”

Departing from the Kennedy Space Center, the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery was riding aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 905. The orbiter, having been retired from flight with the ending of the Space Shuttle program, was on its way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy facility near Dulles Airport. It was somehow appropriate that SCA905 should be carrying a Shuttle on its final journey, because SCA905 carried the very first orbiter, the Enterprise on its very first flights during the 1977 Approach and Landing Tests (ALT). The circle is complete. Prior to making its final landing, the Discovery was scheduled to make a flyby of Washington D.C.

Like many other people who are local to the Washington area, I went to D.C. to see Discovery and SCA905 flyby. My vantage point was on the roof of my wife's office building about a block away from the National Air and Space Museum. I found myself among a throng of office workers all armed with an assortment of digital cameras, smart phones, camcorders and binoculars.

Eventually SCA905 appeared in the distance and flew past several miles away. It then turned and vanished behind the skyline for short time before turning back and flying almost directly over downtown D.C. Next it flew far off to the west over Virginia and then made a graceful turn and came toward us. A few in the crowd cheered, many clapped and everyone stood mesmerized as SCA905 and Discovery passed to the south and once again vanished in the skyline. After what seemed like a long time the two vehicles reappeared banking to the north. This time they passed gracefully behind the Capitol rotunda, leveled out and flew low and proud just beyond the White House and off to the west again. In the distance we were given the view of the two vehicles banking again around to the south with their course bisected by the Washington Monument in the foreground. For the final time SCA905 and Discovery came around to an easterly course and this time headed straight for us. "This is the money shot," one person said aloud. He was correct, because this final pass was nearly overhead.

As the two vehicles went by on their final pass, the sound of the SCA’s engines was overpowered by the cheering howl that came up from the crowd. It was a noise that didn't resonate just from our rooftop group, but actually echoed across all of Washington D.C. Looking away from the aircraft for a few moments I saw that every single rooftop within sight was crowded with people. Down on the sidewalks and along the Capitol Mall countless people were stopped with their eyes turned skyward. SCA905 and Discovery had the full attention of everyone in a normally bustling Washington D.C.

While the two vehicles were making their final pass somewhere in our crowd I heard a bemoaning lady say "Tisk, tisk, tisk … All that fuel wasted, just to fly around D.C." At that moment it struck me that some people can still be that shortsighted and ill informed. Here we stood, in the nation’s capital, watching more than one and a half billion dollars worth of spaceflight hardware on its way to becoming a museum piece after having served just one quarter of its designed life expectancy and rather than bemoan that level of waste, some people will focus on the cost of jet fuel needed to move it to the museum.

Others in the crowd wondered aloud why it was that our Space Shuttle program had been ended. There are a lot of different answers to that question from different sources. Often those answers are pinned to the point of view of the person answering the question. Although my answer is of course pinned to my point of view, I think it is the one that history will prove correct.

Following the loss of the shuttle orbiter Columbia a panel was formed to study the accident, determine the cause and make recommendations. Titled the "Columbia Accident Investigation Board" (CAIB), it made the recommendation that the Space Shuttle system should be recertified or retired and replaced. It is important to note that the board did not specify what it would take to "recertify" the Shuttle. Using the CAIB’s recommendation, President George W. Bush proposed a new lunar space program, “Constellation,” with vehicles that would replace the Shuttle. His Office of Management and Budget (OMB), however, did not provide adequate funding for the program leaving it, for the remainder of his administration, with an annual shortfall of approximately three billion dollars. During that time, NASA was forced to make do with the shortfall in order to make Constellation happen. They altered their plan, part of which was a plan to retire the Shuttle in 2010 and use its funding to accelerate development of the Constellation vehicles. In the meantime there would be a three-year gap in human spaceflight during which United States astronauts and NASA's partner nation’s astronauts would rent seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in order to get to and from the International Space Station. During the 2008 presidential cycle, candidate Obama noted this situation in an August 16, 2008 paper entitled: "Barack Obama : Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration," where he promised to make "… the necessary investments to ensure we close this gap…” and "… Minimize reliance on foreign space capabilities." The paper also stated that Obama "… Endorses the goal of sending human missions to the moon by 2020,” or Constellation. When he was elected, President Obama was in a position to extend the Shuttle program, as all of the support structure and spare parts lines were still functional. However, unless the president acted within his first year to stop the deconstruction of the support paths, they would be shut down and the shuttle would have no choice other than retirement. President Obama voted "present" on that issue and allowed the shuttle to die while at the same time he canceled Constellation. Keep in mind that one of the primary reasons for Shuttle retirement was to transfer its funds to Constellation. When Constellation was canceled there was no real reason for retiring the Shuttle.

So here we are, watching a $1.5 billion machine being turned into a museum piece for no good reason other than lack of vision and lack of leadership. Thus, as I watched SCA905 and Discovery fly by, my thought was “Tisk, tisk, tisk… A museum piece after just over one quarter of its designed lifespan. What a waste."



This week the public was stunned when a Jetblue captain lost it and went off aboard an aircraft. The subject of pilots "losing it" is, in the aviation community, of similar ilk to sleeping in the cockpit. It happens, but we're never supposed to let the public know. Of course when a Section 8 runs screaming down the aisle it's a bit hard to hide.

That said, here is my best Section 8 story...

I was flying as a First Officer (FO) for a regional carrier in the Midwest. I'd passed up my first chance to make captain because the bid was for the Jetstream 3100 and I wanted nothing to do with that animal. So, I just held out for my chance to come up on the Saab 340. When that happened, however, my vacation bid had just come through and I'd been awarded two weeks back-to-back, in July! THAT never happens. But, if I kept my head down and waited it out, screw-scheduling may just not catch it and I'd get 14 days off in mid-summer. If, however, I took my captain's slot, I'd have to re-bid my vacation. I kept quiet and let "captain" slide past.

So, as summer started, I was the second most senior FO in the company and the number one FO in the northern system. Lots of guys went to captain ahead of me. Of course, as soon as I got out of captain's school, I'd leap-frog all of them anyhow- so, no loss as far as I was concerned. What was important was to protect that vacation bid. One side effect of being the number one FO was that I got top bid on lines, so I rode the sweet-line train all summer and into fall. Along the way, I also seemed to get assigned the newbee captains from down south off and on as well.

On one leg, we picked up a newbee in MSP to take him to CDR where he'd fly with me the next morning while my regular captain, Tim, went to do IOE with another newbee. He strapped into the jumpseat and we blasted off. As we're cruising along making small talk, he leaned over and asked, "Who's this guy I'm flyin' with tomorrow?" Tim looked at me and smiled- this newbee didn't know it was me. I casually reached up and flipped my ID over backward. Tim said, sluring my name, "Oh... Olzlwoski... oh man, didn't they warn you about him?" "No," the newbee murmured puzzled. "He's got a seniority number way higher than mine, how come he's not a captain yet?" "They won't let him." I answered. Tim played along, "Oh yeah, he's a real Section 8." The newbee put his head in his hands, "Don't tell me this man." he moaned. "He's a bad apple," I pressed, "He friggin' slugged a captain once." Tim went on, "They fired him, but the union brought him back." "Is he nuts or somethin'?" the newbee asked in a near panic. "That's puttin' it mildly." Tim sighed. "How nuts?" the newbee asked with growing concern. "He's worse than Brain." I quipped referring to a well-known company Section 8. "Aw shit," the newbee spit, "I gotta fly with this guy and I'm fresh otta IOE!" Tim, of course had to rub it in, "Just guard the crash axe with your knee." he said.

A few agonizing moments passed- then suddenly you could see that the newbee realized that he'd been had. He reached over and flipped my I'd back over and read my name. "You f#%kers." he laughed with relief.


After we explained about my vacation bid and my disdain for the Jetstream, he understood.

For those of you who may be wondering, I kept quiet until July 4th and the last leg of my trip before starting vacation. In fact, everyone in the system kept quiet and screw-scheduling did not catch on until we were on the ramp taxing in after that last leg. Then the local operations called the aircraft and tried to give us the message that I was to call screw-scheduling. For some reason, were were just not receiving that radio call... lots of static and stuff. I came off the aircraft and dashed directly to my UAL jumpseat home. These were the days before many of us carried cell phones- so I was GONE! The first day of my vacation screw-scheduling put 43 messages on my machine, 31 the day after and 22 the day after that. Too bad I just was not there so they could contact me and cancel the second week of my vacation. After vacation I put in my captain's bid and got a class two months later. I don't think that newbee ever forgave me for that GOTCHA, of course I was senior to him too.

Are we still too great a nation to be limited to small dreams?

On January 25, 2012 former Speaker of the House turned presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stood in front of crowd of supporters in Brevard County Florida. In his effort to win the Florida presidential primary, the candidate spoke boldly of his intention to establish a permanent US base on the surface of the moon by the end of his second term in office if he were elected president. This was probably the most ambitious spaceflight challenge to be placed before the American people since JFK's challenge to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth before the end of the 1960s.

What is perhaps more telling about the current state of the American spirit then Speaker Gingrich's challenge is the wide spread reaction to it. Although we can normally expect his political opponents to use it against him, or even to mock him, it is almost disturbing to see the same reaction throughout much of the spaceflight community. From spaceflight blogs to spaceflight Internet forums to spaceflight publications many individuals in the aerospace community seem spring-loaded to openly scoff at the very idea that such a lunar ambition would even be considered by a politician, or the United States at this point in time.

In 1977 newly elected California governor Jerry Brown invented a catchphrase that helped him along his political trail. He concocted the concept that our nation was then in an "era of limits." In other words the United States had only a limited amount of money, resources, manpower and will to do limited things. It was a concept that then President Jimmy Carter came to symbolize. However, in his inauguration speech in January of 1981 President Ronald Reagan reminded America and its people that we were “too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.” The wide response to Speaker Gingrich's proposal begs the question; what kind of a nation are we now?

Looking around it could easily be concluded that much of the American spirit that Ronald Reagan sought to awaken has once again grown lethargic. Have we as a people gone from explorers to Xbox addicted couch potatoes? Rather than gazing toward the stars with a desire to go there, are we simply more content to stumble through life myopically fixated on our smart phones endlessly texting pointless dribble? Indeed we live in a time when so many Americans can name every character on the TV series "The Jersey Shore" yet cannot name a single individual on board the international space station. The term “an era of limits” comes to mind.

So, was Newt’s Moon proposal completely outlandish? Was it, as some in the media have called it, "delusional?" Do we really absolutely not have the money to pursue such program? Or, did the speaker, who is a self-proclaimed and admitted "space-buff," simply cast pearls before couch potatoes?

Of course, if we want to be even further discouraged about the future of our nation's space program we need look only as far as Newt Gingrich's opponent’s rebuttal to the speakers moon base proposal. Mitt Romney's canned answer to Newt's moon challenge is as follows: “I believe the right mission for NASA should be determined by a president together with a collection of people from those different areas: from NASA, from the Air Force space program, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises. Bring them together, discuss a wide range of options for NASA, and then have NASA not just funded by the federal government, but also by commercial enterprises, have some of the research done in our universities, let’s have a collaborative effort with business, with government, with the military, as well as with their educational institutions, have a mission that once again excites our young people about the potential of space and the commercial potential will pay for itself down the road.”

Excuse me?!

Isn't that exactly what Barack Obama did with the Augustine commission? Apparently in constructing his plan forward for America's space program Gov. Romney and his entire staff overlooked the far-reaching efforts of the Augustine commission where people from different areas: from NASA, from our leading universities and from commercial enterprises- were brought together, studied the problems and offered a series of "options" and then turn their findings over to the Obama administration. The president's people then took the exhaustive study and, in the words of famed NASA flight director and senior manager Wayne Hale, "made hash out of it."

Now candidate Romney is apparently proposing that our nation spend more time and money to cover the same old ground that president Obama already dragged our space effort down. Aside from showing a complete and absolute lack of common knowledge of the current state of affairs in the United States space program, Gov. Romney's proposal offers little in the way of confidence that his administration would be able to recapture America's dominance in human spaceflight.

Likewise, candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul appear to have no plan at all for our space program other than to mock Gingrich’s proposal and chuckle uncomfortably as if they had just been asked to explain orbital mechanics in public. Clearly, neither of the two, or their staffs for that matter, have anything other than a remedial concept of human spaceflight. Ron Paul once stated his non-interest in the space program by quipping that “…space travel isn't in the Constitution.”

Of course, Speaker Gingrich's proposal for a moon base to that crowd of Space Coast voters didn't do him a lot of good in his attempt to win the Florida primary. In fact if he were attempting to energize Florida voters he would've probably done better to propose federally mandated senior citizens lanes on all US interstate highways and a federally mandated 15% senior citizens discount on all US airlines. Such a hallow promise may have gotten more of the attention of many of Florida’s voters. Thus, we can conclude that this presidential race likely have little to do with the future of United States human spaceflight. In fact other issues which loom in importance yet have a far shorter reach in the advancement of human civilization- such as which candidate made which gaff in which debate- will likely decide the outcome of the election. This article, however, is not intended to show that one candidate would make a better overall president of another candidate. Rather, is intended as a mirror for us to use to examine where we are and what are our priorities at this moment are. Frankly, I would just find it uplifting to have a candidate simply step forward and say to the American people, “We are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams,” and not be mocked, lampooned and shunned for doing so.

The bottom line appears to be that no matter who wins the presidency in 2012 the outlook for NASA’s human spaceflight program appears to be pretty bleak. If Ron Paul wins, the United States space program will simply be erased. If Rick Santorum wins, the direction will be that we have “better things to do with our money right now.” i.e. an era of limits. If Mitt Romney wins we will have “ObamaSpace light.” If Newt Gingrich wins, any effort to advance his challenge to return to the moon will be murdered in the liberal main-stream media. And we have already seen the “de-development” of the Obama administration as applied to NASA- one can only imagine the nightmare of a second term where he will have nothing to lose. So, in November we must all do our duty and vote. If you vote spaceflight, however, be ready to be disappointed.