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14 April 2015


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ULA just announced more details on their next generation launcher: http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/2015/20150413-united-launch-alliance-vulcan-rocket.html

I looks like another major leap in space technology will arrive over the next decade. (It's important to have several kinds of launchers, because you don't want everything to fail when one launcher is temporarily unusable.)

Also noteworthy is the extent to which electronics and manufacturing advances are changing things. The microsatellites are becoming more and more capable, which addresses the cost of expanding into space by reducing the weight requirements. Tech is both reducing the cost of launching a kilogram and increasing the capability of a launched kilogram.


Reply to the Colonel's BTW on his tax return.

A thought for today and tomorrow: The real genius of the American polity is the citizens' willingness voluntarily to tax themselves and to pay taxes for the common good.

Truly, when one travels around the U.S., many of the most visible and important things that make this country great are things freely provided as a result of voluntary taxation. A short list; roads, the postal system, the educational system, parks, libraries, national defense, the internet, safe transportation systems, safe drugs, hospitals, CDC, police, waste and water systems, courts, clean air and on and on.

Many say conservatives say we pay taxes because of government force and the threat of jail and arrest. Their proposition is absurd. Americans pay taxes because they believe in their government and the importance of being privileged to do so. One of the greatest blessings is to be in the situation where one is so wealthy as to have to pay lots of taxes.

The real issue is to make sure all of the taxes are used frugally and properly for the common good.

So, today when I am writing big checks to the IRS and my state revenue department, I am grateful, both to have had income and to our nation's civic commitment to good government and the common good.

Our national mission statement:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

and the mission statement of the American Revolution:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our citizens' voluntary self-taxation is the essence of our quest for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

April 15 is our nation's day when we act on our civic duty to fund our nation and its states and cities. Tax Day is a celebration or our freedom and blessings that make our nation great. Without it, the Unites States would not exist as we know and love it.


Swami Bhut Jolokia

Careful, Origin. You're likely to get mauled by some gummint-hating types here.

The Moar You Know

"Many say conservatives say we pay taxes because of government force and the threat of jail and arrest. Their proposition is absurd. Americans pay taxes because they believe in their government and the importance of being privileged to do so."

Thanks for this, Origin. I completely agree. I never like the part of this year that involves me actually sitting down and writing out a check, but then I remember a few years back, when I was living in SF, and after year 3 of stepping over homeless people sleeping on my porch, thinking, "Jesus, I'd pay a LOT more on the tax bill if somebody would get these people off my damn porch."

Streets. Schools. Fire departments. National parks. State parks! Our new local park! I could go on, but a lot gets done with my tax dollars and I'm proud to be contributing to it. However, our work is not yet done, because I know damn well if I were to go visit my old place in SF there will be some homeless guy camped on the porch in the morning.

When he's finally gone for good - and not because he died but because the state has been able to get him to live in a better place - I'll know we're really getting somewhere.

The Moar You Know

And of course, the other thing. Without our tax dollars, the pioneering work of getting into space just simply would not have happened.

Now is the time for private enterprise to step up and build on that work, take it and make it useful and profitable, and they are. I find myself in the same position as Harriman from Heinlein's novels, just seeing the dawn of us leaving the planet and being too old to go myself. I am saddened by that, but I'll probably be the last generation of folks that didn't get to participate in spaceflight.

A tip of my hat to Elon Musk, who is most definitely doing some things right. I had the chance to take a long drive with one of his cars recently. All I can say is "wow". The old gas powered muscle car just got consigned to the dustbin of history; this beast can outrun 'em all. If he's as good with spacecraft as he is with cars, we have a very bright future ahead of us all.

Swami Bhut Jolokia

Yes, Elon Musk. It's a good thing we allow immigration.

scott s.


Not so sure about the "voluntary taxation" bit. You are by law required to "make a return". The voluntary part is really that you are allowed to self-assess your income. Of course, if you fail to do so properly (or someone decides they don't care for your organization's purpose) you will be subject to the full weight of the law. As they say "taxation without representation is bad, but taxation with representation isn't great either". Though you might try the Wesley Snipes defense -- "I am such an idiot I believed them when they said I didn't have to pay taxes".

But those opposed to the income tax might want to look at the history of the so-called "direct tax" which was imposed at several points (mainly, to finance military operations). Aside from the rather ungainly procedural problems of having to "apportion" the tax to each state based on population (including 3/5ths of slaves) there was the need for assessment districts and assessors and collectors. A direct tax was levied during the Civil War, along with the first tax on incomes (the latter due to a concern that the direct tax fell too heavily on owners of real property with limited means such as subsistence farmers, while corporate stock holders with "their assets carried in their vest pockets" largely avoided the tax). The Congress, not accepting the idea of secession, apportioned the direct tax to all the states, with certain provisos on how property owners were required to make payment. Gen R E Lee, whose wife had inherited Arlington from GWP Custis, didn't follow these provisos and Arlington was seized and forfeited for non-payment of tax. The family eventually got the property back via court action, but by then a good portion of it had been used as a National Cemetery, not to mention the Freedman's Village near the current Pentagon/old Navy Annex so a return to Arlington Plantation days wasn't really feasible.

As an aside, it is often claimed that the XVIth Amendment "allows" an income tax, but that isn't really true. What it does is overturn a decision of the US Supreme Court that a tax on income from certain sources (such as rent) was really a direct tax that had to be apportioned. The amendment provides that the tax does not need to be apportioned (that is, it must follow the rule of "uniformity" required for duties, imposts, and excises) regardless of source.


Hard to believe that the Hubble Space Telescope was launched 25 years ago and is still going strong and seeing far, even after the initial glitches. Should last for five more years (or up to 20 more depending on orbital decay).

And only three more years to the launch of its replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, designed to see the most distant objects of the universe. Lets hope Congress doesn't try to deep six it again.

Allen Thomson

Somewhat in line with that, there was an interview yesterday with Robert Cardillo, the director of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in which he waxed enthusiastic about the rapidly growing amounts of imagery from commercial satellites.


The Twisted Genius

Judging from the video and accounts, the attempt to soft land the booster came close to succeeding. Musk only gave it a 50/50 chance so this wasn't bad. I thought the idea of landing a rocket on a pitching and rolling barge was making it tougher than it had to be. Then I thought the ability to put the landing pad exactly where you want it in relation to the launch site and trajectory probably outweighs the pitching and rolling. It would definitely conserve fuel for the soft landing. Maybe our resident rocket scientist will weigh in on this one.


lol what the hell is this pap?


I too am thankful we have a government that invented roads.

Babak Makkinejad

Robot-based research is the most cost effective way to explore the outer space.

Unless and until those guys in Area X can figure out the propulsion system of that alien vessel that was discovered buried in the Antarctic ice.


My late, great neighbor, Al Neuharth, said that when he had to pay a million dollars in taxes, he was proud. It meant that he had a very good year.

I watched Mr. Musk's latest effort yesterday and he is to be applauded for what he is doing, not just in space flight.

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