In total disregard for irony, NASA cancels Resource Prospector.

Let’s take a short hop back in the time machine to December 11, 2017, President Trump passes Space Policy Directive 1. (As if there was never a space policy in place before his arrival.) The policy essentially was an order for NASA to drop what it’s doing and focus on going to the moon again. Fast forward to early last week when the only part of going back to the moon that made any sense was canceled in favor of exploring the mission sometime later, maybe, by using NASA’s commercial subcontractors. SpaceX, ULA, etc.

Resource Prospector was an unmanned lunar landing mission whose purpose was to travel to the yet unexplored polar region to look for ice on the surface of the moon. Water is, of course, a critical resource for human life, but beyond that, it is perfect as an easyish way to get a rocket into space. If this seems baffling at first glance remember what water is made of, hydrogen and oxygen. Now to have a fire you need an oxidizer and the flammable material for it to react with. As you can probably figure out by now oxygen is the perfect oxidizer and hydrogen has a tendency to go all Hindenburg whenever it is ignited. Now the process to split the two is still far from perfectly efficient but we do know that finding water ‘in situ’ (which is a fancy word for ‘there’) is a critical step for establishing a moon base or habitation anywhere for that matter. So in a manner very typical of Trump, we have abandoned the part of the mission that is supposed to accomplish something for the part of it that is a public relations stunt.

Now I’m being hard on Trump here because I think sometimes he is a little too uncompromising for my tastes. But this a problem that happens literally every four years. The makeup of the federal government is such that the objective of NASA is driven by the president. Who then almost immediately changes it upon entering into office, mainly for PR reasons. Thus ordering the agency to abandon half the projects it has been working on to start on this new path, and then later abandoning half of those projects as budget cuts demand. This is a problem that will always exist as long as the agency functions in that specific place of the federal government’s org chart. NASA will always fail if its mission statement gets a drafted by someone who considers it their lowest priority.

Unfortunately, I believe this is the same reason SpaceX is so popular today. I guarantee you that every one of those Space nerds that go crazy over the Falcon launches (all variants) feel the same way about NASA and could list off pages of trivia data about Mercury, Gemini (said with extra ee’s), and Apollo. But they have all come to mistrust NASA. They have all started to react with an attitude of “yea sure” whenever a new mission is announced. And to support this may I please draw your attention to this hardly insignificant Wikipedia list of canceled NASA missions.

I think that if we as a people want NASA to be relevant in the future we need to give it a mission that is guaranteed to be seen through to completion. Whatever we decide that should be. And we should make that decision. Democratically, the way the government is allegedly supposed to work. We could abandon it, or marginalize it. If that is indeed what we as a people chose. But we do need NASA. For the same reason that it was the expedition to find the new world was financed by Queen Isabella of Spain and the Dutch East India Company. Because projects that have little potential for short-term profit simply don’t get done by for-profit organizations. But just look how much money coming to America has made for the European in the long term (exploitation of natives notwithstanding.) We need governments to bankroll these kinds of projects because who else will? We are lucky enough to see SpaceX making some progress on this front but more is always better. If you’ve read this to completion please comment as I would like to hear readers thoughts on these complex issue.

The Ghost Town that Collapsed the Poop Industry

I always seem to forget what Chile really looks like. I probably associate too much of South America with Brazil, Columbia & Venezuela. But then I remember that Argentina is Temperate and Patagonia is damn near arctic. On first glance I looked at those scenes and thought that it looks like some kind of extension of the American Southwest until I realized that in a very real way it is. So I can see why it is the dryest place on the planet.

But this story is about Nitrates, first found in guano, then in saltpeter from the rocks of the desert itself. Nitrates are a critical substance in plant fertilizer. The same substance of which the overuse of is currently causing a 6000-7000 kilometer wide dead zone in the delta of the Mississippi River. Really though it’s a story about financial bubbles. Or at least that’s how I saw it. Because come on, were the people who dug up the bird guano blind to notice that it was an ancient resource they were digging up? How people can dig something out of the ground that clearly took centuries to get there and then somehow convince themselves that it can replenish itself is totally beyond me.

The bird guano was a racket. Cheap easy money that would not last forever. I wonder if they knew that, or if they cared. If they told themselves that it would have to be a problem for the next generation. If they claimed that the ends justified the means. Or did they just blindly take their payments and walk away into the sunset. Because the analog to today is real and very relevant. the stock market model means that it is the best move for most executives is to prove that they were able to make a profit THIS QUARTER. That’s to say nothing of the long-term viability of the company.  They don’t care. They don’t have to. The system rewards their not caring so the naturally follow the nutrient gradient to its source. And really you can’t blame them, can you? because it’s the same system that creates those people in the first place. It’s my opinion that these things just need to play out to their inevitable conclusion. Just as you could never go back to 1800’s Chile and expect an economic lecture to change anything. The same holds true today. My advice is to live your life. Turn off the news. And just enjoy it.

Fallout…. Miami??

The internet is again proving its ability to do Bethesda’s job better than Bethesda itself by not having to concern itself with petty issues like making payroll. Mika999 and a spattering of other 3d artists & developers have come together to produce a Fallout 4 full game overhaul mod drops us in the middle of formerly fabulous Miami Florida. That’s right kiddies grab your gamma ray tanning lotion. It’s time for palm trees, Mirelurks, Cuban sandwiches with fresh Yao Guai meat, Bhramin Ribs with a Guava BBQ Glaze and maybe even some Coconut Flavored Sugar Bombs…  Sorry, didn’t eat yet today.

The Project includes an entirely new map with several diverse neighborhoods from the industrialized slum “Meridian” to the lawn gnome ridden retirement community of “Flamingo”, with all the high rises, drugs, palm trees, clubs, and sunshine that one can expect in between. The project also adds several new factions. The (idea of) freedom loving “Nuclear Patriots” are what passes for order in the Everglades Wasteland. On the outside, they take a hard-line stance on slavery. But on closer inspection, their emancipation raids seem more like recruitment drives. This puts them in opposition to the “Cubanos” who, after being driven out of their native land by the Communist Chinese, have positioned their hands tightly around the throat of the local economy. For it wouldn’t be Miami without an entire landscape built on drug money. Which brings me to the final group in the menagerie. The “Dreamers” are a friendly collection of hallucinogenic pharmaceutical enthusiasts but with the twist that the Stanley Kubrick style drug that they are taking is more like a DIY version of the matrix than your average high.

This game mod and its storyline seem to have a lot of potential. I’m assuming the map will be significantly smaller than Fallout 4 but you never know. Hopefully, it will contain at least as much content as Fallout 3. I also hope that the story gets all due attention. I’m of the opinion that Fallout and TES both succeed or fail on their writing. I would play a large scale single player RPG with bad graphics providing the gameplay and storyline are good. If you switch that formula around I’m not sure the same logic holds true. Though the things I’m really excited to see are plenty of irradiated South Florida wildlife. Rabid land roaming Manatees, bipedal Alligators, Sabre Tooth Panthers, dive bombing Flamingos. Man, I could go on and on. But I won’t. We will just have to wait and see. Right now I’m cautiously optimistic.

Project site here.

The Expanse 3.3 Assured Destruction

Before I start I just want to address my failed attempt at making these spoiler free last week. It’s terrible and I hated it, I couldn’t talk about anything! I’m really not sure how people talk about shows and movies and make them sound compelling while saying absolutely nothing about them. So this week please consider this to be a review. SPOILERS ALL. and if you hate it and want to go back to the old format do speak up and it will be taken under advisement.

This week is the week where the story threads finally merge. It is great to be able to finally see Bobby and Avasarala interact with the rest of the crew. Bobby is not too impressed with the crew of misfits that somehow wound up with possession of a Martian Navy corvette, nearly coming to blows with Amos. I’m fairly certain this will not be the first time, and by the end of the episode it is clear that neither of the two will easily win the hearts of any crew member.

The merging threads are also beneficial because they open up show time for some new threads to start. In this case it is the introduction the U.N.N. Ship Agatha King. It looks like we will finally get to see the Earther Navy from inside their ships. The ship looks pretty impressive, seems to me from the quality of set design that we will be seeing much of the Agatha King this season. The ship design is impressive. It is the first time I have seen anything from the Earther Navy in this show that doesn’t make me wonder why the Martians haven’t won already.

Cotyar is back apparently, I didn’t think we were going to see him again. But then seconds after returning the Agatha King shows up and Cotyar grabs the junior electrician that helped them escape Mao and throttles him. Typical spy BS, not much more to say about it.. SMH.

Then there is the side plot with Errinwright/Wormtongue talking the Secretary General into launching a first strike attack against a Martian missile platform. One UN round is late and the Martians get one missile off which nukes South America. This was all rolled up in the question of how much responsibility does a war time leader carry in regard to saving the lives of the civilians they rule. I hope this plot is expanded on in the future because even though I understood the reasoning I just wasn’t sold by the delivery. Of course with this show it is probably building to something.

I’m also beginning to notice that while all of the crew seem to think that every major player has a protomolecule sample now. I’m pretty certain that all Earth and Mars have are empty promises from Mao. This is almost certain to create more Naomi drama further into the season when everyone begins to realize that the protomolecule might not exist at all if she had destroyed it.

So that’s it. It was a down week. But the show needs a couple to bring the plot up to speed. Let’s just hope they’re not two in a row.