Friday, September 30, 2005

Tourist. A bad word in space?

Once again, a non-astronaut is making the trip to the space station. The word tourist seems to have been applied to these non-astronauts but even that is a bit misleading. Astronaut has always been associated with anyone who has reached 62 miles up. And the wings associated with space flight awarded to those folks.

But this is not a teacher in space type program or a fantasy Pan Am flight from the movie 2001. It is instead the program which the russians have been touting for 20 million USD per trip over the past few years. Not bad if you are a multi-millionaire with nothing but time and money on your side.

There have been two before him but Gregory Olsen is not letting that stop his enthusiasm. According to Olsen, "Someday everyone will be going into space just like they are flying in planes today."

He will be spending approximately 10 days in the zero gravity of the space station and coming home with the current crew on board the station. These change over flights always only take a total of 2 astronauts and the Russians have been using the selling of the third seat to inject their space program with much needed cash.

While this is a good way to get into space, it would be easier if companies like Scaled Composites suddenly started making a ship which would go all the way into orbit rather than just into sub-orbital flight. Then you would see people lining up for flights, especially if it was as safe as flying in a plane.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Google in Space!

Once again, Google has struck a deal which will keep it at the forefront of the data collection business. According to a report in the Miami Herald (, Google has signed a deal with NASA to “work together” although the details on this deal are few.

Like Google, NASA is also known for having collected large amounts of data but the percentage of the data which is available and accessible by the public is relatively low. Google on the other hand has made large amounts of data available in a relatively short time.

Having just reviewed Google’s latest release, Google Earth (, it is completely impressed upon my brain that no company in the world can keep up with them and now even NASA seems to validate that fact.

Of course, the fact that corporate America has taken a lead in space is obviously not lost in the deal. Now that NASA is on board, perhaps this is not just a passing fancy, but the start of something glorious for the

Where is Yahoo!

Over the past several year, it has become a major trend among the biggest of the corporations with presence on the Internet to automate their systems for customer service.

Much like those dreaded phone systems that say for “for option one, pres one, for option two, press two”, the automated online help system is a pain and it is almost useless when a case for real help is needed.

two years ago, my Yahoo! Account was hijacked. After multiple tries of getting help to recover it, the only thing I have gotten from Yahoo! Is the great runaround and automated canned responses which did not address the issue at all. Of course, if you try to call them using the telephone, you get even less help. And just try and find their corporate offices. Here in Tokyo, they are particularly anti-customer service and as such don’t even let the general public into their corporate offices.

What ever happened to the customer service of yester-year? I am afraid that as we get further and further into the real of online systems with the ease of not having to actually support products that we sell, the trend will be that the corporations will be saying, “you have a problem? Tough!”.

Of course, this might just be a figment of my imagination, but two years going and I still don’t have access to my account and someone else does.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

To the Moon....AGAIN!!!

Well, the country is back at it. Or is it? With the Chinese set to launch a two man crew in October, the US is once again looking to send a man to the moon. Of course the 2018 date set by NASA is not exactly tomorrow. It also isn’t the same as the “within this decade” challenge set forth by John F. Kennedy in 1961.

But once again we are looking towards the heavens. And of course, the politicing has already started including the possibility that the next President of the United States will just outright kill the whole program and possibly even close NASA all together.

The current NASA director, Michael Griffin, is also telling the media (USA TODAY Report) that the shuttle and the space station programs were a “mistake”. I wonder if this is because we don’t have a base on the moon as everyone who grew up with Apollo thought we would by this time, or if it is just to cater to those penny pinchers in Washington D.C..

Of course with a price tag of 104 Billion USD for sending a man to the moon, the current 16.5 Billion USD budget isn’t going to go very far. It goes to figure that with the pace of private corporate development in the space arena in the past few years that a commercial operation will make it to the moon and Mars before NASA gets there. Or maybe at the rate the Chinese are going, perhaps it will be them getting there first.

Thus far, the Shuttle has cost billions, as has the Space station. But why is this? It seems that everyone has forgotten how much Apollo cost. Especially when it comes to lives lost. They complain that we have lost 14 men and women in the numerous Shuttle missions, yet they forget that the 8 Apollo Missions cost us a total of 7 men, 4 of them in training and flight accidents.

Yes, there is a cost. It is both monetarily as well as in human terms. Yet those who went before, all went because they knew the inherent risks and because they believed they were doing something good for their families, their country and most of all, mankind as a whole. This is a spirit which has been lost on much of today’s youth who complain if they get a blister on their finger playing their video games. It seems that the attitude of those in the management of the space program isn’t too far behind that level of apathy.

Where is that wild-eyed fighter jockey of yesteryear who had the attitude that they could do anything. Much of the country followed them in this attitude and it put men on the moon in 9 years. All of this without having even put a man in space when the Kennedy challenge went forth.

The technology of the day also progressed at a frightening pace because the country put the sciences first and foremost, teaching those who came after much of what they had learned and encouraging them to think and progress. This is another aspect of life which has been lost on this generation and yet we do not even seem to be concerned that many of the technologies which the country always led the world in developing are now being developed in other countries

Now we are talking 12-13 years and possibly 15 years before even attempting a moon-shot and we are accepting this as status quo and normal. And with the dreams of the generation who lived through the space race and the cold war dying as quickly as they are, it will be a miracle if we even reach the moon by 2050.