Sex In Space!

I was going to go with a different title, but what the hey! It’ll get attention, even if most of today is going to get into reproductive biology and some other physiological issues.

There have been rumors of sex in space almost as long as we’ve been going up into space. The Shuttle and Spacelab were particularly rife with them, and I presume it remains so for ISS. Can’t speak to ISS, but on the Shuttle given all the cameras and monitoring of the crew (and experiments, microaccelerometers are snitches), it would have been difficult to pull off completely undetected. Still love the rumors about alien orgies to breed a new hybrid race or save a dying alien race. Yep, those rumors are still floating around out there.

Given that Newton will claim his own, you are going to need either a confined space or other assistance staying together. Especially since most spacecraft are full of knobs, handles, and other things that can and will bruise when you go bouncing around the place. Yes, remember the whole “equal and opposite reaction” thing applies. Hence the confined space or other assistance. I seem to recall that doing some basic experimentation on the act itself almost got done in the form of a porn producer trying to rent a civilian version of the Vomit Comet to do a film.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, humans are going to be humans and if there hasn’t already been such, there soon will be sex in space. This could be problematic for some reasons, but to get to them, let’s do a quick review.

When you enter orbit and microgravity, which is freefall, lots of things happen. First up, given that it is freefall and you have that feeling of an elevator dropping out from under you, the inner ear can do some interesting things. Usually you adapt in a day or three, but I have heard that some never do. Note to self, this is why some form of short-term flight is a good thing, help sort.

Second, the fluids normally held in your lower body by gravity are no longer constrained. Sensors in your neck detect large amounts of fluid, and the kidneys kick in to overdrive. First few days I’m told you pee a lot. This puts the body on a good footing for microgravity, not so good for going back to gravity. Probably a discussion for another day.

Third, there are changes to your muscles and to your skeleton. It’s not just that the muscles atrophy and the bones get less dense. There are other changes, some of which are discussed in this article in Nature (wish it were in a more reputable journal, but…). The results are interesting, especially in regards planetary ventures and counteracting some of the changes.

There are a host of other things that happen, though one stands out to my mind for true long-term ventures. Essentially, astronauts tastes in food change the longer they are in microgravity. Short version is that they started to crave spicy (flavorful) and even hot foods. Lots of things they normally enjoyed apparently lost their flavor. Yet another issue to be considered for long-term efforts.

Which brings us back to sex and reproductive biology. The fact is, gravity plays a role in everything, including reproductive biology and development. There have been some studies done using frogs, since the development cycle is fairly fast. The most recent one with which I am familiar was the Frog Embryology Experiment on Spacelab J. Here’s a link to a PDF of the mission brochure which gives an overview of the experiments and why they were being done.

When sperm enters an egg, that spot actually rotates down in response to gravity, and becomes a marking point (start?) of bilateral symmetry and the spine. In most cases, things proceed normally and a you get a tadpole that becomes a normal frog. Same with a child in terms of human reproduction. The question is, what happens without gravity?

My memories of the mission are sketchy (stupid lightning), but I remember that the experimental group were funky. As in bent and crooked. Once they returned to gravity, however, they quickly became normal looking and grew up into normal frogs if I remember the mission report correctly.

Which still leaves the question: what happens when they, or any other developing organism, don’t return to gravity? I’m really hoping someone has been looking into this on ISS, but given how gun-shy NASA was about any discussion of (or investigations touching on) reproduction of any type…

There are many challenges to long-term space operations, and creating a permanent human presence off Earth (something much needed as soon as possible). One of the largest remains humans (including psych and social issues) and the human body.

Thank you Glenn for the Instalanche! Hope to post more later after the server hamsters catch up with things. 🙂

UPDATE: Some suggestions for follow-on research and some related topics for future outposts is here.

Space-ing Is Hard

Over at Legal Insurrection, Leslie Eastman has a good piece up on the apparent failure of the Japanese commercial moon lander. Given the failure to re-establish communications, it appears the landing has failed. I had hoped it would succeed, for several reasons, and it is disappointing.

It is also a reminder that getting to space and doing real things there is hard. Building an economically viable launch industry is hard. Building the infrastructure needed to live and work in space is hard. Elon pointed out the difficulty of building the large-scale rotating space stations of my childhood just recently. His take is that it makes more sense to build on the moon and Mars. I agree for now, though I think using asteroids as bases (a la the Act of God/Island Worlds series) is a good way to go. There are some other concepts out there for more modest structures or constellations of structures that are very interesting.

Living and working in space is going to be hard. The physiological changes the body undergoes in microgravity can be profound. The long-term effects are not yet known, because we really are only starting to be in that environment long term. We also still don’t know what will happen to fetal development in microgravity. The Frog Embryology Experiment on Spacelab J gives only limited data, though it is worth noting that the tadpoles did take on a more normal appearance and grew into normal frogs if I remember correctly. Humans being human, it is something we do need to understand.

Space-ing is hard. If we wait for the governments to lead the way, it will not happen. To get there will take drive, ambition, and old-fashioned capitalism. There are things to do, resources to tap, and plenty of opportunity. I really hope we can keep over-regulation at bay and get going.

Ad Astra

Tucker Carlson And Changing Media

I do wish there was some way to get all the progressives on social media to place a cash bet on Tucker’s future. Right now, they are gleefully doing something far too similar to the pee-pee dance of small children for my taste as they salivate over his alleged demise. I would be glad to put down $100 if they will match, that Tucker is back bigger and better within two years.

To be honest, I expect to see it a lot sooner than that. The media landscape has changed over the last few decades in significant ways, which a lot of people are missing. Newspapers are a relic still trying to find ways to compete in the age of electronics. The paper versions are largely money losers putting out news that is days or, in some cases, weeks old for those who dig around online. The classifieds used to carry a number of papers, yet today the classifieds mainly are there for areas where local laws demand notices be published in the classifieds… It is the online versions of the papers that carry something more timely and drive the revenue for the papers.

The Big 3 networks are now owned by other companies, in some cases entertainment companies. The news operations are largely footnotes to them, given some lip veneration to mollify some of the critics. Despite the strong efforts by some of those corporate parents to deplatform the competition that is arising from new, independent, news companies, said companies are filling niche and general markets. Streaming services and podcasts are drawing far larger audiences with critical demographics away from the old school that is corporate media.

These changes are accelerating. Tucker, I suspect, may be one of the people who have the potential to put that change into overdrive.

Keep in mind, he’s already co-founded one such new media operation, the Daily Caller. Also, if Rogan is offered $50 million by a streaming company, what do you think might be offered to Tucker? Fact is, he’s guaranteed an even larger audience and has some very interesting demographics (including Dems that the progressives have left behind – seriously, look at his info).

Personal opinion: I think the smart thing for him to do is set up a new company of his own; work out a nice deal with a streaming company; maybe do some work or ventures with the DC, OAN, Newsmax and others to build up him and them; and, tell the networks and corporate media to bugger off. In fact, if some of the Jan. 6 video is still available to him, I’d say do a special in conjunction with some else from the list above to show what Fox would not let him show.

Also personal opinion: I said bigger and better. His comments over the weekend suggest to me that he’s doing a lot of reflection and self-examination. It’s always a good thing, and I hope he is doing it, does a lot of it, and comes back from this not just a better news person, but a better person. He seems like a great guy as it is, but who knows what he could become? Think that tendency of his to support the up and comers might hit new heights?

To make a bad literary reference, corporate media are like those elves and others in Middle Earth who refused to head West, and diminish daily before our eyes. Tucker is hitting the market at a good time for an individual or even a new company to set up and come out to far better pay and even larger audiences. He will be fine. Corporate media, on the other hand…

Belated 20th Anniversary

This post over on Twitter kicked off a small memory cascade and reminded me of something I meant to do back on the 13th. I wrote a note to do it, but apparently put it in a good safe place…

My memory is fuzzier than I would like, but I had been doing guest posts at various blogs for a while, including at the missed Winds of Change blog. Joe Katzman, who is mostly offline these days, was kind enough to post my stuff there. He also teamed up with John Ringo (with some assistance from David Weber and his better half Sharon) to encourage me to start my own blog. You can blame them for the fact that on April 13, 2003 (according to the Wayback Machine) came online.

Despite several hacks of hosting providers and other fun delights, and with the technical help of the now radio silent Zonker, it’s been in continual operations ever since. There were some periods of lite posting, some of heavy, but it’s been here.

Those early days were fun and I do miss elements of it. Seriously, can you imagine teasing Instapundit about having a fondness for puppy smoothies and roasted hobo in today’s environment? Reminds me, I do need to find that 465 HP blender of his and get it back to him… There was a lot of good natured banter. There was drama too, including some needless drama. Fact is, I don’t miss some who took their footballs and left. I do miss some of the others, who have either quit blogging or are no longer with us. The latter is a growing list and there are days where I do miss everyone from Acidman and MommaBear to Jonn and Lex.

I started pseudo-anonymous as there were employment issues to consider, though I think today is far worse than then. When I was accidentally outed, I could and did run with it, which would be far harder to do today. The troll I attracted at NASA that eventually ended up with formal complaints and legal involvement was but a pale taste of what can and does happen today. Lost a job over the blog and politics, but worth it. Even the trolls and death threats have been worth it. I’ve had it a lot easier than others, but will share that one should never try to out crazy Stacy McCain.

Let’s get real. The early days were exciting, interesting, and a lot more. Thanks to some local get-togethers, BlogWorld and the Milblog events, I got to meet a lot of neat and interesting people, both bloggers and readers. Getting to spend time with some of the Georgia bloggers, Vodka Pundit, John of Argghhh, Greyhawk, Baldilocks, Froggy, Subsunk and his wife, and a host of others made up for having to deal with name-dropper Matt and Uncle Jimbo. Smile.

I got to know Matt online in those early days when I offered to stand second for him in a duel. Seriously. No duel, but when the douchebag in question apparently came to a meeting and saw Matt there, he turned around and left. There was indeed a bit of the Wild West to blogging in those days.

When Matt began working on his book, he asked several of us to post at Blackfive. He laughed his ass off later when I told an audience that since the book was a success, he hadn’t sobered up since and didn’t realize I was still writing there. Fact is, writing at Blackfive was a privilege and an honor. A greater honor was getting to work to help the wounded. Never thought any of the things I learned about BI/TBI would ever apply to me. Two embeds and the worst injury was a split shin. I will note, however, that you should never trust MaryAnn Phillips if she tells you there are just a few boxes of supplies for the wounded that need moving. I still laugh and take a small bit of pride in how much we got done that day. Good memory.

Blogging has been mostly good memories. Wish I had handled a couple of things differently. Wishing I had made better word choices, always. One of the few regrets I have is letting Matt and Jonn talk me out of a rather blunt tell-all post on what happened to the Afghanistan embed. Wish I had held out for a less blunt but honest piece, especially as the prime soup sandwich was already on his way out of the Army (who decided they no longer needed his services). As it is, without solid info, too many rumors ran wild.

There have been a lot of changes to the blogging world over the last twenty years. Far too many of us fell for the illusion of social media, and I’m glad I kept the blog going despite such. I also want to thank all of you who helped me change hosting providers and do other work to make this a bit more stable platform. It’s nice not to completely break when you get an Instalanche. Huge thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt and Stephen Green at Instapundit, along with Ed Morrissey and the team at Hot Air on helping with that. In fact, it was Sarah who talked me into starting the fundraiser, and her support and encouragement have been very important.

Because, yeah, the last decade has been interesting with everything from a botched colonoscopy that came close to getting me to a false diagnosis of cancer (unrelated events). There is advanced severe osteoarthritis and other issues. Then, coming up on two years ago now, I got hit by lightning. Trying to do a lot better job of listening to figure out what the Lord wants me to be doing and where. I know where I think I want to move, but not sure it’s where I need to move. Again, listening.

Meantime, I may be slower but I’m still moving. Never was a high speed low drag type, more a low speed high drag model. Thing is, never quit moving. Never quit trying. You may not get it perfect, but you are still doing and still in the game. That’s what counts.

Writing takes a lot more time and effort than it used to. Between short term and long term memory issues, well, fun is a word that can be used to describe it. But, as long as you keep reading I will do what I can to keep writing. I will do what I can to write solid stuff, and even some fun stuff.

As for what the future holds, I think blogging may make a comeback. That said, I also expect to see governments around the world, including our own, do their best to silence the blogs. I expect to see a lot more de-platforming with hosting providers (and why I am likely to stay with my current host as while their support sucks hairy warty ones, they have been resistant to such efforts). I expect in return we may see a bit of creativity on the part of hosts and others. Oh, and if you think that horrid new law Chuckie and company are pushing targets VPNs and those who use them by mistake, think again. Let your congresscritter know not to vote for that anti-freedom cesspit.

Even if Elon succeeds with what he’s trying to do at Twitter, I plan to keep the blog going one way or another. We tried putting our eggs in one basket one time before. Didn’t work out so well, did it? So, let’s not do that again.

Thank you. Thank you for reading me. Thank you for all the good comments. Thank you for the encouragement and support. You are the reason I and this blog are still here. Thank you.

God Bless.

NOTE: Writing this has sparked more than one memory cascade. Good things. But, there was a reader at Blackfive I talked to a while back who was going through an interesting time. If you are still out there and chance across this, let me know at the addy above how things are going please. Hope they continued to improve. Also, I know I’ve left a lot of names out. No way to list everyone, not a slight. Doesn’t help that I’m pretty sure I don’t remember everyone…

Congratulations SpaceX

The question is already being asked on social media: Was today’s launch a success? The short answer is YES! The longer answer is the subject of today’s post. Before I dive into that, some quick background given that the internet (particularly social media) is full of bots.

I covered aviation, space, science, and related topics for several years. Under Dave Dooling’s administration, I served as Correspondent-at-Large for SpaceWorld (article about as it is long gone) magazine for a few years, and worked a bit in radio. Hit the Readers’s Guide to Periodic Literature (hope it’s still around) for the byline C. Blake Powers. I later worked at the USAF Arnold Engineering Development Center (now Complex) and was there for the J5 incident. Said complex was/is the Free World’s most comprehensive testing site and could test at simulated altitude in a variety of the test chambers. After getting my Master’s, I went to work for Essex Corporation, where we were a subcontractor providing support to Spacelab through TBE. Among other things helped write a number of mission brochures, reports, and got to do a LOT of neat things. Left for a while, got asked to go to work for a company called CST working as a contractor for the Space Product Development Program (Commercial Space) where I was Director of Outreach and Education. Even was on a panel with Elon as I’ve noted a time or two before. As also noted previously, my thesis was The Soviet Watchers: A Directory of Western Observers of Soviet Space Efforts and it should still be available at the UTK library. Also, earned a pilot’s license, got to go through altitude training (and ejection training) and certification, and a few other things. So, not just an anonymous internet rando and things can be checked out fairly easily.

So, today was a success. The people at SpaceX really weren’t joking when they said if it cleared the tower it was a success. Given the number of rockets and rocket systems over the years that have taken out the launch pad on their first test, it really is a good thing. The first time you stack it all together and light the candle, anything can happen.

They got it off the pad. They got it up to a pretty good altitude. Then it went south. Happens. In fact, it’s a good thing when it happens during testing.

SpaceX is doing what should have been done by many others: they test. They test to destruction. The Starships that exploded in ground testing? Good thing. Lots and lots of data. They were not failures, each one enabled the next to be improved. Certain agencies and many companies don’t want to test to that extent, as they are convinced the public sees such as a failure when it is not so. Yes, I know there are idiots that do feel that way, but they have no clue about reality as a general rule.

Today, they got more data on the assembled vehicle and how it performed both on the pad and in use. They got reams of data on fueling and related issues. They got reams of data on each engine and how they performed together. They got reams and reams of data on major and minor systems. Data on the micro and the macro that you really can’t get except in flight. Ground-based testing can test individual components or systems. You can’t test something that large except in flight.

So, you do all the ground testing you can. You make each part as good as you can with that data. Then you integrate and launch to test. You do so knowing you are probably going to lose some of the test vehicles. As I said before, it is a good thing.

Had today’s launch gone perfectly and everything worked exactly as predicted, I would have been amazed, delighted, and concerned. On something this complex, if you have a perfect flight on your first test flight, smart people tend to ask if you really got everything perfect; or, if you just got lucky and missed something that is going to bite you in the ass later as the odds change? The latter is the safe bet, by the way.

Just a guess, but it looks like they had several issues. Several of the engines failed early. The complex separation maneuver did not go to plan. Obviously the stage separation systems did not work to plan. We will learn more in the days ahead, as it takes time to go through the massive trove of data from a test like this.

And that’s the point. That’s what makes today a success. The data gathered today is worth the cost of losing five Starships. With that data, good analysis, and good engineering, you redesign, refine, retool, and relaunch. Then you take the data from that launch and do the dance over and over again. It is an iterative process and if you think they aren’t doing it Falcon and other things, I’ve got a bridge for sale, cheap. It is the smart way to do it, and Elon is a pretty smart guy who also hires a lot of smart people to work for him.

So, unlike this morning’s memory, no rye today as there was no scrub, just a good test. If it had gone perfectly, I do have some Sazerac standing by but while I wish they gotten just a bit further, I’m delighted they got as far as they did and even more delighted at the data they got. It will allow them to get further ahead faster, and we need to head for the stars.

UPDATE: Go read this excellent guest post by Thomas Kendall over at Sarah’s place.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

A Launch Memory

Already tuned in to watch the first integrated test flight of Starship. I hope. As in I hope it launches and I hope it is a complete success. No matter what, a lot will be learned and it will allow SpaceX to improve and move forward. As Elon himself has noted, success is not guaranteed, but it is guaranteed to be exciting.

This has brought back a memory from one of the early shuttle launches, or at least the attempt to launch. I can’t remember which mission precisely (stupid lightning), but in those early days there were lots and lots of scrubs. Understandable, but disappointing.

Those flights attracted a lot if interesting people to the press area. James “Scotty” Doohan, who had encouraged my attempt to become an aerospace engineer, joined me and my broadcasts several times. I may not have made engineer, but he was happy at the work I did end up doing. There were “VIPs” who had the stand next to the press area, and who did often mingle when they could get away with it.

On this attempt, there was a strong literary presence in both if I remember correctly. One of them being writer Karen Anderson, the wife of Poul Anderson. I think we all had a great time talking space, science, writing, and more. Seem to recall some cheerful arguments over tech, and the common goal that we needed to get off this mudball and Shuttle was a step towards that. What next and how was a frequent topic.

I seem to recall that this scrub was one with a long delay, as in a week or more I think, and we were all a bit down. Since Karen is no longer with us, and any statute of limitations is surely past, I will admit we broke the rules.

Keep in mind NASA was (and still is I suspect) the puritanical agency. This is an agency that doesn’t even really like to admit that its astronauts have to use the bathroom (for all that they did finally embrace PR about the shuttle toilet trainers). No sex, no smoking, no drinking, no nuthin going on with them or anywhere according to NASA, and nothing fun was allowed at the press or other areas. To the point K9s were used to do random checks for pot and other delights, especially after a film crew apparently enjoyed some herb rather openly.

I remember Karen herding the group out to where her car was parked, away from the press area and all the security and snitches. Hidden (in the trunk?) was a bottle of Old Overholt rye whiskey. Put hair on your teeth and make your chest white stuff. Funny thing was, after we each took a slug, our spirits improved. We went back to things with a bit of optimism.

There are a lot of good ryes and bourbons out there, but to this day Old Overholt has a special place in my heart. Seeing a bottle often makes me smile, and makes me think of space, launches, and the people who help make it happen.

Ad Astra.

Interesting Day

For those who read regularly, thinking this may not be a day for deep thoughts or major decisions. The number of “squirrels” and flat out lapses while making breakfast have me thinking that not doing much might be a good idea. Besides, more than the normal joints are lit up today, which isn’t helping.

Nor did it help that one of the cats was on a tear last night. Being allergic, I do not own cats but the landlord and housemate have two. One, who I call Cappy, is sweet but sorta stupid — and neurotic well beyond normal cat standards of same. He takes it to a whole different level.

The other, Flash, well, he may not be smart but he is cunning on some levels. He’s also that cat that knows the rules and makes a list every day of the ones he plans to break, and takes great delight in crossing them off. He’s also that cat that will look at you and say that just because there is orange fur on the kitchen counter and cat paw prints in the sheet cake you baked, you can’t prove it was him even though he’s the only orange cat here… Thankfully it wasn’t my baking that he walked in/on.

However, he was on a tear last night, making more noise than the housemate and that is going some. He’s also been pushing other limits (jumping on or under my feet as walking or on the stairs for one) to the point that I bought a squirt pistol to deal with his forays into areas where he is not supposed to be and things he’s not supposed to be doing. Need to find a waterproof Burns-Martin triple draw to carry it so it’s constantly at hand. Anyway, did not make for a restful night when I’m having to play multiple rounds of “Intruder? Or Cat?” Joints didn’t help either, but there are more options for dealing with them than the cat.

Have the feeling it’s a good day not to do much that requires thought and any real concentration. I may make some hamburgers later, will see. Otherwise, I’m thinking reading and continuing to educate the cat in the difference between concealment and cover may just be the order of the day.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Ship Killers

Elon Musk made a post that proved to be part of an interesting thread. The current intelligence disaster has revealed concerns about Chinese hypervelocity vehicles and that they are preparing to go all out against the U.S. Navy. No shit.

This is a party that’s been going on a while, and yes the Chinese are very serious about this. Far more so than our Navy appears to be at this time. Before the Chinese were the Soviets, and the object that was labeled a “mini-Shuttle” and often presented as a scale model test.

Just one problem with that: it really didn’t scale up/could not be scaled up according to a number of analysts. Then, when you looked at the tests of the vehicle, well, they had a naval component and didn’t seem to fit a “space” profile per se. To a number of people, including me, it really seemed to fit the profile of a Hypervelocity Kill Vehicle (HKV)/Hypervelocity Ship Killer (HSK).

Add in the fact that defending against objects moving at those speeds can be a bit of a challenge, and that if something that size hit a carrier at speed it could go through it long-ways. Except that it and the carrier would probably be a rapidly expanding fireball by that point. Even a near-miss could have potentially catastrophic results for both the carrier and any ships nearby.

There was a lot of “never happen” and the concerns were poo-pooed in the usual quarters, but at least a few people paid attention. Would that I thought any current GOFO or civilian military leadership was doing so today. For all that some are claiming hypervelocity delivery vehicles and such are over-hyped, they truly are a game changer, even when they don’t carry explosives.

Just a thought to brighten your day.