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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

NASA top jobs finally filled

Well, it is finally official. Astronaut Charles Bolden is the new NASA Administrator. If that were the only news then I would not be writing about it. What does interest me is that a woman who has worked towards this nearly her entire life has snatched the Deputy Director slot and I wish to publicly congratulate Lori Garver, a very old and dear friend on her success.

Ad Astra Lori!

PS: Now I have to find out what jobs George Whitesides and Alan Ladwig are getting. I have worked with George for the last 5 years and know Alan from back to the early eighties. I should be seeing them at the ISDC in Orlando in a couple days.

43 comments to NASA top jobs finally filled

  • DavidNcl

    On a personal note can I just say how complete and utterly bored I am by Dale Amon pointless fucking space posts.

    Does anyone really give a fuck about this tragic man’s attempts to build a career as an areospace lobbyist in the US?

    Just leave us alone Dale. Go astroturf somewhere else.

  • Dale Amon

    If this were directed against any commenter by any other, it would have been deleted for breaking our cardinal rules against personal attacks.

    However, I can take it or I would not be an Editor here.

    Just learn to be more polite in the future or I will indeed enforce our usual standards of civility.

  • lucklucky

    Close the NASA, it is just what i say.

  • Laird

    Personally, I for one am interested in developments on the space exploration front (even if I am not a NASA fan and am pulling for the private commercialization of space). Most of Dale’s posts are in that vein, so my vote is to keep it up. We don’t see much of this news anywhere else.

    David, no one’s forcing you to read any of Dale’s posts. Just skip them if you’re so bored.

  • Dale Amon

    Ultimately NASA’s role will lessen or disappear. It is already in the cards. In the meantime, excuse me for hoping that reasonable people who are well aware of and not antithetical to commercial space are in positions in which such ideas will be considered. None of the folk I have named are anti-market.

    NASA is not going away tomorrow and contrary to a previous posters thoughts, that is a business fact I must live with. The way things have turned out is close to the best we could hope for in this real world we inhabit.

    And yeah, if I could wave a wand, I would eliminate everything but a portion of DOD and DOJ and the courts tomorrow. I have no such wand and neither does anyone else. I’ve tried waving various sticks in the air, but when I read the news the next day, they are all still there.

    With the Ares-I on track to be completed several years after it has been mooted by the products of the new commercial space industries, I would say we have a very positive time ahead of us in this business.

  • Keep it up Dale, don’t let other people’s PMS discourage you:-)

  • DavidNcl

    Dale, how are you advancing the libertarian agenda?

    What do your post have to do with “developing the social individualist meta-context for the future”?
    I don’t mean to be rude – but what are your for? The Internet is full of science and tech blogs. This seems to be a little island where we discuss libertarian politics, mostly in the UK – except for your posts, which just seem to be hugely off topic.

    It really, really bothers me. It just looks like spam.

    I don’t give a f8ck about the appointment of some random bureaucrat in America’s space program.
    Perhaps you could say why it matters to liberty – or the future of mankind? Or anything?

    I’ve looked at post after post you have made. None of them are about politics, philosophy or freedom.
    What are they about? I’t seems to me that the are about the US aerospace industry. What is your role or relation to the US aerospace industry?

    Why are you posting here? You may well be an editor here… but so what? Why are you an editor?
    What matters to you? Why should someone who cares about liberty care what your are posting about?

  • Dale Amon

    As another commenter stated, you are free to skip my writings. I cover the aerospace and defense world as well as much on technologies that will create the future and while I do occasionally cover more philosophical areas, that is not my primary area, nor has it been in the nearly eight years we have existed as a publication.

    We also cover music, rugby, football, and just about anything else you will find in a general publication.

    Samizdata is not just an ideological academic philosophical publication aimed at a tiny minority of folk who want only that. We’re about fun and taking the piss and discussing Neat Things That Are Coming.

    If you all you want is the philosophical bits, then by all means, just read them and skip the sports, music, theater, science, aerospace, defense, humour and whatever Odd Things our writers come up with. I do not read everything we publish either. Folk have different sets of interests and all of them are welcome here.

    But do not expect us to narrow our focus and be another bunch of dry as dust philosophy ranters. It just is not our thing.

  • DavidNcl

    Actually I’ve just properly digested this.

    “Just learn to be more polite in the future or I will indeed enforce our usual standards of civility.”


    Well this is your property. Bye.

  • Classical liberal

    David, if you can’t see the connection between space exploration – expanding the frontiers of knowledge, pushing out into the unknown, slipping the surly bonds of statism and misanthropy – and libertarianism, which should be about all those things, then you need to think harder.

    PS The tone of your comments makes you sound like a petulant douchebag.

  • DavidNcl

    Yeah well, of course I’m a petulant douchebag.

    tbh I can’t be bothered to argue – it’s so facile.

    Let me just say I’m perfectly well aware of the role of free people exploring space – forward into the future! I am the man am I because of “the moon is a harsh mistress”. I lived and breathed the space program for forty fucking years. Do you think I’m stupid?

    Do you think a deputy admin post at the US’s NASA beauracry has got anything to do with the price of cheese?

    Go on, lap it up.

  • Dale Amon

    Civility is required from all parties, even if they are saying nice things about me. Or not. Everyone bring this down or I will have to start exercising editorial discretion.

    And David, I do know of a David Thompson who is seriously involved in commercial space in the USA and has major accomplishments under his belt.

    I am presuming you are not that person as I would have expected more specific knowledge of the players from him, not to mention that NASA is one of his customers…

  • Davidncl, you ask what have Dale’s posts about space exploration to do with liberty?

    Space offers us the best chance to realize the libertarian dream; to create a new society beyond the reach of the statists on the little mudball we call Earth.

    Space exploration is on the cusp, moving from the vast statist enterprises that gave us Sputnik and Apollo to a true free market. And Dale is chronicalling that change. Per ardua ad astra ought to be the motto of the human race. I’m a great fan of Dale’s posts and I hope to read much more from him as his enterprise takes off.

    And, Davidncl, if you can’t see that space is our future then your vision is small indeed. We will go to the stars, because we must; humanity’s future is greater than the tiny planet on which we were born. And liberty, true liberty, awaits us there.

  • DavidNcl

    Dale, your right, that’s not me.

    Nor would I work for NASA.

  • DavidNcl

    So I ask, Dale,

    How would you describe your relationship with the US areospace administration?

  • Dale Amon

    Relationship with the administration? Limited. Most of the work I do interacts with FAA-OCST as they are the regulatory body in this business. My NASA relationship is more that of a drinking buddy who gets to razz them about how they should book their rooms in the Lunar Bigelow so they will have a nice place to stay when they finally return to the moon.

    It’s also nice to know that the folk riding the dinosaur are not intentionally out to derail the new business. This has not always been the case. It was nearly the opposite in the eighties. NASA is a fact of life. They are there and they are a large customer you cannot ignore unless you are play acting at being in the space business rather than really being in it.

    I am not going to claim being a major player. I am a small fish, but one who has been in the pond for a very long time. I know most of the folk who are good sized swimmers and I manage to eke out a living of which the space business fraction has grown to a reasonable fraction thereof and continues, hopefully, to grow until I can move out to Laramie full time.

    As to what I actually work on in the space area, I don’t post that. Virtually everything is NDA and I respect the business information confided in me by my New Space customers, a number of whom are also readers here.

  • DavidNcl

    Do you think we will go to the stars because a lobbyist’s preferred candidate is elected to some second rank post in a state agency?
    Who’s needs are being served by these posts? Does it serve the ends (quite legit ends, btw, of some commercial space lobbyist) or what?
    What is this for?
    Frankly, I think this is a version of commercial spam by Dale Amon who seems to be some sort of lobbyist or consultant in or near the us space program. Although he often posts on the tiny, embryonic, commercial US space program I have my doubts about his detachment from the actual US state space program.
    This is in no sense to imply that he is doing anything wrong. It’s just hugely boring on a libertarian politics blog.
    I wish I could leave this alone.
    We’d all be happier.

    (no responses from me until 6 am GMT)

  • David,

    NASA is less relevant than it was, but it’s still relevant. So yes, it matters who’s appointed to “a second rank post”; if they’re supportive of our interests, that helps, if not, that hurts.

    On your other points, everything I’ve heard about Dale Amon in the space biz indicates that he’s a genuine advocate of private space exploration, and a true friend of liberty. If you’re going to assert that he’s a lobbyist or a rent-seeker you’ll need to post evidence to that effect. In other words, put up or shut up.

    As I said in my original post, space is enormously interesting to libertarians, since it offers our best hope of true liberty. So it’s absolutely on-topic for a libertarian blog, and should be of interest to all libertarians. If it’s not of interest to you, just don’t read.

  • I like Dale’s posts because spaceships are cool, and its nice to stay informed about cool stuff. Hardly a rational reason but there you go.

    If it weren’t for Dale I’d have never heard about any commercial space projects, which I’ve since enjoyed following, or purchased three enjoyable copies of Wired entirely because the first had a cover article on commercial space and the latter mentioned Elon Musk. I call that a useful service.

    I do wish Dale would be a little more explicit about the connection between Libertarianism and what he posts on (e.g. that there were anti-market people around in the 80s and these people aren’t anti-market, which was eventual covered in the comments) as it would would have made a more complete post. As it is, I recall Dale posting about the people on their way into Nasa before so was able to get the gist, but many readers would not have recalled or read that previous nugget.

    Apart from that, keep it up Dale.

  • Dale Amon

    Simon: Mea culpa, but I am now and often under severe time pressure. In between these comments I am trying to collect information to be fed in to a Phase A document my boss (in Wyoming Aerospace) is putting together on a commercial space project which we are a consultant on. My due date is tomorrow and I have to be on a plane to Orlando for the space conference by mid afternoon tomorrow. I’m a bit pressed for time. 🙂

  • Corsair

    I like reading Dale’s stuff on space etc, and I hope he continues to post it. I’m yet to be convinced of the value of manned space flight and – especially – space colonisation (why would people live on Mars if they don’t (in general) live in Antarctica, the Gobi or the bottom of the sea, all of which are a good deal more accessible and hospitable?), but I have an old and unused Physics degree somewhere, so this sort of stuff still appeals to me 😉

  • Alice

    David — when the planet was very slightly younger than it is now (geologically speaking), a colleague gave me a lesson in Speed Reading.

    Pulling a book randomly off the shelf, he noted the author — prominent academic at well known university; noted the title — steeped in political correctness. “You know exactly what is in this book. Therefore there is no need to waste time actually reading it. That is Speed Reading”. ‘Nuff said?

    As to the substance of the recent unpleasantness, I for one have no interest in living a world where (a) we get the benefits of limited government but (b) where most of us have to endure a peasant’s life with pre-Industrial Revolution technology — which is where the Beautiful People are taking us (although they hope to reprise the role of the Aristocracy). Limited government is a necessary but insufficient condition for maximum human happiness.

    Dale — keep up the posts about Technology. Technological advances are the only way we can hope to get out of this mess.

    Now, since we are sharing our dislikes, I find libertarian posts by Gold Bugs to be tiresome. But I know how to Speed Read!

  • “a very old and dear friend”

    Dale, you are a braver man than I will ever be. I would never have the intestinal fortitude to call any woman a very old anything, friend or otherwise.

  • I have always considered Samizdata to be a blog by a group of libertarians on things they personally find interesting. That could be a topical issue in the news or it could be the latest star trek movie or cricket test match. I don’t particularly care about Cricket or Star Trek but I understand that this is still a personal space and a reflection of the idiosyncratic tastes of the people who it belongs to. Those tastes won’t always overlap with mine but they do with surprising frequently. Speaking personally I like that. I don’t want posts here to be forced to meet some bench mark of libertarian relevance. I enjoy visiting a website that is a reflection of the people who run it in the full breadth of their passions and interests.
    A Samizdata filled only with libertarian rants and austrian economics would quickly become tiresome.
    I for one like the eclectic mix of stuff on Samizdata at present.

  • Dale Amon


    Well, perhaps I should be careful with the ‘o’ word 🙂 But I first worked with Lori back in 1986 or so when she was Exec Director of NSI before L5 merged with them and then the first Director of the new NSS organization created from them in 1987. I happened to have been the chair of the ISDC in Pittsburgh that year so I worked with her closely. I also knocked about with her and others in DC when I visited our HQ there and have photos of her with her new kid (now much older kid) back around 1992. She is a lovely person in every sense except for being a Democrat 😉 Just kidding!

    Jay: You get it. That is what we are about. Libertarians are people who do interesting things with their lives, not the stereotype of what used to be called the Librarian Party from way back when. We are very intentionally a publication that emphasizes that being a libertarian does not mean you have to run around being angry and beating people down with rhetoric every minute of every day.

    We go forth and enjoy all that life has to offer. Why else would we want to be free if not for that?

  • The issue of liberty is not about limiting discussion to Adam Smith, Hayek and Mill. If a discussion blog like this is to have any value it needs to be broad and eclectic. After all, freedom covers all aspects of everyones life, and one reason I have been coming here for nearly eight years is the range of topics discussed.

    Despite being Australian my eyes glaze over and my head starts nodding on those odd occasions when cricket is discussed, but fine, so what? I have no desire to inhabit a universe where all people share the same interests. And lets face it, what is more unusual than a cricketophobic Australian?

  • another_anon

    “On a personal note can I just say how complete and utterly bored I am by Dale Amon pointless fucking space posts.”

    Yes, yes you can.

    That would be because your hosts here are far more polite than you will ever be.

    You could, of course, ‘get your own damn blog’, in Insty’s words.

  • Bod

    How about a soccerphobic pom, CC?

    Skipping comment threads in Samizdata’s not exactly … erm … rocket science. Life’s too short to spend significant portions of my time trying to immerse myself in things that don’t interest me. More significantly, I think that spending time commenting in a message thread about JUST how much you dislike the subject of the thread – is a little bizarre.

  • Sunfish

    I like Dale and his posts just fine. This is news that flies outside of my radar. It’s relevant to my life and yet, were it not for these posts I’d not have heard Word One.

    The intardwebz is full of things that I don’t care about. I could almost care about cricket or sportscars if I really, really tried. But, it’s easy enough to avoid things that hold no interest.

    DavidNCl: if you throw a tantrum and leave, you will be missed. But somehow, by the grace of God, we’ll get over it with only a minimum of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. We’ll have to: my dentist told me to stop gnashing and all of this wailing hurts my throat.

  • I have not known Lori for as long as Dale has but she’s a great lady.


    See you in Florida

  • You can almost care about sportscars? Even I care about sportscars! Curiouser and curiouser…

  • Well this is your property. Bye.

    Yes bye indeed. And that is not a request, it is an ex-cathedra statement.

  • DavidC

    There is alot to be said for the rigorous application of thought and study into ‘which way is best’ and not ‘what on earth do we want to do that for?’. Damn interesting: http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=655

  • Sunfish

    At the risk of posting something on-topic…

    What do these appointments mean to the space-illiterate who hopes to one day open the Luna City Brewpup, Smuggling Ring, and City Marshal’s Office (all major credit cards accepted)?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Keep up the space posting, Dale. I have learned a lot from you about the importance of spacefaring, as much as I have learned, for example, when reading that wonderful novel, Kings of the High Frontier, by Victor Koman, or some of the non-fiction accounts of what is going on. Quite why this bothers some folk is beyond me. They need to get a life.

  • Ian B

    Well, I’m inclined to sympathise with DavidNcl’s position, if rather less rudely. I’m sure Dale has enormous fun hanging around with all the other lobbyists, but I’m really not sure what the fuck interest there is in one bureaucrat being posted to a position rather than some other one, really. But what they hey.

    However, Edward King said this-

    Space offers us the best chance to realize the libertarian dream; to create a new society beyond the reach of the statists on the little mudball we call Earth.

    Let’s get something straight. Whatever space exploration is about, hoping it’ll give us some new land on which to build Libertopia is a pipe dream- the same sort of nonsense as Seasteading, but moreso.

    First up, let’s remember what the rest of the solar system is like compared to this “mudball”. It’s barren. What isn’t barren is toxic. What isn’t toxic is frozen to unimaginably low temperatures, or hotter than molten lead. Mars looks promising, right? No. There’s no atmosphere. The soil is toxic. The entire planet is in the chemical ground state. It has not had any life spending four billion years splitting compounds back into their reactive precursors (hey, did anyone notice the joke in Star Trek on Scotty’s tubes- a label saying, INERT REACTANT”?). You can’t burn anything on Mars, because everything is already burned.

    People seem to think of other planets as like a New New World, like America. Get on a ship in steerage, arrive, start farming. It’s not like that. There is no land. There’s an inert desert. Any farming you want to do, anything you want to do, requires you to bring everything with you. Any exploitation of Mars requires a net energy input. Humans exist because here on Earth we can take free stuff- the atmosphere, and soil, and let plants just do what comes naturally, and harvest them. You cannot do that on Mars. You can live in a little tent with your plants, but it’s going to cost far more than you’ll ever get back in crops.

    So there isn’t going to be a new frontier. There isn’t going to be homesteads, and farms, and doin’ your own thing away from the Old World governments. There are going to be hugely expensive research stations, playtime for a few geologists and military type astronauts. That’s it. It’s all you can do with Mars, for the foreseeable future, because the net energy required to make the place habitable is so vast, so immense, as to be far, far beyond our current technology. Earth has had four billion years of plants doing it for us, and they started off at least with a decent atmospheric pressure to live in that the solar system’s formation provided gratis. Anywhere in space is going to be a very owned space, for specialists only. There will be no grand proletarian free-for-all on Mars, The Moon, or Space Colony Z-1.

    The solar system is just a collection of rocks, and ices as hard as rocks. Everywhere but Earth is utterly, totally, dead and inhospitable to human life. It’s not a new frontier. Sorry, there’s nowhere to escape to for the foreseeable future. If we’re going to find liberty, we’re going to have to find it here on this old mudball we call home.

  • Well, I’m inclined to sympathise with DavidNcl’s position, if rather less rudely.

    I do not give a fuck what DavidNcl’s position it. He is a rude cunt and he is not welcome here any more and it has nothing to do with his ‘position’.

  • Laird

    Ian B, while your characterization of the other planets in this solar system appears basically accurate, I disagree with your conclusion (as well as with your gratuitous oblique swipe at seasteading, for which there are no technological or economic barriers remotely comparable to those burdening space travel). The reason is that, far from requiring “net energy input”, once you get there space is absolutely teeming with energy, far more than is easily available beneath our atmospheric canopy; just put up a photocell and harvest it. Also, there are plenty of raw materials (in asteroids, primarily) available for exploitation. So while planetary colonization may not be feasible, space-based habitats certainly are, and could prove to be a paying proposition (not just through tourism, which is far from insignificant, but also micro-gravity manufacturing). I’m sure Dale could expound on this far better than I ever could.

    Don’t be so negative. You’re more than welcome to keep your eyes on the ground, but don’t denigrate those of us who choose to look up. I’ll join in the cry of ad astra.

    (To which I’ll append ad oceanus!)

  • Maz

    What Jay Thomas said (just in case someone’s counting votes). Even though I’d prefer more cricket posts…

    On the subject of rude posting, the use of the F-word, civility etc., I always consider whether I’d be happy for a post of mine to be read out loud in public by someone else, for example at an academic event or in a courtroom. AKA the Red Face Test.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Laird is right to rebut IanB, and I would go further: this is not an either/or situation. Those libertarians who poo-pooh any idea of spacefaring/settlement can obviously focus their energies, if they want, at home. But the very notion of spacefaring should be seen as of a piece with that project. The earth is, as Heinlein said – I think – too small a basket for mankind to put all its eggs in. The idea of being able to get out, to exit, to leave the status quo, is one of the things that deters tyrants from being as tyrannical as they might be. One reason, IanB, why taxes, for example, have not been even higher in Britain in recent years is due to the existence of places like tax havens.

    But in the end spacefaring is not just about some sort of political agenda – it is also a lot of fun and gives us another chance to test the limits of the possible.

  • rollory

    comment deleted

    Be polite or get lost.

  • Ian B

    The reason is that, far from requiring “net energy input”, once you get there space is absolutely teeming with energy, far more than is easily available beneath our atmospheric canopy;

    Photovoltaics will get a bit more energy in space than down here, but not that much to write home about. The key problem with solar energy is that it is diffuse. You need very large collecting areas. Sure, you can theoretically collect all the energy output by the sun, which is quite a few kilowatts. But you need a shell of PV modules all the way around it. Which is why for the foreseeable future large scale energy generation on Earth will be confined to fossils and nuclear. How many PVs do you need to power a steel mill or aluminium refinery in space? Pretty much the same as on Earth. A fuck of a lot.

    Really, the point I’m making is that for the foreseeable future, all “space” can offer is confined habitats. If you want to live in a little dome you can’t easily leave, it’d be much cheaper to build it on the seabed than mars. If you want to live in a floating can, build a submarine.

    Space is interesting from a scientific point of view, but with current technologies it’s effectively uninhabitable. Certainly uninhabitable by any significant mass of people.

    The other point about space “libertopianism” is this myth I was trying to dispel in my previous post, of “getting away from it all”. Escaping the state. The state will be there first, before you get any chance to go there. You won’t be allowed to just hop in your yard-built spaceship and claim a chunk of mars or an asteroid as your own. They won’t let you. You will be up against the combined force of the world’s existing governments, and the days are long gone when there was rough military parity between a citizens militia and a state army. You might ask to be left alone, but you won’t be.

    Our only hope is to effect a change of mind among the people here on mudball Earth. That’s not going to be easy, but if we cannot do it here, we will not be able to do it in space either. You may say, “Well, what about the USA?” After all, they created the world’s (temporarily) freeest(sp?) country by getting away from it all, didn’t they?

    Well yes, but that was in more primitive times, with a continent here on Earth where you could just turn up in some wilderness and turn it into a farm and they still had to fight a revolution to wrest it from the Old World governments.

    If you think the same could happen for space colony Z1 or Mars, then why wait? Fight your revolution here on Earth. At least here you’re not dependent on a resupply of CO2 scrubbers from the Old World.

    Space is death and disease, wrapped in darkness and silence.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Space is death and disease, wrapped in darkness and silence.

    Give it a miss, for heaven’s sake, IanB. No doubt many Eyeores thought the American West was a desolate place as well.

    As i said, the case for spacefaring runs in parallel with attempted changes here, on Earth. The possibility of “exit” is of a piece with encouraging change in the home planet, etc.