Friday, November 10, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part XII: The Finale

The Congressional committee reconciling the differences between the House and Senate NDAA versions have finally axed the Space Corps as a provision. While this means that the new military branch will not be created for January 2019 the final NDAA, will contain language for the deputy SECDEF to have a federally-funded research and development centre not affiliated with the USAF  to examine the long-term prospects of creating a military department to deal with space.

There will also be significant changes to the relationship between the Air Force and space as a domain. The NDAA now includes a number of provisions taken from the Space Corps framework to fix what the conference report termed a "broken national security space enterprise." It places emphasis on "streamlining Air Force acquisition authorities, eliminating burdensome red tape, empowering a single accountable organization for space forces within the Air Force, placing renewed emphasis on the organization and management of space in the DoD, and holding the deputy secretary of defense responsible for the full and faithful execution of these improvements."

The legislation also eliminates multiple space authorities, including the Principal DoD Space Adviser and the Defense Space Council, instead consolidating authority within Air Force Space Command. The NDAA also strips Secretary Wilson of her role as primary space adviser to the secretary of defense.

While the dream of a Space Corps is now finished for the time being, there may be nothing preventing it from appearing in the future.

Sources: Space News / The Hill / Popular Mechanics


242 years today. Oorah! Semper Fi!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part XI

The NDAA negotiations are now underway. Senators John McCain and Jack Reed met with Representatives Mac Thornberry and Adam Smith, the respective chambers conference committee members who now sit down in secret to discuss and smooth out their NDAA differences.

Before the meeting, McCain cited the House plan to create a Space Corps as one of the biggest nuts to crack. Bill Nelson, a senior Armed Services member who sponsored legislation opposing the move in the Senate, has said the new military service will never happen. Alternatively Mike Rogers, who is spearheading the push for a Space Corps in the House, said he was feeling optimistic. 

Thornberry, HASC chair, pointed out that 79% of House members voted for his $696 billion version of the NDAA and 89% of senators voted for the $700 billion version spearheaded by McCain. “There is a widespread consensus that we need to do better for our military,” Thornberry said. Both Thornberry and McCain were optimistic that the issue would be ironed out quickly even within days, because differences in the bills are small.

Source: Army Times/ Washington Examiner

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SPEARHEAD monitoring "Bigfoot" sighting

SPEARHEAD are currently monitoring reports of a Cryptid 2N-Alpha sighting in the region of Avocado Lake, Northern California.

If you are in the area do not engage, shoot at or attempt to communicate with anything resembling "Bigfoot". If you encounter same, please notify the authorities.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part X

The U.S. House of Representatives officially approved by unanimous consent a motion to go to conference to reconcile its version of the annual defense policy bill with the Senate’s.

Despite not formally going to conference yet, the so-called “Big Four”: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed met to discuss differences in the bills.

Thornberry has told reporters negotiators hope to resolve all major differences by the end of October, including negotiations to to flesh out is the Space Corps. The House desiring to create the new military branch dedicated to space by Jan 2019, while the Senate bill would explicitly prohibit its creation instead the appointment of a Chief Information Warfare Officer reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense with authority over space, cyberspace, and information programs.

“I don’t meant to be too dismal, but I’ve been in too many classified briefings,” Thornberry, told reporters Thursday. “As I look at what Russia and the Chinese are doing, we don’t have a lot of evolutionary time to sit and hope we kind of drift in the right direction. We are more dependent than anybody else on space.”

 Source: The Hill / Spacepolicyonline /

Monday, October 09, 2017

Discovery continues, better but still not Trek

Star Trek: Discovery is now four episodes in and while I will say that it has immensely improved since the woefully mediocre pilot, it's still missing the Star Trek mark by a long-shot. Nevertheless it's worthy to watch and allow you to make up your own mind. I was somewhat critical of the pilot, yes but my issues were entirely justified. I won't retread old ground with regards to the ridiculously reimagined Klingons or the confusingly anachronistic technology as these elements are here to stay, they distract from the story and remove it from true acceptance as canonical Star Trek and I'll leave it at that.

Episode 3 "Context Is for Kings" was two things: 1. A far better episode of TV than either/both the pilot episodes and 2. It should have been the actual pilot with the previous episodes told in flashback. How cool would it have been instead to reveal Burnham's past than by her invoking Amanda as the person who read her bedtime stories rather than the nonsensical "Hologram Sarek"? Fuller obviously trusted fans to accept the dual mystery of  Burnham AND the Discovery but clearly nervous CBS executives disagreed and wanted something that they could offer half for fee and make people pay for the other half (as is the reprehensible money grabbing all-access situation in the U.S.). It seems that or assumed we would be too dumb to understand and spent several million explaining Burnham's transgressions to us instead.

It's not until this episode that we're actually introduced (quite spectacularly goosebump-worthy I might add) to the titular Discovery, her captain Gabriel Lorca (a possibly insane "warmonger" with one foot in the door of an admiral's office) and a whole plethora of Bryan Fuller mysteries (who are the black badges??) that now sadly, lesser writers have to solve. The episode itself was great, it had technobabble and even some welcome Star Trek staples that harked back all the way to the original series; a redshirt (not that you can tell because all the frikking uniforms are blue), a monster of the week and a terrible disaster that wiped out the crew on another ship that despite there being dozens of different starship designs they used the Discovery's design again as a "sister ship" the USS Glenn.

Episode 4 "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry" was again better than the pilot(s) but neither better nor worse than last week's episode. This week, we have Burnham studying last week's "monster" and the outcome is certainly in keeping with the principles of Star Trek, albeit not entirely resolved - which is OK as this series is not as self contained as previous shows. The fact that we have the need to check in with the current goings-on in Klingontown every act is a bit too disjointed, especially as they are still following the trope of not speaking English, forcing viewers to read dozens of lines of subtitles. Normally this would be OK as Klingons are more action than talk - except THESE ARE NOT REAL KLINGONS and do far too much faffing about, talking and pledging allegiance to to the memory of their messiah etc. Just shut up and get on with it for fuck sake!!

Another major issue is the characterisations of the personnel on board are not in keeping with humanity as a whole. Roddenberry created a positive vision of the future where human conflict and personal gain were now passe. It was referenced in the original series, fleshed out during The Next Generation and by the time Enterprise was shown, this mentality had been established. However, for some reason here we have Lt. Stamets who is sarcastic to the point of being borderline insubordinate and we have Cmdr. Landry who would seem more at home as the militaristic, trigger-happy henchman of a villain in a Disney movie. These archetypes of characters are great for "The Expanse" or "Battlestar Galactica" but the un-Star Trek-ness of them is distracting and damages both story and the brand.

Despite the myriad of new and old issues, these episodes are a marked improvement over the pilot but still far less Star Trek than is projected by the superior "The Orville" and it would seem most fans agree with me... for now.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Discovery is not Star Trek

First, if this was a new science fiction property I'd say that it was fantastic, and worth watching but I would have said that it "reminded me" of Star Trek yet I'd probably chastise the creators for making the good-guy ships and ray-guns look like Starfleet ships and phasers, (oh and and ripping off the idea of the Vulcan mind-meld) - yet overlook them as being minor rip-offs in contrast to the full-blown Star Trek homage that is Seth McFarlane's "The Orville". If this was the case I'd watch every episode with no apprehension or concern whatsoever.

But no, because this is actually Star Trek and Discovery is carrying the IP name with millions of devotees and a 50+ year legacy that both need and deserve to be respected, especially if intending to frame it within the prime universe (as opposed to the Kelvin timeline of J.J. Abrams creation) and if the first two episodes are anything to go by - that hasn't happened.

The plot here seems to centre on a single character, Commander Micheal Burnham who I'm branding the worst Starfleet Officer, second only to Lon Suder and even gives pre-redemption Tom Paris a run for his money. The idea of giving the spotlight to only a single character, especially one whom is not the captain is a fresh one but fails due to the characterisation, not due to Sonequa Martin-Green's splendid performance.

There was another two characters who appeared that had equally dubious motivations, Doug Jones' Science Officer Saru is a Kelpien, apparently a race with a reputation for cowardice in the Federation. While this justifies why we don't see them in later set series, it doesn't address what the fuck such an obvious coward is doing on the bridge of a Federation starship where he's third in command! It would be akin to making Reg Barclay the chief of security! There was another character, Ensign Nobody who gave a war lament in the middle of a battle "Why are we fighting? We're explorers not soldiers" demonstrating that the criteria for the Starfleet psychological tests slipped somewhat between Archer and Kirk's time.

I did make only one verbal reaction to what was on screen. Remember in one episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine when they install a holographic communicator allowing Captain Sisko speak with Captain Sanders and Michael Eddington on the bridge of the Defiant? Remember how distractingly shit it was and they used it once more before never mentioning it again? Well remember how it was considered "new technology" then, so it couldn't exist 120 years earlier, especially without the huge holographic ring to power the image and it would be ridiculous to have it as an apparently "normal" feature in standard crew quarters? Well now you can guess why I verbally reacted to the screen. My other non-verbal, but face scrunching reaction was to the obtuse opening titles with a complete failure on Jeff Russo's part to deliver a coherent theme with a line drawing "artistic" montage, something that would be far more appropriate to a documentary on the making of Discovery as opposed to the series itself.

Two elements I was counting on for this Star Trek incarnation to work was (1) a plausible or implausible social, Geo-political or even quasi-biological explanation for the Klingons, why they and their technology look like that and not in keeping with the established canon, and (2) a scientific (in Star Trek terms of the word) explanation for why Starfleet tech and designs on display here in some cases make the Enterprise E seem as advanced as the Searcher from Buck Rogers. But no. There isn't any, no mirror/alternate universes, chronometric distortion, godlike being influencing the natural order - feck it, I'd even settle it for being all someone's "dream" - I'm fine with all changes to canon so long as there's an in-universe reason! But nothing, nada, zilch and the series will suffer because of it because it's just too distracting the way it is. It is possible we'll get some explanation for either before the end but I won't hold out hope.

I believe any other problems delve into spoiler territory so enough now. Overall I think it's pretty solid and works as a show where things explode in space; something that's always welcome on TV. But this is not really Star Trek, it doesn't even feel like Star Trek let alone look like Star Trek. I reckon now they'll only be one season here and that's it. It won't save the franchise. It's too difficult not to draw comparisons to The Orville, which has aired three episodes already, better characterisation, better music (veteran composers) and opening titles (homage to ST: Voyager), better commentary on the human condition and the infusion of optimism at a time when we need it more than ever in our lifetimes - just with the occasional fart jokes! It looks and feels more Star Trek than Star Trek Discovery does and you can quote me on that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part IX

After some tense negotiations, the National Defense Authorization Act cleared the Senate in a 89-8 vote on Monday evening, pacing the way for the collaborative conference with the House Armed Services leaders on the final bill. The $700 billion defense policy bill for FY2018 aims to bolster depleted military forces and includes $640 billion in base funding and nuclear readiness as well as $60 billion for overseas combat operations. The military would get more Navy ships, fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, and troops than requested in POTUS45's budget request and also provides for increasing missile defense to shield South Korea.

However the Senate's NDAA also includes a measure that sets up a debate with the House over the creation of a Space Corps. The Senate legislation sponsored by Sens. Bill Nelson and Tom Cotton prohibits the creation of any separate command to oversee space operations within the Air Force and instead approved the creation of a new chief information warfare office with some authority over space and cyber issues. It is certain to set up a fight with the House during negotiations over a final version of the bill.

Source: Washington Examiner / Washington Post / World Bulletin / News Desk / USA Today