Rocket Launch

I’ve always wanted to see a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The logistics of traveling to Cape Canaveral are pretty formidable and there is always a chance that the launch will be scrubbed. To make to most of this possibly once-in-a-lifetime event I want to get as close as possible to the launch of a really big rocket.

Getting close is easy; NASA sells $195 tickets to view launches from the Apollo/Saturn V Center which is 4 miles from Launch Complex 39. LC-39 is where the big rockets launch from.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy (FH) is currently the largest rocket launching from KSC. The table below shows how the FH stacks up to other launch vehicles in terms of total sea level thrust in millions of lb(f).

Boosters1st StageTotal
Space Launch System (SLS)7.2 (solid)1.78.9
Saturn Vn/a7.97.9
Space Shuttle (STS)5.6 (solid)1.26.8
Falcon Heavy3.4 (liquid)1.75.1
Delta IV Heavy1.4 (liquid)0.72.1

Total thrust only tells a part of the story. Solid fuel boosters are louder and more visually impressive than liquid fueled engines so it looks like it will be worth waiting for NASA’s SLS launch in 2020.

And there’s always SpaceX’s 13.9 million lb(f) thrust BFR which is also supposed to fly in 2020.

Abortion

Is there a more divisive issue in American politics than abortion? Here is a timeline of the early stages of pregnancy that helps me think about the issue.

Pregnancy timeline [1]

Day 0: beginning of the month’s menstrual cycle; this is the beginning of the last period before becoming pregnant; it is where healthcare professionals consider pregnancy to begin (gestational age).

Day 15: sexual intercourse results in fertilization of an egg (ovum); the fertilized egg is called a blastocyst; governments typically begin numbing the weeks of pregnancy from this point (conceptional age).

Day 22: the blastocyst is implanted in the wall of the uterus; home pregnancy tests can detect the presence of the hCG hormone in urine.

Day 25: the blastocyst is called an embryo.

Day 28: first day of missed period.

Day 30: primitive streak is formed; many bioethicists consider the creation of the primitive streak to signify the creation of a unique human being.

Day 35 (week 5): a heart beat can be detected.

Day 42 (week 6): the spinal cord and brain begin to develop.

Day 49 (week 7): organs such as the lungs, liver, and kidneys begin to develop.

Day 56 (week 8): the embryo begins to move.

Day 70 (week 10): the embryo is called a fetus.

Day 84 (week 12): end of first trimester.

Given that the taking of innocent life is morally wrong; the discussion about abortion revolves around the question of when an unfertilized egg cell becomes an innocent human life. I would place this transformation somewhere between day 30 and 49.

Health Insurance

The key to having a thriving private healthcare system in the U.S. is for consumers to have control of their healthcare spending. This could be accomplished by implementing two reforms:

  1. Establish healthcare savings accounts (HSA) for every American. Contributions to these accounts would be tax-free as long as the money in the account is used for healthcare.
  2. Eliminate employer-provided health insurance. Employers would be free to contribute money to their employee’s HSA and they would continue to get a tax benefit for doing so. Americans would use the money in their HSA to purchase individual health insurance policies that would be portable; we would no longer have to worry about losing our insurance when we change jobs.

The individual health insurance market needs to be deregulated and Americans should be free to purchase the policy they want.

Divorce Rate

We’ve all heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce. This statistic seriously undermines the institution of marriage. After all, how important can marriage be if it’s success can be predicted by a coin flip?

Defining the divorce rate for first time marriages is more complicated than it would seem. The average is probably between 42% and 45% [1] but it varies wildly based on certain risk factors.  For example, if you are over 25 years old, college educated, have an annual household income over $50,000, have a strong common faith, and have not lived together prior to marriage; your chance of divorce is close to zero.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you and your spouse are significantly different in age, have lived together prior to marriage, have only a nominal faith, and both smoke; your chance of divorce is significantly higher than 50%.

Immigration

Welfare state requires lots of tax revenue;

Lots of tax revenue requires a growing economy,

Growing economy requires a growing population and/or increased productivity;

Growing population requires immigration and/or a high birth rate;

Given that productivity gains and birth rates are declining;

Welfare state requires immigration.

 

Gospel Catechism

A simple 3-question catechism adapted from Cameron Cole’s Rooted Ministry blog. [1]

  1. What does Gospel mean? Good news.
  2. What is the good news? God loves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  3. Is the Gospel about what God has done for us or about what we do for God? About what God has done for us.

Volumes have been written about each of these questions but I think they effectively sum up the foundations of the Christian faith.

How Dangerous is Flying?

According the National Safety Council the lifetime odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident are 1 in 102 compared to 1 in 205,552 for dying as a passenger on an aircraft. We’re about 4 times as likely to die from a bee sting as from an airplane crash. [1]

In the 20 years between 1997 and 2016 there were 774,723 motor vehicle deaths in the United States. [2] During the same period there were 786 commercial aviation fatalities. [3]

The question isn’t why are some people afraid of flying, but why aren’t we all terrified of driving.