Archive for August 8th, 2008


SpaceX - Falcon 1 Launch

SpaceX - Falcon 1 Launch

Earlier this week SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) was chartered to send James “Scotty” Doohan (of Star Trek fame) and 207 other peoples ashes into space, but the rocket disintegrated shortly after launch shooting its payload into the Pacific ocean.  SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk, was quoted saying, “Neither stage exploded,”…”They just got a little bit cooked“.  That’s sensitive considering the families of the departed paid between $995 to $5,300 for the space sendoff which was arranged by Houston-based Space Services Inc. and I’m sure that’s what they had in mind – NOT!

You might be asking at this point what’s the motorcycle connection?  Well Scotty received an honorary engineer degree from Harley-Davidson’s home town university Milwaukee School of Engineering.

But, back to SpaceX who was founded in June 2002 by Elon Musk the co-founder of PayPal.  He created SpaceX to help make “humanity a space faring civilization”.  The company is HQ in Hawthorne, CA with engine and structural testing done in McGregor, TX.  However, the space launch facilities are based in the Marshall Islands, specifically the Kwajalein Atoll on Omelek Island

Kwajalein Island

Kwajalein Island

In certain military circles it’s know as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Site.  The Kwajalein Atoll is part of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and a premiere asset within the Department of Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base. The unquestioned value is based upon its strategic geographical location, unique instrumentation, and unsurpassed capability to support ballistic missile testing and space operations.  Unknown to most people is they have successfully completed multiple flight tests of the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) program which has intercepted intercontinental ballistic missile targets.  Some refer to this as “Star Wars” research.

I happen to know a bit about “Kwaj” having lived, worked on the island and flown in/out of Bucholz Army Airfield.  It was routine to observe ballistic missile targets launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base with interceptors being launched down range from Kwaj.  All of the intercept testing is done at an altitude 140 miles above earth, so we only observed launch exhaust “streaks” over the Pacific Ocean in the Western Test Range.

You can read more on the military environmental impact of using Omelek Island as the launch facility HERE (pdf).

Scotty may you make it to space and RIP.


Falcon 1 launch courtesy SpaceX

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It showed up in my inbox.  I was randomly selected by the “Harley Research Team” to participate in an online survey. 

As a registered ticket holder for the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary event, I was unique (like the other 100K+ people attending) and “got” to take a survey to help Harley plan for my stay.  Well isn’t that nice that they care so much about my stay in Milwaukee?!

I don’t buy it.  However, I did complete the 10 minute survey which had approximately 7 of the 20+ questions asking me about my plans to buy a new motorcycle and if so which manufacture was I considering and the timeframe.  I think the marketing guys got into a conference room with the Dealer network/Sales folks and said, “Hey, why don’t we ping all those 105th ticket holders and see how many are planning to buy a new motorcycle”?  “Maybe they haven’t heard about all the new Copper-tone 105th models we have in show rooms”? 

There were no questions about the Museum or attendance.  That is discouraging since I didn’t get a ticket via the lottery process and the museum is closed during the 105th.  I’ve whined enough about that though previously.

The email goes something like this:

Dear Mac,

The Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary celebration is almost here! As a
registered 105th Anniversary ticket holder, please take a moment to complete
a short survey for our internal research team.  This is not a sales pitch.
Your feedback will help us plan for your stay in Milwaukee.

For participating, you will be entered into a drawing to win ONE of five $100
gift certificates to be used at any Harley-Davidson dealer. Click on the link
below to access the online survey.

If you are using AOL or if you have any problems linking to the survey, please
copy and paste the below survey link into the address line of your Internet
browser, and then manually enter your password in the space provided.

Survey Link:  http://www.surveyzone.net/s058

I know I’m busting Harley’s chops on this, but I’m fairly confident the email survey is about trying to anticipate/predict the attendance turn out of the 105th event and get some sales data.  With Sturgis attendance down this year it only stands to reason they would confirm ticket holders who indeed do plan to attend the event.

I hope they get the “Honey Bucket” count accurate because I hate standing in long “relief” lines!

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KOBI News is reporting that the “GREEN NATION”, aka the Vagos Motorcycle Club is holding a west coast “meeting” in Grants Pass this weekend (August 9-10).  Their signature “colors” – shades of green and a red demon caricature of Loki, the Norse god of mischief will be “flying” in southern Oregon.

Should we care?  I’m not so sure, but given all the historical issues (dating back to 1999 and mostly bad) and the hefty fines, I find it curious the Vagos decided to hold a meeting in Josephine county again.  Sure, it’s a free country…at least the last time I checked the First Amendment was alive and well, but the bad blood and community fears of violence will surely loom over the event and may cause an overreaction from Sheriff Gil Gilbertson…similar to Sheriff Dave Daniels days.  Why risk police stops for “DWV” – driving while Vagos?

The group plans to meet at Schroeder Park, just outside of Grants Pass. Vagos MC member, Harry Hart (a Dentist in CA.) claims they are a “motorcycle family who come together and associate with one another and the police have it all wrong”…”it’s blown all out of proportion”.

I’m a bit skeptical and have written about colors flying in Oregon previously.  The Vagos MC is identified as an outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) in the CA. Organized Crime Annual Report and the DOJ states:

The Vagos Motorcycle Club (Vagos) has hundreds of members in the U.S. and Mexico and poses a serious criminal threat to those areas in which its chapters are located. U.S. law enforcement authorities report that the Vagos have approximately 300 members among 24 chapters located in the states of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and three chapters located in Mexico. The Vagos produce, transport and distribute methamphetamine and are also involved in the distribution of marijuana. The Vagos have also been implicated in other criminal activities including assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering, murder, vehicle theft, witness intimidation and weapons violations. In the U.S., the Vagos are mainly active in the Southwest and Pacific regions.

Before I get a bunch of comments about taking too many falls without a helmet, let me just say I know one member breaking the law is one thing and to paint an entire club or over-generalize is quite another.  But I also know that OMG want to give the impression they are a just a harmless riding club.  Maybe its because so many states are doing what California is, once linked to a gang, the penalty for a crime is much more severe.

Here’s my point.  I’m not passing judgement, but hope the Vagos MC members avoid big trouble in a small town so the state can avoid an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars and focus on higher profile criminally active street gangs.

Photo courtesy of Venice Beach org.

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