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Tabitha Smith, Gwyn Rosaire, Project Bifrost, Sunday, 12-16-12 December 16, 2012

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Tabitha Smith, Gwyn Rosaire, Project Bifrost, Sunday, 12-16-12


Guests:  Tabitha Smith, Gwyn Rosaire.  Topics:  Nuclear propulsion, Project Bifrost, Icarus Interstellar.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. We welcomed Tabitha Smith and Gwyn Rosaire to our program to discuss Project Bifrost and nuclear space propulsion.  For more information and to contact our guests, visit www.icarusinterstellar.org/projects/project-bifrost. If you are interested in joining Project Bifrost, or have suggestions, please use the “here” email link on the webpage. During our first segment, Ms. Smith started by giving us the origin and meaning of the project name, Bifrost (pronounced BEEFROST).  This discussion included Icarus Interstellar and mention of the Darpa 100 Year Starship Program (100YSS).  I asked Gwyn about our technical status in having a nuclear thermal rocket and he said we had more of an economic problem with nuclear propulsion than a technical problems.  We talked about the lack of a mission for a nuclear rocket and that such a mission would be generated from the White House on down.  Nuclear fuel was a topic as new research is focusing on tungsten fuels rather than graphite though our caller Dr. Jim Dewar suggested new opportunities existed with modern graphite fuels.  Other listeners emailed in both questions and comments about fuel.  Another topic included a discussion about a much larger payload to Mars with a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) than a chemical rocket so I asked our guests about economic trades as to what would eventually be less costly, multiple chemical rocket launches or the use of a NTR.  Using the Saturn V for our chemical rocket, We carried our analysis to the point of including additional launches to cover for a launch failure and also the human factors side in that a shorter trip means less radiation for the astronauts, thus less shielding and potentially less mass.  I think you will find this discussion and analysis most interesting, including the NRC equation for astronaut exposure to radiation. In Dr. Dewar’s call, he also talked about the B4 core concept & the progress made with NERVA.  We got emails from Bruce in Canada plus other listeners advocating private sector development, a change in ITAR, and the radiation policy changing after Fukushima per this article, www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_UN_approves_radiation_advice_1012121.html, and the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

In our second segment, Michael called in to ask about Russian outreach and the Russian nuclear propulsion program.  We then asked our guests for the future Project Bifrost plans.  We learned of several major issues.  One issue centered on U.S. export control. Our guests also noted that the Russian economy was actually gaining in strength and this might cause them to think its better to go it alone than team up with a weak international partner.  Other listener emails inquired about time lines for operation.  It was suggested that about ten years would be needed for the NTR if all goes well.  As for more routine Mars flights, it was suggested that it would take about twenty years after the first human flights to Mars to really have the program operational. We talked about the private sector and our guests suggested that the private sector will play a strong role in developing and using nuclear propulsion.  Moving on, the second project our guests mentioned had to do with ablation technology using NASA Ames facilities.  The third and final project mentioned was at Huntsville, the Decade Module 2 fusion project at Marshall.  During both the first & second segments, our guests talked about Jupiter radiation and magnetic shielding. John asked about this when he called in the second segment.  Doug inquired about Dr. Zubrin’s Mars plans & possible trajectories that could be used with the pros and cons for each. Bruce inquired about fuel vibration problems, then Tim called wanting to know about tours at the Marshall facility & the level of power needed for interstellar travel.  As we were ending, our guests said we needed breakthrough propulsion or new physics for interstellar travel. Both our guests left us with important closing comments relevant to Project Bifrost & nuclear propulsion for our future with space development.  Don’t miss what each had to say as we brought our discussion to a close.

Post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  You can email our guests through me or through the above website URL for Bifrost.

Les Johnson, Sunday, 7-8-12 July 9, 2012

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Les Johnson, Sunday, 7-8-12


Guest:  Les Johnson.  Topics:  “Going Interstellar: Build Starships Now!,” and interstellar propulsion & advanced propulsion concepts.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  We started our discussion by talking about interstellar travel, his new book, “Going Interstellar,” and advanced concepts, both for NASA and outside the NASA mindset.  Please remember that if you purchase this book from Amazon using this link, Amazon will make a contribution to The Space Show/OGLF:  www.amazon.com/Going-Interstellar-Johnson/dp/1451637780/ref=onegiantlea20. Les told us that both he and his co-editor, Jack McDevitt, had very little trouble getting the authors to contribute to the book which consists of a series of short stories from well known science fiction authors plus scientists.  There is a focus on the plausible and grounded physics so that the sci-fi is rooted in actual physics.  Les took several phone calls wanting to know about advanced concepts and propulsion at NASA and in general outside of NASA. We spoke about many concepts including solar sail technology, nuclear electric propulsion, the fission fragment rocket, faster than light (FTL) travel, antimatter, & the types of possible starships that might be used, plus the time intervals to travel from point A to point B.  We talked about the challenges from the laws of physics, political leadership, funding, & timelines. Les said that barring the discovery of new physics which he is not optimistic about at this time, he does not think FTL travel will be possible. When I asked about the discovery of Higgs-boson as an example of discovering new things, he talked about the discovery of that which is predictive as compared to something entirely new and unknown.  Other topics in this segment included artistic license in sci-fi writing, the role of physics & the imagination, & even questioning the possible role of ET in contributing to advanced propulsion concepts.

In our second segment, Marshall was our first caller & we talked about the French nuclear program, fusion, & the large ITER reactor program.  Les went over many of the fusion energy challenges & we talked about some fuel issues.  Les then told us about some of the future books he is working on & then he had more to say about solar sail technology which is his preference at this time for robotic interstellar missions.  We took a call about the huge Atlanta, GA sci-fi conference, DragonCon ( http://dragoncon.org) as Les will be a featured speaker there this year. As the program was ending, we talked about HSF NASA infrastructure, the Von Braun model for spaceflight, and more about the specific stories in his book.

If you have questions/comments for our guest, please post them on The Space Show blog.  Check out his websites at www.lesjohnsonauthor.com and www.amazon.com/Les-Johnson/e/B002OUOYZQ/ref=onegiantlea20.

James (Jim) Bickford, Friday, 2-24-12 February 25, 2012

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James (Jim) Bickford, Friday, 2-24-12


Guest:  James (Jim) Bickford. Topics:  Antimatter for space propulsion.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  We welcomed Jim Bickford to the program to discuss antimatter for space propulsion.  In our first segment, Mr. Bickford started our discussion with an introduction to antimatter basics.  While we referenced Star Trek in the discussion, Mr. Bickford was quick to point out that reality was quite different from the sci fi classic though he was a fan of Star Trek. Along with the Apollo program, both played a role in his having his interest in antimatter. In this introduction, I asked Mr. Bickford about antimatter as a weapon but he said it would not be practical.  One of the points stressed by Jim during the entire program was just how little antimatter material there is and how long term the R&D program would be..  He said there is very little in nature and the quantities made worldwide were extremely small, measuring in nanograms produced a year.  Our guest compared antimatter to chemical propulsion and nuclear thermal rockets (NTR).  While the NTR is substantially better than chemical propulsion, antimatter propulsion would be orders of magnitude better than the NTR.  We then talked about supplies of antimatter off Earth and he said the most promosing place was in the rings of Saturn.  He also mentioned solar flares from the sun in the positrons and back on Earth he talked about cosmic rays as well as some material in thunderstorms & ligtening.  Mr. Bickford also discussed what an antimatter spaceship would probably be like.  He discussed fuel tank requirements, containment, even plasma fileds around the spaceship using an electromagnetic field extending out around the spaceship as the containment device.  We talked about the research needed, the steps involved, and the funding.  Our guest repeated many times that antimatter research is high risk in the sense of obtaining success.  As the segment was ending, we talked about antimatter research in the medical field against cancer tumors. 

In our second segment, we talked more about tax payer funded antimatter research and Jim took us through a value stream analysis which was most interesting.  We talked about student interest in antimatter and both the direct and indirect benefits from technology research and development. We then talked about the specifics of antimatter for space development starting with defining the requirements and eventually being able to do a demo. A caller asked if the research had a billion dollars for many years would there be a breakthrough in the 20-30 year time period.  You might be surprised by his answer.  We also talked about a paper and a Power Point poster that he has used regarding his antimatter research.  Both the poster and the paper will be uploaded to The Space Show blog with Mr. Bickford’s permission.  We talked about antimatter and Jupiter based on the poster .  Another question came in about antimatter propulsion being useful for launch from Earth.  This prompted our guest to talk about the antimatter theoretical limit for both ISP and faster than light speed.  As we were talking about the antimatter development process, I asked about the role of luck or serendipity in discovering breakthroughs.  You might be surprised by this answer as well.  In ending our discussion, Jim repeated that antimatter was only at the fundamental research stage and very long term, perhaps even further out than a century but very promosing nonetheless.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog URL.

The two papers discussed on the show can be found below:

1.  Bickford_NIAC_Phase2Year1Report_Aug07_final2

2. COSPAR2008poster



Dr. Robert (Bob) Zubrin, Tuesday, 2-21-12 February 22, 2012

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Dr. Robert (Bob) Zubrin, Tuesday, 2-21-12


Guest:  Dr. Robert (Bob) Zubrin. Topics:  NASA, the Mars Program, Dr. Zubrin’s new book, “Merchants of Despair.” You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.   Some important websites applicable to this program are as follows:  Dr. Zubrin’s recent article in the National Review Online, www.nationalreview.com/articles/291099/obama-wrecks-mars-program-robert-zubrin.  Dr. Zubrin’s new book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists,  Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism:

www.amazon.com/Merchants-Despair-Environmentalists-Pseudo-Scientists-Antihumanism/dp/1594034761/ref=onegiantlea20.  Please remember that if you buy the book from Amazon using this link, Amazon will contribute part of the purchase price to OGLF/The Space Show.  During our hour long first segment, Dr. Zubrin talked about the NASA part of the President’s Proposed FY 13 budget for NASA.  He  referred to his National Review Online article in addition to providing us with financial and economic analysis, the importance of the Mars program, and the consequences of cancelling it and other proposed uses of NASA funding that do not accomplish much. This is a comprehensive and hard hitting discussion which addresses how to make our space program, NASA, private space, and Mars more relevant to the nation.  He also explains why it is so important to see humans as creators, not destroyers, and to see space as a significant and important path forward for us all.  He fielded many listener emails and caller questions on lots of subjects, including prizes and a  recent MSN poll regarding those wanting to go to the Moon, Mars, or stay at home.

During the second segment which was close to 90 minutes, Dr. Zubrin continued discussing the FY 13 budget and its consequences for NASA and the country, but he also talked about his new book in detail, even linking it to the space program. Many issues came up as Bob’s book uses history and scientific arguments to refute the claims of those movements and efforts to limit growth, space development, distort science for a political agenda, and more.  These issues take up most of the discussion, along with listener questions on both NASA and Mars along with the book topics he laid out for us.  For example, questions about the use of the nuclear rocket came up.  Limiting resources and commercial growth came up as opposed to expanding resources and robustly developing space by both NASA and the private sector were extensively discussed.  Listeners asked many questions about Space X and rocket alternatives to SLS and the issue of global warming.  Bob told us stories from the book going back in history to  the days of Rev. Thomas Malthus and his population theories as written during the period of 1798 to 1826 through to modern times with the Club of Rome, Paul Ehrlich, and Dr. Holdren. He used the banning of DDT as one example given in his new book.  Bob’s closing comments addressed the crisis in our space program and the choice we have to make regarding a devastating vision for our future or a creative and positive future vision that includes space. His final comments were about the 15th Annual Mars Society Conference which will be inPasadena,CA in early August this year, set to coincide with the likely timing of the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars.

Please post your comments/questions regarding this program on the Space Show blog URL above.


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