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Open Lines, Tuesday, 7-5-11 July 6, 2011

Posted by The Space Show in Uncategorized.

Open Lines, Tuesday, 7-5-11


GuestSearch:  Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  The Economist articles, space policy, shuttle retirement. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://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.  This was an Open Lines program.  I spent the first half hour going through a list of possible and suggested discussion topics. Two topics that seemed to interest listeners the most were the series of articles in the July 2-8, 2011 Economist magazine with the cover story saying it was the end of the space age.  Also, the upcoming shuttle retirement and last flight with Atlantis.  After my putting out the suggested topics, the first call was from Willis Shirk regarding nuclear propulsion and his article that was recently published on the history of NERVA.  Willis might post his article on the blog.  Next, we heard from Farnaz who told us about the upcoming The 10th Annual Space Generation Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information, visit http://spacegeneration.org/index.php/activities/sgc-2011-cape-town.  Next up was our friend Charles who wanted to talk about the articles in The Economist.  There are three separate space articles in this issue plus a related DOD article.  Charles thought the articles and the cover story title to be applicable to what is going on in civil space today.  In our short discussion, we went over the basics that The Economist reported on as well as their conclusions & I highlighted my differences with the article and Charles.  After Charles called in, several others called in about The Economist articles so we discussed this subject for most of the program.  Callers both supported the conclusions reached by The Economist and opposed them.  If you have not yet read these three articles, I urge you to do so. Mark called in with a Huntsville update, comments on Senator Shelby & his new approach to SLS, The Economist, and more.  Mark continued commenting during the program to other caller comments & I read his emails on air.  As we started the second segment of this 135 minute program, Bonny Lee Michaelson called to tell us about shuttle and the Dial A Shuttle program of the past.  This was fascinating.  I’m sure all of you will find this discussion to be very interesting, possibly even new for you as it was for me to learn about this program and its accomplishments. Don’t miss it!  John called in re heavy lift and the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle/Orion as well as NASA’s track record on program cancellations. This led us both to conclude that if SLS is started, its more likely than not that Congress will eventually cancel the program.  Tim from Huntsville sent us an article from an environmental site suggesting how bad it might be to mine the Moon, develop HE 3 & fusion which they said was right around the corner.  The article was heavy in the Kool Aid category but it did lead to a discussion about the gap between environmental groups & space development.  We talked about efforts to bridge the gap & I cited some examples of the extremes coming from environmental groups that I have addressed on other Space Show programs.  Trent called in from Australia but his phone line was not that good this time. His main point was that he thought it awesome that 4 CCDEV2 providers, including Boeing & Blue Origin, are meeting their milestones & being successful along with Space X.  If you have comments or questions about this program, post them on the blog URL above.  If you want to email any of the callers, send it to me & I will forward it to the person you designate.



1. John Thomas - July 9, 2011

Strip mining the moon

Dr Genge who provided the quotes for the article is a Senior Lecturer at one of the UK’s foremost science institutes.

I’ve read the Ecologist article expecting to be outraged, but find instead it’s quite a serious article, with a quite a positive view of the ideas of extracting useful rocket fuel and other materials from the moon.

“Strip mining” may be an emotive term in the US, but I think in this context it’s just a name for an industrial process with no negatives implied. There’s a comment at the end about removing the face of the “Man-in-the-Moon” but it’s a throwaway semi-humourous comment, not a serious criticism.

There’s a positive report about a Texas-based company with apparently serious plans to move towards mining useful resources on the moon for profit and a statement of the mixed-up state of affairs of regulation of space resources.

Genge does talk about mining Helium-3 but is quoted as saying “I don’t think we have to worry about it for the next twenty years.”


Genge’s professional summary is here:


The mining company’s Wikipedia entry:


In summary, your caller looks like the one with the political agenda. There was nothing in this article with a “luddite ecologist” agenda at all.

I agree it’s a pity when eco-activists exaggerate things and some do have a “back to the Stone Age” agenda. But many just want to look at the impact we’re having on their home planet, and many – like me – see space exploitation as a way of reducing overuse of Earth resources as well as eventually providing a backup ( as spoken about by Steven Hawking amongst others.)

But I also think it’s a pity when your program steps well beyond the facts which it seems to have done in this instance. I would like to see you continue to support and promote advancements in space. Allowing political rants based on misinformation will not help your program, or our cause.


John Thomas

2. Andrew Tubbiolo - July 8, 2011

I found “The Economist” article underwhelming as I have found the rest of the established press’ coverage of the end of the STS. To me it is an education on how little research is really done by the press. In the few times I’ve talked to professionals in the established press they’ve always said that the public at large is not ready for a set of stories that conduct real analysis. Perhaps. Sometimes I even believe it, but I think reporters are closer to the hoi-poli than they’d like to admit, because I walk away from these encounters with the impression that they are not ready to deal with a full and honest look at a subject. The article has no new real insights into it.

As for “The Economist” as a magazine. Well, they were part of the cheering squad who hailed the transfer of American manufacturing to China, the wrecking of American balance of payments and the belief that today’s take in the till is all that matters.

I hope that in the near future we’ll use this article from “The Economist” as yet another example of the press getting it very very wrong. As an example of how I hope it goes ….

3. The Space Show - July 7, 2011

I would like to bring to your attention to a recent research project by the Pew Research Organization on Americans saying that U.S. space leadership is essential. They did some interesting demographics in their study that are worth noting. I hope you find this article useful.



4. Will Cooper - July 7, 2011

Dr. Livingston,

I am sorry I wasn’t able to phone in on the 5th. I did want to contribute to the discussion about the articles in The Economist. Having just now finished listening to the recording of the archived show, I want to compliment you and your guests for an informative and compelling two hours. Your passion for the subject and your willingness to express your personal feelings about ideas and events adds greatly to my enjoyment of the program.

I agree with you that The Economist was too quick to conclude that the romantic era of humans-in-space that began with Project Mercury in the late 1950s has ended with the retirement of the STS. Also, the cover headline, no doubt chosen for its startling, dramatic effect, went too far. While the humans-in-space program is at a “crossroads,” as you said, it has not been utterly trashed. Not yet, anyway.

I would have liked it if the editors at The Economist had given some space to a discussion of the many possibilities that have been proposed for a continued human presence in space. While the political will is presently lacking in America to fund a vigorous space program, that doesn’t mean that it always will be. What manned missions might this country, or another such as China or India, embark upon? Of course the magazine has no responsibility to be an advocate, but I would have viewed the issue as more balanced if it had given some attention to the more hopeful side of the story, the work of the thousands of space industry professionals and space enthusiasts who are striving to see that this vital human enterprise moves forward.

When you gave voice to the deep frustration you feel about the short-sightedness of our political class, on the right and the left, in ham-stringing NASA and the space program, holding back and even undoing America’s greatness, you spoke for me. The reasons for the development of a robust capability for sending human beings into space are legion. How to make the public at large see its crucial importance, however, and in turn insist that their government give its full support to it, is a difficult problem. Our educational system is not turning out citizens with a reasonable baseline understanding of science and technology.

The political obstacles are daunting. Many on the left see the space program as a Cold War legacy that essentially provides PR cover for America’s hegemonic ambitions and global military dominance. Others on the left view any talk of human settlement of space as fantasy-fed utopianism, as an escapist rationalization for the continuance of a reckless exploitation of Earth’s resources. They think that many space advocates are technophilic dreamers who imagine that if we make the Earth uninhabitable, we’ll have Mars or High Frontier-styled artificial planets to run to (which, not having learned our lesson, we’ll no doubt wreck, too). In this same vein of criticism, opponents think that developing space furthers the goals of America’s gargantuan military/industrial complex, which they hate. They can’t separate their antipathy for the environmental depredations of irresponsible, quarterly report-driven, unregulated industry from any legitimate, beneficial uses to which the space program could be put. Even many science supporters on the left, such as author Chris Mooney, aren’t in favor of sending humans in space. His attitude is that all the science that needs doing can be accomplished with robots. People aren’t needed in space.

During the program, you called for greater “synergy” between the environmental movement and the space advocacy community. This won’t be easy. The greatest obstacle to it is the profound ignorance and misunderstanding of science and technology on the part of most Americans, including the relatively small number of educated citizens. Changing opinions, especially when they’re based on irrational emotions and ideological foundations, is extremely difficult. Quite frankly, I don’t see much hope in trying to change the minds of hard-set ideologues on the right or the left. As an example, you talked about that dirty word “radiation”. People like Dr. Helen Caldicott would never approve of launching a nuclear-powered propulsion system into orbit. All assurances and evidence to the contrary, she’d complain about the possible damage it could cause if it crashed; worse, she’d oppose any undertaking that might give “nuclear power” a benign face. Again, for her and others like her, space endeavors will be seen as a shield for down-to-earth shenanigans.

I think our only hope lies in the private, commercial development of space. If Musk succeeds with SpaceX, for example, maybe he’d pull together the money and human resources to fund a mission to Mars. Science fiction might become reality. Elon Musk will become a real-life D. D. Harriman. I hope!

Again, many kudos for an excellent show!

Will Cooper
Chicago, IL

5. Willis Shirk - July 7, 2011

Thanks David,

I invite anyone to email me at wshirk@state.pa.us using “Astronuclear” in the title bar and I will reply with a pdf free copy of my article.

For citations use Summer, 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, pp. 6-15.

Paper copies of the magazine may be ordered at http://www.pabookstore.com


6. Willis Shirk - July 7, 2011

Thanks David, I would by happy to send anyone a pdf copy of the article. My direct email address is


To reference the article please cite Summer 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, pp 6-15.
Paper copies of the entire magazine may be purchased at http://www.pabookstore.com

7. The Space Show - July 6, 2011

Willis, you have to have a real URL for your article to be viewed by interested people. What you provided in your two posts above does not work. I tried to find a URL for your article but it goes to the magazine which is for sale for $10/copy. The URL must be to a free website for people to see your article. Because of all the pictures in it, the file size is pretty large so I doubt you could just cut and past it to the comments, especially since I have it as a pdf and cannot break the pdf without destroying your layout and formatting. An option for you would be to put your email address in a comment and ask interested people to email you and you will then send them the article as you did with me.



8. Trent Waddington - July 6, 2011

That isn’t a link Willis.

9. Willis Shirk - July 6, 2011


Willis Shirk - July 6, 2011

Paste the link in your browser for a copy of the article.

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