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John Batchelor “Hotel Mars,” Wednesday, 12-14-11 December 15, 2011

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John Batchelor “Hotel Mars,” Wednesday, 12-14-11


Guest:  John Batchelor, Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  Mars Curiosity, RAD, comet harpoon and Vesta up close.  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. The Space Show/OGLF is now engaged in its annual fundraising drive. Please see & act upon our appeal at https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/space-show-2011-fundraising-campaign.   As many of you know, I have been doing a weekly eleven minute segment on the John Batchelor Radio Show with Mr. Batchelor on various space topics. Sometimes I appear with John as the only guest on the segment, at other times I co-host the segment with John and bring on board an expert in the subject being discussed. Mr. Batchelor has given The Space Show permission for these segments to be archived on The Space Show site and blog. Mr. Batchelor calls these segments “Hotel Mars” and they are targeted toward his significant live and podcast highly educated general audience. Find out more about the excellent John Batchelor Show and listen to his archived segments at http://johnbatchelorshow.com. You can hear the live stream of his show if it is not carried live in your radio market at http://www.wabcradio.com/article.asp?id=531472. For this segment of Hotel Mars, we talked about Curiosity on the way to Mars and the upcoming mid-course correction, solar storms and MSL, the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and its significance for research with solar storms.  We also discussed the concept of a NASA comet harpoon being designed and tested along with the latest very high resolution and close up photos of the asteroid Vesta as part of the Dawn Mission.  If you have comments or questions about this John Batchelor Show segment, please post them on The Space Show blog.  If you want to contact Mr. Batchelor, please send your note through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com.



1. Dwayne Day - December 18, 2011

Stratolaunch would not use 747 fuselages, only components (like engines and landing gear). You can tell that from the wing–the 747 wings are mounted at the bottom of the aircraft, which is most efficient for long cruise. The Stratolaunch aircraft would mount the wing at the top of the fuselage to provide clearance for the rocket. You need a different fuselage if you are going to move the wing.

As for the “sampling harpoon,” this is only being tested. But lots of things get tested, and this sounds dubious to me:


I was the study director for the primitive bodies (i.e. comets, asteroids, etc.) panel of the decadal survey and heard about the difficulties of gathering a surface sample from a comet. Although I’m not an engineer or scientist, I can imagine that many of them would not like the idea of firing a projectile attached to a tether at a solid object. Too many things could go wrong. What if it ricochets off the surface and the tether wraps around the spacecraft? What if it ricochets and causes the spacecraft to tumble. What if it hits a rock and bounces back and hits the spacecraft? Sounds risky.

In addition, I suspect that there is no good way to prove that it will guarantee a sample. We don’t have really good data on the local conditions of a cometary surface, so we don’t know what that harpoon would fire into. Will it work equally well on ice/rock as it does on snow? And suppose it does work, how do you then recover that sample and bring it back to the spacecraft and secure it? Pulling it back on that tether doesn’t provide a lot of control and it may just flop around.

There is already a sampling mechanism that has been tested and proven in various laboratory tests. It involves a brush head and scoop, and looks somewhat like the brushed on a vacuum cleaner. The neat aspect of this device is that it works on a broad range of materials, from snow to ice to an ice/dirt combination.

So although the harpoon idea sounds neat, I just don’t think it will prove viable.

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