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Rick Tumlinson, Friday, 1-20-12 January 21, 2012

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Rick Tumlinson, Friday, 1-20-12


Guest: Rick Tumlinson.  Topics:  Why Space, space vision, NewSpace, SLS, opening the space frontier.  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.  We welcomed Rick Tumlinson back to the program for this nearly two hour discussion of space vision, leadership, programming, SLS, advocacy and more.  In hour first 70 minute segment, Rick opened by talking about his ongoing op-ed series in the Huffington Post titled “Why Space?”  So far he has two issues uploaded to the Huffington Post & I urge you to read them.  You can see all of Rick’s articles on the Huffington Post at www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-tumlinson. During our discussion, Rick stressed the need for space settlement and talked about this during the entire program.  Additionally, Rick focused on the big picture space vision throughout our entire discussion.  In the first segment, SLS came up but it was also talked about later in the show.  Rick explained why he thought it was the wrong project for this point in time and had much to say about private industry launch & space transportation systems as compared to government programs.  When asked if he thought SLS could be appropriate as a placeholder, he said no but listen to what he had to say about this idea.  He talked about not picking winners and advocating a common sense space plan.  I asked him for his plan and how to implement it.  He then outlined a plan in several steps during the balance of the segment.  Don’t miss it.  Listeners called & asked questions about the Chinese space program and cooperation and the same with the Russians. 

In the second segment, Rick started us off with a discussion about the Frontier approach for space development.  He also talked about going to the Moon and why, but also about asteroids & Mars.  He said we need to develop the skills and the insitu experience for living & working in space.  Several times he mentioned that on the Moon and Mars we would be living underground due to the radiation.  Rick then talked about space habitats including O’Neil like space stations/habitats.  Several listeners asked about the role of HSF in developing our understanding of the universe, specifically for 2012 and beyond.  John from Atlanta called in to talk about the lack of civility coming from the NewSpace community toward old space.  This produced a spirited give & take with Rick which in a way focused on “guarantees” for the commercial company success as compared to government rocket programs.  John suggested it was a bit risky putting all the “eggs” in unproven commercial company baskets when we know the government launch vehicle will work as long as the program is not cancelled.  Don’t miss what John and Rick had to say.. Toward the end, Rick talked about the Texas Space Alliance & his new organization, EarthLight Institute. He provided us with substantial detail about the EarthLight Institute plans, their website which is under construction,  plus the book on asteroids that he is working on and will be out around the end of the year.  He was asked about his continuing role with the Space Frontier Foundation & the activities of SFF.

Please post comments/questions on The Space Show blog URL above. Rick’s email address is rick@earthlightinstitute.org



1. Alistair - February 1, 2012

This was a great show. Rick really nailed it with what we need to do to advance the space potential of humanity:
Keep NASA doing the difficult science and exploration and let commercial industry figure out how to support. Pay for results, but don’t dictate how to get the results.
Truly, a must listen to show.

Kelly Starks - February 1, 2012

Problem is NASA doesn’t do difficult tech, and hasn’t really explored in forever.

It would be a great idea if NASA would just contract out for programs – not try to develop. Say “we want a moonbase with X capabilities and all transport and operational support for the first 15 years”. NASA really just contracts all of it out, then micromanages and meddles to up the costs and mess things up. The companies have offered to do shuttle opts, or replace the shuttle with far more advanced ones, etc (even proposed a mars mission) But no ones for that – wouldn’t even discus it. Instead there are things like CCDev which if anything were structured to disprove the concepts viability.

I got rather annoyed by Ricks at points. He REALLY over estimtates groups like SpaceX, and dissing the established frms.

He really missed the point about SLS. Yeah you could do far better, but if that’s shut down without a similar big program in work ) another shuttle dev, or the above build us a moonbase, the US industry to do maned, possibly even unmanned launch, goes out of business. No way congress or any business could afford the years and money to build anew one in the future. It could even threaten the DODs plans to replace the EELV Delta-IV’s and Atlas-V’s in 10-15 years.

Alistair - February 4, 2012

Good points.
Still, NASA, is part of the problem at this point. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people who work at NASA. It’s just that the organization (and largely the fault of Congress and inconsistent administration support over the years), is micromanaging private industyr instead of just putting out a request for proposal for something like SLS. Let industry compete, and keep NASA out of the way. Keep capabilities/requirements static (and realistic To begin with). I think its even possible for the losing teams to get a few bones in order to keep them going along. Hopefully, in the longer term, NASA will not be the only customer (e.g. Bigelow), and leave room for new rockets.

SpaceX has great potential, but they may fail. However, even if that happens (which I really don’t think will (big picture – they will have more rocket failures)), there will be others who will pick up the mantel of private industry daring to do things differently.

Companies like Boeing and Lockheed do great things, but they don’t know how to keep costs down (too many layers of overpriced managment IMHO; Congress and the Pentagon are also part of the problem). They are too big. Perhaps if they spun off a small, more lean company, they may be just as successful as SpaceX.

We just need to stop with the status quo, its not working.

Kelly Starks - February 4, 2012

>..Companies like Boeing and Lockheed do great things,
> but they don’t know how to keep costs down …

They clearly demonstrated they can do things very rapidly and economically. However in gov programs waste is not just unavoidable due to civil service and gov rules. It is also a goal – pork is a primary gov product unfortunatly.

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