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Open Lines, Sunday, 1-29-12 January 30, 2012

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Open Lines, Sunday, 1-29-12


Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  Space policy programs of the presidential candidates and more.  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.  Welcome to this 2 hour forty minute Open Lines program. We took one break during the program about 40 minutes into it.  My opening monologue was longer than usual, consuming about half an hour.  I put forth many possible discussion topics but as you will hear on the show, most everyone wanted to talk about the space policy statements by Newt and to a lesser degree Romney.  We held callers to a shorter time on the phone which seemed to work nicely as we had lots of new callers and lots of different input in addition to the Space Show regular listeners/callers.  I will continue holding callers to a shorter time on the phone for future programs based on this experience.  I also put forth some ground rules to avoid partisan politics and to focus only on the space policy of the candidates.  I also made it clear that there would be no character bashing but ideas were fair game.  Most of the discussion regarding Newt’s statement dealt with his having talked about the lunar colony and making it part of the U.S.  Callers kept referencing the Outer Space Treaty (OST) which prohibits territorial claims on celestial bodies.  We talked about property rights and one caller referenced the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 Population Threshold which Newt referenced in his policy comments.  This caller also took us to a discussion of weapons in space, specifically nukes, as part of his comments on the OST.  This led to a discussion and a factual call on why weapons in space are not practical though nobody was advocating weapons in space nor did anyone advocate withdrawing from the OST or modifying it.  As for the Romney comments, some callers had issues with the panel of advisors for Romney and I questioned why DOD was being included in civil and commercial space planning, mission design, etc.  Another caller was physically present at both the Romney and Gingrich meetings so  he gave us a first hand report on what he saw and heard.  Later in the program, a caller referenced some of the gender and microgravity issues raised in the recent show with Dr. Bill Rowe and we talked about the need for a variable gravity research station to answer micro and artificial gravity questions in support of long duration human spaceflight.  While not specifically mentioned by anyone during the discussion, it is important to note that up until the new administration took office, it was national policy for the U.S. to return to the Moon and establish a lunar outpost which would eventually be turned over to commercial interests.  I don’t recall the giggle factor back then but we did talk about the giggle factor which seems to have returned as a result of the Newt comments.  Also, as soon as the program ended, I received a note about an interview by Dr. Jeff Foust on his spacepolitics.com blog with Eric Anderson, one of the key members of the advisory panel on space for Gov. Romney.  You can read this interview at /www.spacepolitics.com/2012/01/29/anderson-romney-would-be-advocate-of-commercial-space.  Again, it came in too late to be mentioned during our program but in my opinion, it is relevant to the OL discussion for today’s Space Show program.  Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog per above.  If you want to send a note to any of the callers, do so through me and I will forward it for you if have the email address of the person you want to contact.


1. Paul Spudis - January 31, 2012

Hi David,

I heard this show via podcast and followed the discussion of our lunar paper closely. In response to some of the questions that came up, let me add some additional points to your excellent commentary:

1. The reason that the private sector alone cannot/will not implement our lunar architecture is risk posture. What we propose — to use telerobots to mine lunar water and emplace an outpost — is possible in principle, but it has not yet been demonstrated to be possible from a systems integration perspective. Each step can be and mostly has been done, but putting all the pieces together in an end-to-end system is a challenge that we think only government can undertake. Moreover, we assumed that NASA would: a) continue to exist; and b) get a roughly similar amount of money per year as it currently does. With those assumptions in mind, the question then becomes: “Can we devise an incremental, step-wise architecture that ultimately gives us considerable space faring capability under such a budget regime?” We think that the answer to that question is “Yes!”

2. Returning lunar products that have value to Earth? Not our goal — our intent is create a permanent, reusable, extensible space faring infrastructure based around the use of lunar resources (primarily water for propellant, energy storage and life support). We use the Moon to create this system. Our lunar products are used in space, not on Earth — water is “dumb mass” that costs a fortune to lift into space from Earth’s surface. Why lug up mass of low information content when you can get it from a place already in Earth orbit? Once established, a cislunar transportation system enables an entirely new paradigm for spaceflight, in which people and robots assemble large, distributed space satellite systems in cislunar space. Such a capability has important national economic and strategic objectives and, we think, offers value from NASA for taxpayer dollars spent. That’s the pay-off for lunar return — not “colonies” (whatever that means), science, or flags-and-footprint stunt spectaculars. It is a wholly new type of space program, one that has the potential to generate wealth, rather than consume it.

3. Commercial transition. We think that because the development of the system that we advocate has national value, it is appropriate for the federal government to develop it and pay for it. Once established, various aspects of it can be “commercialized,” in the same way that the commercial communications satellite industry developed after its basic technical feasibility was demonstrated by NASA and the military. Using lunar resources is in the same state of technical readiness that comsats were in the late 1950’s — we understand that they are possible. No laws of physics are violated and we understand the basic architecture of how to build the machines that accomplish the mission. But it has never been done and needs to be shown that it can be done. If we cannot ask our civil space program to investigate the technical feasibility of such an approach, why do we have it?

Thank you for the kind words about our work. We are happy to brief people on it at any time. In the mean time, I invite readers to download and read our paper from my web site:


I also have a video link and slides posted at the web site that explains our concept and its implementation:



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