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Jay Barbree, Monday, 3-5-12 March 5, 2012

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Jay Barbree, Monday, 3-5-12


Guest:  Jay Barbree.  Topics:  Overview of the space program today, SLS, presidential politics and NASA.  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 NBC veteran space reporter Jay Barbree back to The Space Show for a conversation that focused on our best options for today’s space program.  Our discussion was one hour forty minutes without a break.  We started out discussing Jay’s thoughts when he reported on the last shuttle flight given he had reported on every shuttle flight ever made.  He also told us he had updated and reissued his best selling book “Moonshot” which he co-authored with Alan Shepherd and Deke Slayton.  Remember, if you buy it from Amazon with this specific URL, Amazon makes a contribution to The Space Show: www.amazon.com/Moon-Shot-Alan-Shepard/dp/1453211977/ref=onegiantlea20.  Other topics discussed included a comparison of the original astronauts to astronauts today and the need to return to the Moon.  In fact, Jay told us about ideas being discussed to use the ISS to do a figure 8 loop to and from the Moon rather than crashing it into the ocean at the end of its life.  To do this, he said nuclear propulsion was needed and this led him to discuss the overall need for the nuclear rocket, especially for going to Mars.  A listener asked him if he favored a one way trip to Mars and he said yes.  Don’t miss his complete answer.  Next, we started talking about the Space Launch System which ended up as the main discussion topic for the balance of the program.  Jay strongly supports SLS and is concerned that it might be cancelled.  We talked about what the Obama administration would likely be doing with space and then he talked about his conversations with the Republican candidates and his impressions of each one and their interest in space.  He talked at length about Newt’s Florida primary comments and returning to the Moon in general. He also talked about the need for space settlement given the vulnerability of Earth.  Later, a listener asked Jay if he was familiar with the accusations being made against NASA for how they dealt with the chimps in the early space program and their idea to get KSC to donate space for a chimp museum documenting abuse during their NASA days and dedicating to stopping lab research.  Jay was not familiar with the story but listener Tim found the story on the PETA website:  http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2012/02/29/peta-to-launch-memorial-at-space-center.aspx.   Jay talked more about the SLS but also about Falcon 9, Dragon, the Boeing CTS 100, and the Atlas 5.  He expressed his concerns many times that the politicians might actually mess up NASA and our future, specifically by cancelling SLS, Orion, or both.  At the end, he told us about his MSNBC.com series “Getting to Mars” which is already underway.  Post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog URL above.


1. Joe - March 6, 2012

What a wise man, Jay is. His ability to zoom way outside of the box and realize what’s really happening is pretty remarkable. Growing up and surviving through difficult times helps you see as clear as Jay does.

I agree the commercial space budget of $800M+ is likely to get cut in half when the smoke clears next year. It will probably take the form of a CR, i.e., business as usual. Nobody really gets hurt. Just a lot of whining. With time running out to access the ISS, this likely produces the need to wean out all of the commercial space company competitors to just one. One that promises the most jobs sprinkled all over the country. Cheap access is not necessarily the key to NASA’s immediate space access success unless cheap means one launch provider. It may cost more time and money than the cheapest launch provider, however in the end, two or three launch service providers cost more than just one. We will be lucky to see just one do it with NASA’s stringent oversight.

Cheap access that doesn’t make the grade could work for US-friendly foreign countries hungry for space access, however. All commercial space companies know this scenario could likely happen. Whether they get permission to do this leads to an as yet unknown political battle because of Export Control and ITAR restrictions. The window of opportunity will likely be very small. My crystal ball gets a little fuzzy here. I am anxiously awaiting the inflection point that triggers an explosion in commercial space access.

I hope SpaceX safely gets their launch off and ISS rendezvous soon. It will be a historic occasion. It is probably their last chance to exist as a NASA contractor in the near term. Hopefully, if they don’t make the grade next year, they will prove themselves worthy after sending foreign nationals into orbit; an apparent low-risk strategy for NASA.

Whoever gets people into space, regardless of the risk, will eventually prove reliable by default and reap the rewards in store for them. These things just take a lot of time and money to work out the bugs. Most people don’t have a clue how difficult it is to safely propel people into space. Most people don’t care about space anyway. The difficulty point is moot, in that respect. The people who made it happen in the past are real heroes in my book, whether Smartphones exist today or not.

2. Terry in Corpus Christi - March 5, 2012

It was great talking to Jay today. I wonder if he and Walter Cronkite started following the program at the same time or if Jay was the first? What did he think of Walter?

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