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Dr. Paul Spudis, Sunday, 6-24-12 June 24, 2012

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Dr. Paul Spudis, Sunday, 6-24-12


Guest:  Dr. Paul Spudis. Topics:  Return to the Moon, lunar ice & water, space policy, NASA space program.  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 Dr. Paul Spudis back to the program.  Visit his website and blog for additional information, www.spudislunarresources.com & http://globs.airspacemag.com/moon. We started out by discussing a new report claiming that there is a low amount of water ice at Shackleton crater on the Moon.  Dr. Spudis explained this study/report and introduced other data points indicating the low amount of water theory is not a valid conclusion.  This discussion led to questions about science & media reporting and how best for the public to follow up on a story to not be mislead.  I asked Paul about the influence of such articles on policy makers and congressional staffers as well as those outside the U.S., citing the Chinese space program as an example.  I also asked our guest if we were in a space race with China. Dr. Spudis had much to say about this issue.  We talked about why American space leadership on the space frontier is important.  See if you agree with what our guest had to say on this important subject.  Dr. Spudis then talked about the difference with a PR stunt type of mission as compared to a mission which developed & enabled capabilities to move us forward in space development, exploration, and economics.  This brought up a June 20, 2012 Space News op-ed (http://spacenews.com/commentaries/120618-administration-legacy-nasa.html) by Frank Van Rensselaer, What Will Be This Administration’s Legacy for NASA?  This then led to a discussion about our not having a space vision direction or strategy for our civil space policy.  Much was said about this with callers and email questions during the balance of the first segment and throughout the second segment.  Our guest made a point of saying we need to ask what the purpose of the mission is, what are the goals, and what is the value of the mission?  These are important questions to always ask about what we are doing with our civil space missions.  This is an important discussion so do listen closely to what Dr. Spudis had to say.  NASA budget issues were part of this discussion with Dr. Spudis making the case that money was and is not really the issue.  Instead, its the politics of how we choose to spend tax payer money.

In the second segment, Marshall called to ask about lunar lava tubes and water, along with the need for lunar rovers.  Don’t miss what Paul had to say about these topics.  Paul was asked about his cislunar economic plans and he talked about NewSpace given the question he received from Wayne in Las Vegas asking him if he was in conflict with NewSpace.  Later, Crystal from Tulsa emailed Paul with a question about space property rights. Paul said this was extremely important so do listen to the complete discussion on this topic.  More was said about NASA budget issues & making sure taxpayers get something back for what they spend on space.  Andrew sent in an email addressing the technology development problems going back decades with military airplanes & large engineering projects.  Near the end of our two hour program, Dr. Spudis mentioned the tyranny of the rocket equation and what this means for space access and costs.  We also talked about on orbit fuel depots.  Reaching a critical mass for making a difference in space policy was our last discussion topic.

If you have a comment/question for Dr. Spudis, please post it on The Space Show blog.


1. Daniel L - June 27, 2012

Interviews with Dr Spudis on the Space Show are always a highlight and this one gave a good case for space infrastructure development. There is a very detailed article on his website “Using the resources of the Moon to create a permanent, cislunar space faring system” that provides a lot information. My particular interest is in learning more about the nuts & bolts of the initial lunar ISRU. What would the very first machines need to do and how would they do it – are there any designs or plans for proof-of-concept? I’ve heard of the lunar regolith simulant JSC-1a and the idea of sintering (creating) a single rod from the regolith – not much else. David perhaps you could locate someone designing in this area, and interview them? Thanks David and Dr Spudis. – Daniel

DougSpace - June 27, 2012

Daniel, from my speculation you would need:
– thin-film solar power sheets
– an excavator
– a solar oven
– a distiller
– electrolysis
This gets you liquid hydrogen and oxygen which is not only useful for sale at L1 and LEO but also helps bootstrap your operations thereby limiting Earth launches. The CO and ammonia in the icy regolith will provide essential nutrients for growing food.

The second phase of ISRU would be the extraction of metals, ceramics, and glass. Metal extraction might be as easy as processing the regolith over a permanent magnet. Beyond this one would need:
– the solar oven
– casting forms
– machining equipment (several different types such as a lathe, CNC, etc)
– glass blowing equipment
– what else?
With this you are now able to produce bulky, non-high tech parts for the telerobots plus things like structural supports for cave habitats and centrifuges.

As you can see by this point one can exponentially expand the telerobotic workforce, are ready to start a permanently manned base, and are even beginning to think about what more is necessary to make the base a self-supporting colony!

Daniel L - June 27, 2012

Thanks DougSpace. A lot of work will need to be done to develop robust machinery for the lunar environment, even at the initial level which you describe. Some proof-of-concepts could be done on Earth with simulant regolith, but that will not be sufficient. As far as I know the only machines used thus far on the moon were the Rovers,the drills, the ALSEPS, and the cameras. The Rovers had trainer back-ups which worked well on Earth in regolith simulations. On the Moon however, the front-wheel steering failed on Apollo 15, and rear wheel fender extensions were lost in both Apollo 16 and 17. None of these glitches caused problems to the missions, because they were short-stay sorties (and Ap 17 used a clever temporary fender made from a folded map). However the dust intrusion from the loss of the fender did reduce solar power to the Ap 16 Rover, and without the map work-around the Ap 17 Rover could have been a lost cause. Clearly we need to develop much more robust equipment capable of dealing with lunar dust (whose texture is similar to ultrafine ground glass). Equipment which can last over a much longer time span than the Apollo sorties. IMO the way to begin is with simple test equipment, delivered unmanned, and telerobotically controlled from Earth. This equipment could then be serviced by trained crews on a small lunar base, remaining there for a maybe a few weeks maximum before Earth return (then being replaced by fresh crews). I envision all this as a learning/training/development exercise – as the very first steps towards more permanent lunar infrastructure. Even this, I’m sure, will be difficult enough to do, and will require a lot of collective motivation and stamina.

2. DougSpace - June 25, 2012

I found Frank Van Reensaeler’s article to have seriously missed the boat one one point. He says that NASA has put $800 million into SpaceX. Ummm…how about $381 million? That’s quite a discrepancy. That $800 million figure is the total amount spent by SpaceX from all sources. He then compares that with the $100 million invested by Elon Musk. But Frank fails to mention other investors, profits (since 2007) and perhaps loans based upon future contracts. SpaceX has 40+ launches on it’s manifest. This makes Frank’s questioning of whether commercial space can ever become profitable look like a biased diatribe.

The fact is that SpaceX’s launchers have commercial value as clearly indicated by half of its launch manifest. By contrast, how many companies have signed contracts to have their payloads launched on the SLS? Zip! So, which is going to be a better value on a $/kg to LEO?

So, given the rather substantial errors in facts, it makes one wonder why Frank is apparently so biased that he finds it necessary to stretch facts beyond the breaking point.

Kelly Starks - June 29, 2012

I’m not as optimistic about SLS’s capabilities as Frank Van Reensaeler, but completely agree that we’ve seen the methodical dismantling of the vast bulk of all personal, physical, and corporate infrastructure in the US to do maned spaceflight ever, and rebuilding it later maybe be prohibitively costly.

Not only is this happening now not what I expected to be seeing by now, the fact the space advocates are pretty much laughing it off – or chearing it on, is a unbeleaveable nightmare.

Oh, and looking at the congressional budget records as of May 2011, NASA paid SpaceX $850 million.

– $278 million for three demonstration flights of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon capsule,

– $258 million in milestone payments for completing 18 of 22 COTS milestones. Please see Appendix 1 for Space X’s schedule milestone chart.
– $185.6 million for milestones tied to four CRS missions

– $128 million toward additional risk reduction‖ milestones

I think they receaved a one or two hundred million since then, but given musk listed the cost of developing both Falcons adn Dragon at $800 M total – NASA has more then funded SpaceX’s complete development costs.

So much for “commercial development”.

DougSpace - July 4, 2012

Perhaps the numbers are compatible. SpaceX has completed the three demo flights which explains $278. The completion of 18 of 22 COTS milestones. So the $381 million cited by a lot of sources could be true at that time but 10 or so of the 18 could have been completed after the $381 million calculation was made which was then broadly cited. SpaceX has not yet done any of the four CRS missions so maybe the 185.6 million has not yet been paid. I also think that the risk reduction milesones are a new thing. So as of right now NASA may have paid the $400 – $500 million which Elon states and the $850 million is the total price tag when all of the milestones are completed. Kelly, might this be an accurate understanding of the situation.

Now, you point out that $800 million is about the same as the $850 million that NASA will pay. One question is whether the $800 million is what SpaceX has spent to date or what it will spend after having done all of the COTS milesones, demo flights, CRS missions, and risk reduction activities. If that brings the total spending by SpaceX to over a billion then SpaceX will have to have spent a fair amount from it’s own money.

What matters to me is whether America is getting access to hardware for an overall price which is less than if it had developed it itself. I think that the NASA study still largely stands when it stated that (in the case of the F9) using the SAA approach it cost about 1/3 than had the FAR approach been used. CRS is operational costs not deveopment cost so they would have to pay for operational costs otherwise.

Kelly Starks - July 4, 2012

There does seem to be some double quoting. Or at least not being as clear about what folks are talking about then normal. The $278m does seem to be part of the $381. (SpaceX negotiate to only fly 1 demo flight with a full up Dragon, but still count as the 3 demo flights – so why call them 3 demo flights?)

Anyway that still leaves about $800 M paid by NASA so far, out of SpaceX $800m total development cost so far.
SpaceX says their total expenditures for everything is $1.2 billion as of now. They will get more for each future fight, and NASA of course has their own program costs for SpaceX operations, development, and operations, on top of all of SpaceX’s costs.

Bottomline: SpaceX will cost NASA more per pound delivered to ISS then any of the other suppliers (even the other COTS provider or Shuttle) assuming they deliver all the flights optioned to them, with no further unexpected cost increases or “awards” being necessary from NASA. Yet they are being hailed as costing 10 times less.

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