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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Tuesday, 7-3-12 July 4, 2012

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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Tuesday, 7-3-12


Guest:  Robert (Bob) Zimmerman.   Topics:  Recent space news and announced projects.  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 Bob Zimmerman back to the show.  Check out his blog at www.behindtheblack.com.  We started off our first long segment (90 minutes) by mentioning the 50th anniversary of Telstar 1, the death of our friend, Al Zaehringer, AT&T and our early space program, plus the word coming from CERN that they may have found the Higgs-Boson particle.  I then asked Bob to comment on the global warming statements being made about the current East Coast heat wave, followed by comments by Newt about the power grid outages and a taste of what an EMP would be like.  We then turned to space and Bob talked about the recent success with Dragon and Falcon 9.  He then talked about government space programs as compared to private programs.  Throughout our 135 minute discussion, he reiterated his opposition to space programs, making it clear that he does not want a “program” and why.  Let us know on the blog if you agree with him.  Bob suggested we were in a period of space revolution and that it would be very exciting over the next five years.  He talked about SpaceX compared to the Russians and the Chinese.  He did say we were in competition with them for control of space and this led us to a discussion about culture and the space frontier.  We talked about recently announced projects, Planetary Resources, Mars One, and one by the B612 Foundation.  He thought B612 was the only real one of the three.  Terry called from Texas to discuss using an Orion for a LEO mission, the Falcon Heavy for a Moon mission, Delta IV heavy and SLS.  Jerry called in from Florida and among our topics were frontier development, the Oregon Trail, the CERN reactor in Switzerland rather than in Texas, and more.  No space programs per Bob’s preferences again came up.  Let us know your thoughts about these issues on the blog.  As the segment ended, Bob was asked about Skylon which was the subject of yesterday’s program.

Tim’s call started our second segment & he asked about a lox paraffin hybrid rocket motor. We also talked about the space shuttle & its capabilities.  While Bob praised aspects of shuttle, he said the program was a failure.  I did not agree with him but listen and let us know what you think regarding this issue. Note that as the program ended, Martin sent us info on the hybrid motor mentioned earlier by Tim so check out  www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9erCLJ5KVg as Brian Cantwell delivered a presentation at Stanford on the state of the art of hybrid rockets.  Bob then updated us on the bat situation with the white nose fungus. As our program ended, Bob talked about upcoming events starting with Orbital’s Cygnus/Antares debut, Dream Chaser and other competitors.  He had some brief comments about the suborbital industry and citizen science projects and concluded by saying we were no longer in a holding pattern re commercial space.

If you have comments/questions, please post them on our blog.



1. Kelly Starks - July 9, 2012

Listening to Bobs interview, he’s jumping to conclusions and being selective in his facts.

– SpaceX has said they spent about $800 million developing the two Falcons, the Dragon, etc. Which is what they received from NASA (hardly a commercial from scratch program)

– SpaceX’s dev program expenditures are about 1/100th what NASA has budgeted or spent in similar booster/capsule programs, and dozens of times less than similar commercial dev programs. To economical – they are spending a 10th as much developing their 6 person spacecraft then Cessna or Eclipse spends getting a low cost 6 passenger aircraft certified and in production. Which likely explains SpaceX’s high failure rate.

– SpaceX hasn’t attracted a lot customers (half the total manifest is NASA, some more are Air Force), or delivered big cost savings. The gov reports have already reported that they are costing the gov MORE than shuttle or any previous cargo delivery provider. The customers they have attracted all the way back to Biggelow, have reported they are competitively priced, not significantly lower priced. Given their very high failure rate compared to their competition, which explains why they aren’t getting the big markets they were expecting.

– While Bob Zimmerman derisively talked about slow witted Congress being forced to realize SpaceX is far more cost effective way to go. As I mentioned they already did a cost analysis, and found SpaceX MORE expensive, not less. So though Obama’s folks have pushed for big budget increases for “COTS” and “commercial space” (curious use of the terms given they almost completely government funded), bipartisan opposition stopped it.

– Bob was right that Commercials developed all the launchers (including the Saturn V that Von Braun’s team spec’ed out, but did do the detailed design or development of) but they were done because the feds paid for it. SpaceX exists only because the Feds paid nearly all their bills. So without a space “program” no space missions. Further funding long term research and development does seem to be one of the few things government should do. Development of aeronautical technology, space technology, etc. Those are programs. We both would prefer a more efficient program, not the standing army of NASA, fielding “self licking ice cream cones” (programs that exist to support NASA programs, that exist to support NASA, that exists for the programs.).

Oh note to Dave. When you said most of the lay-offs in the space program have primarily been from contractors not NASA civil service folks. Up to 95% of the folks at the centers are contractors. That was why the commercial firm handling all the shuttle programs were suggesting they could do it all themselves as a purely commercial contract – they had been doing it all (with extra civil service overhead etc) since the beginning.

BIG AGREE DAVE with your talking about how shuttle was vastly beyond any other system for flying into space before or proposed since. However, it cost a fraction of what SLS (Orion, and the big heavy lift) is going to cost. Would cost even less if they allowed the commercials developing it, to streamline the design. (Mary Lyn Ditmars (sp) British team?) But it did a huge amount of stuff, attached an lot of commercial interest in expanding space research efforts, and the ISS would not be possible without it (and likely can’t be maintained without it). It was even cheaper then Space’s Dragon/Falcon’s!

Saying shuttle failed to make us a space faring nation misses the point that that wasn’t NASA’s goal, or the government’s goal, OR THE PUBLICS GOAL; so (and I was there in the program) NASA worked very effectively TO MAKE SHUTTLE AS EXPENSIVE AS POSSIBLE to answer public political demands. BUT IT WAS STILL CHEAPER! Hence why Griffen proposed Constellation which would cost 8 times as much per launch.

2. Terry in Corpus Christi - July 4, 2012

Always an interest show with Bob. He always calls it like he sees it. I disagree with him on Shuttle. It didn’t do every thing, I think it was a success. I could never call it a failure. I agree with David, it will be a long time before we have a comparable vehicle. I agree with Bob that SLS has maybe two or three years before cancellation, sooner if Romney is elected. Always look forward to his updates on bats. Interesting he knew about the Congress bridge in Austin for bat watching. A lot of people go there at dusk to see the bats fly. My Grandfather helped clear Carlsbad Caverns of bat guano before it was made a park. He talked about the swarms of bats so long ago.

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