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Open Lines, Sunday, 8-25-13 August 26, 2013

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Open Lines, Sunday, 8-25-13


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Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  Mars missions, space advocacy, SLS & NASA lunar missions.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.

Today’s Open Line show was in two segments over 2 hours and 23 minutes.  During the first segment, I put forth a few topics for discussion, including the NASA plan for returning to the Moon with two SLS launches over a year with the lander in orbit for about six months waiting for the second SLS flight.  This topic seemed to be the prevailing topic for the entire show covering both segments as listeners wanted to talk about SLS, Falcon Heavy, heavy lift and depots in general, and the announced NASA plan.  We also talked about the NASA asteroid missions as several listeners wanted to comment that they were less than enthusiastic about these missions.  Of course the majority of the listeners were critical of SLS and the return to the Moon mission.  Many wondered why such architecture, why so many years to build out the full heavy lift SLS, especially when looking back to what was accomplished with Apollo over half the time.

In the second segment, Tim called in to talk about Mars One and SLS.  Then Dr. Jurist called in questioning the SLS lunar mission, Congress, NASA, and the asteroid missions.  John had to much to say on these topics so don’t miss all of his comments.  We also talked about Mars One and pregnancy/child birth in space, on Mars, on the mission, and the moral and ethical issues surrounding  this issue.  Before John got off the line, he wanted to know why so many space advocates dismissed hard science in their chosen space plans and projects.  I attempted an answer but not sure it does justice to what I believe is a complex question with lots of subjectivity surrounding it.  See what you think and post your comments on our blog.  Near the end, Patrick called back about the space advocacy topic and talked about advocacy in an echo chamber but also what visionaries accomplish.  This was also an interesting discussion. We ended talking about successful, forward thinking, crowd funding space missions today and we had much to say in support of the entrepreneurs behind these projects.

Please post your comments and questions on The Space Show blog.  You can contact any of the callers by email through me.




1. Dwayne Day - August 30, 2013

Having listened to most of the program, the SLS comments quickly became repetitive. Basically, they boil down to this:

-SLS makes no sense because there is no payload funded for the rocket (other than Orion), and because the launches are spread out too far from each other. Thus, the rocket is not really going anywhere or doing anything under current plans.

But you could make a similar argument for Commercial Crew. Current plans for Commercial Crew are to downselect to two (or more likely only one) vehicles within a few years and then build one that will start flying by 2017 or 2018 (considering budget shortfalls). The plan is to use these vehicles (or vehicle) to service the ISS, which is slated to be discontinued by 2020. In other words, Commercial Crew is a program designed to produce vehicles that will only be in use for three years or so.

Thus, as they currently stand, neither the SLS nor the Commercial Crew plans actually close. They are not funded sufficiently to accomplish their goals.

quantumg - August 30, 2013

No-one said commercial crew made sense either. You sound like the kids who counter complaints about Linux by pointing out that Windows doesn’t do any better. So what? It’s still crud.

I remember sitting at NewSpace listening to someone compare SpaceX to NASA and declaring that SpaceX is great. It seems a bit disingenuous. Why don’t we compare SpaceX to Starbucks?

2. Dwayne Day - August 28, 2013

I haven’t listened to the entire show, but I think there was a misperception about the “NASA lunar mission.” It’s not accurate to say that NASA has plans for a lunar mission. There was an article on NASASpaceflight.com that was pretty accurate if you read it closely. What NSF obtained was a planning document called the “Concept of Operations” that essentially lists the _types_ of missions that SLS could perform, not fully-fleshed-out plans to perform them.

Most of the focus is on the near-term test phase for the rocket. But it also lists things that it could theoretically do. Naturally, one of the things it could do is a lunar mission, and the document provides a general outline of how that could be done. But there are lots of assumptions in that concept. One assumption is that somewhere NASA would get the money to develop a lunar lander. But for reasons I don’t understand, it assumes that they would get money to design and build a lunar lander but NOT get money to step up the launch rate for the SLS, leading to the rather odd plan to launch six months apart. They CAN launch faster. The ground infrastructure (which I saw during a visit to KSC in July) is capable of that. And NASA would love to have other users for LC-39B to help spread out the infrastructure costs for SLS, so they can accommodate a higher flight rate. It’s a money issue.

One could assume that this was an architecture that was drafted to make the lunar mission look unattractive, but that might be assuming too much. I’m not sure that the White House is paying any attention to NASA anymore.

3. Jim Davis - August 28, 2013

It is just cruel to the listeners to say that you’ve received this hilarious drinking game from someone but aren’t going to share it with us. I understand you don’t want to offend anyone mentioned in it but why bring it up at all? You’re just teasing us! 🙂

4. Trent Waddington - August 26, 2013

The Mars One discussion was disgusting, just like last time, but even worse due to the repetition – if it wasn’t for the SLS talk, this would have been the major theme of the show.

When you suggest the sterilization of human beings – especially if you think they can’t be trusted to control their own reproduction – you’re automatically placed in the same category as totalitarian governments like China, the former Soviet Union or even certain WWII-era eugenicists. Americans just appear to be completely insensitive to this kind of thing, but Europeans have seen it up close and don’t take such opinions lightly.

If you want to talk about convincing these would-be astronauts that attempting reproduction on the way to, or on the surface of Mars, until more is known about the risks, I say go for it! But if you start talking about forced sterilization, including making it a requirement of crew selection, get ready to be compared to some of the biggest monsters of history.

The Space Show - August 27, 2013

Trent, I don’t advocate for forced anything, spaceflight or here on the ground. However, pregnancy and childbirth in space or on another planet is a pretty big issue and one that has serious moral and ethical considerations attached to it. I do know from my many interviews with aerospace medicine docs and NASA HSF folks that extreme measures are being considered for long duration spaceflight including pre-emptive gall bladder, appendix and other surgeries, plus a range of other restrictive medical protocols. I also know they are very serious about not experimenting with human pregnancy and childbirth on a deep space or any space mission until more research is known as to the possible impact on the mother, the fetus, the infant. The last thing anyone wants is to injure either the mother or the fetus or the baby if actually born alive. I have no clue how these issues will be resolved but they are being considered by those that plan such missions. Sterilization as suggested by one of the callers on this show is part of what is being considered. I suspect whatever actions are taken in this area will be made from the moral and ethical perspective as a priority. To dismiss this, in my opinion, is to be in denial of the likely way such missions will unfold. As to Mars One, I have no idea what protocols or requirements may be put upon them (if any) assuming they have the money, the hardware, the life support equipment, etc. and can actually carry out their mission. But willingly having a kid in space or on Mars before we know what might happen to the Mom and the baby or the fetus seems to be to be way beyond any rational moral and ethical guidelines but maybe the rules, if any, do not need to be forced rules. I simply don’t know. Even though these are my thoughts, the policies will be decided by others. I only hope the policies that are implemented are rational and ethical, otherwise, such policies have the potential to deter future HSF if the private sector pursues such flight from an amoral or unethical perspective. I’m glad I won’t be one of the policy wonks on this issue. David

Trent Waddington - August 27, 2013

Dave, during this episode it was you who suggested sterilization, numerous times, and said it should be a requirement of crew selection.

My simple question is: why are you not calling for the same thing for NASA astronauts?

Surely the “risk” of unprotected sex is just as grave on the ISS as it is on the way to, or on the surface of Mars. Surely a conception in the microgravity of LEO would be just as likely to fail, or the resulting child just as likely to be deformed.

I like to think that anyone who suggested NASA astronauts be snipped or tied before flying because they can’t be trusted to refrain from sex in microgravity, or use protection, would not be taken seriously.

Why the double standard when it comes to Mars One? It really does sound like there’s a judgement call going on here that the would-be Mars One astronauts can not be trusted to control their own reproduction – which I really do hope you find as abhorrent as I do.

The Space Show - August 27, 2013

First of all Trent, I was kidding around given the entire discussion was absurd and foolish. Next, I have never heard a NASA astronaut, dr, or researcher make foolish statements like Bas made on this subject and perhaps other subjects. But if he raises the money, meets his launch windows, gets launch licenses, has life support stuff and can go and even sustain multiple missions and people want to do it, more power to them, go and make it work. However, I suspect any failures, especially really big ones that grab attention, will have the potential of harming human spaceflight for decades. Only time will tell about that one.

The entire discussion about Mars One is in my opinion a foolish one. I am very skeptical about every aspect of their plans and were I a betting guy, I would bet Bas does not raise the money and that is the starting point. Anyway, its a private mission and in theory they can do what they want but they may find that they have some treaty and launch license regulations they have to comply with and who knows what else a government might throw in their face. But again, unless they raise their money, none of this really matters and I don’t think their business model will work. You and others may think differently and I know lots do think differently.

I have no dual standard here but I do have an ethical and moral standard and I think having kids in space when we do not know the issues re microgravity, radiation, all sorts of things could lead to a disaster for the kid assuming it survives and is live born, the mother, and maybe even psychological factors for other crew members. This is one area where I would like to see serious research because to have a settlement, even in space, the implication is you have schools, kids, families, etc. Otherwise, you simply have a retirement community waiting for the residents to die. To me it is unfortunate and really sad that we have not done the much needed research on child birth and related issues in space with animal studies as well as important various g studies to see what percentages of gravity humans can tolerate and be OK with. Can we really be OK in less than 1 g for a sustained period of time. If we really want to settle in deep space, we should be doing this research now so we know the parameters of how we can achieve our goals in space when we are able to do settlements. If Mars One actually works, then perhaps they will have valid scientific information to share with others and will actually move us forward to realizing space settlement and more. I’m smart enough to know that my being skeptical does not dictate the outcome of their project but I do have good BS detectors.


Trent Waddington - August 27, 2013

So.. just so I have this straight.. you were only joking and kidding around when you suggested the compulsory sterilization of human beings.

5. Trent Waddington - August 26, 2013

David, the Liberty launch vehicle is 44,500 lb to LEO, not kg. That’s Liberty at 22 tons vs Falcon Heavy at 53 tons vs SLS at 70 tons vs SLS++ at 130 tons vs MCT at ???.

It’s all just magical thinking anyway. If you really want to fly humans in space you do it with the hardware you’ve got. i.e., Soyuz. Until something else comes along, this is all just unicorn farts.

As for “when the NASA budget goes up”, say it with me: there’s no more money. NASA’s budget isn’t even keeping up with inflation. You might as well be planning for what you’re going to do when you win the lotto.

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