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Dennis Wingo, Tuesday, 10-15-13 October 16, 2013

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Dennis Wingo, Tuesday, 10-15-13


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Guest:  Dennis Wingo.  Topics:  Space policy & budgets, commercial space & entrepreneurism, wealth creation.  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.

We welcomed back Dennis Wingo for this 90 minute discussion regarding space policy, budgets, commercial space, space entrepreneurism, cubesats, ISS, and much more. In our first segment, Dennis discussed his recent article, “NASA Will Face Solomon’s Choice in 2014” posted on Oct. 2, 2013 at http://spaceref.com/missions-and-programs/nasa/nasa-will-face-solomons-choice-in-2014.html.  In this article and in our discussion, our guest focused on the probability of NASA budget cuts in the current environment and the probable impact upon the agency.  Thus, NASA or Congress might find that they have to make a Solomon like choice for program funding between SLS/Orion or the ISS.  Listeners wanted to know if cutting commercial crew would give NASA sufficient funding for the other two programs.  The short answer was no but listen to the full explanation provided by our guest.  Dennis then talked about both SLS and ISS and the commercial & entrepreneurial future now developing with ISS with small satellites and space start-ups.  Referencing recent comments by Dr. Griffin, Dennis said in a perfect world with wise political leadership, we would be funding all sorts of space development projects as they create wealth, open the doors for businessmen and women with abundant opportunities and so much more but for the past 40 years he said we have not had wise political leadership. Instead. rather than investing in our future, politicians have invested in buying votes.  He talked about this issue throughout the balance of our program.  Dennis mentioned he was doing tonight’s program aboard the icebreaker Maritol docked at Pier 50 in the SF Bay.  The Maritol has become a hacker space and business incubator for small satellite and related space businesses.  In the second segment, he went into more detail about the Maritol and the eviction threat it is facing from the SF Port.  He also talked about GEO being a huge market but very costly which is why the focus is now on small satellites and developing profitable, cost effective businesses and models.

In our second segment, Tim called with several SLS, ISS, and 3 D printing questions, including asking how much mass was needed to build a Moon base.  We then talked about capital acquisition and the characteristics of ventures funded by Silicon Valley venture capital financiers.  Dennis said the timing was now right and we should adopt the zero g zero tax bill, and that we should be implementing the JOBS Act Title II which allows for crowdfunding investment.  Read about it at http://venturebeat.com/2013/09/23/crowdfunding-with-jobs-act-title-ii-the-web-will-eat-financing-and-investing.  John called in to express his views on the Solomon’s Choice options, then we talked some more about the Maritol docked at Pier 50.  Here are some articles about it: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/10/startups-aboard-icebreaker-ship-could-face-eviction-soon-san-francisco-says (this article talks about its possible eviction & has a link to the petition you can sign to keep the Maritol in the Bay);  www.forbes.com/sites/rakeshsharma/2013/10/07/a-ship-a-couple-of-startups-and-the-bay; and here are some pictures of the icebreaker, www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/The-Icelandic-Cargo-Ship-Maritol-127274388.html.  As you will hear, it is important to sign the petition to keep this space business incubator in the SF Bay.

Post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  Check out the Dennis Wingo blog at www.denniswingo.wordpress.com.


1. Doug Plata - October 20, 2013

Yeah, my guess is that the budget will be squeezed and not severely cut. In that setting it won’t be an absolute choice between children but increasing pressure which can be handled in various ways. My guess is that there will be an attempt to retain some of everything until small things have to go. If the squeezing continues until the really hard decisions have to be made then yes, the government will face that dilema but I think that we won’t reach that point as early as 2014.

So, how would the budget be handled in the setting of a squeeze? First, we should recognize that some things will be freed up in the budget over time. For example, the ISS is no longer in development. We are beyond that. So, eventually development costs will be freed up and so could be put towards operations. So to say that there won’t be money available to use this hardware seems to be saying that development costs will go on forever. That makes no sense. Same thing holds true with SLS.

The same hold true for the public-private programs. As I understand it, NASA funding for the development (i.e. COTS) of Falcon 9, Dragon, Antares (or is it Taurus II?), and Cygnus are done. So in a sense, that part of the budget is now freed up for other things. Likewise, the Commercial Resupply Service program won’t continue forever. I understand that after 2017, that money will be freed.

Still, if costs mushroom as they often do, my guess is that the big programs will have their timeline extended so that they don’t take up more of the budget, they just simply fall behind schedule.

My concern is that the easiest step is to simply start no new public-private program so that that money is freed up to be used by SLS/Orion development and/or operations. This would be concerning because then NASA’s budget will have reverted from having at least a small part of NASA’s budget making good progress to that very area being cut or even eliminated and used in less productive approaches.

Also, other areas such as planetary missions or administrative or non-engineering portions of the budget could see modest cuts with that money going to those that overrun.

2. John Hunt - October 19, 2013

The best approach is to continue to support SLS. Any crisis that will result in ending ISS will lead to more money coming into NASA becasue of international prestige considerations. My advice is to roll the dice!

One doesn’t have to consider space policy to see that our national leadership is far from wise.

Alan M - October 22, 2013

The problem with this idea is that it is the status quo and it isn’t working! Meanwhile we waste money and continue to get nowhere.

3. Jim Davis - October 16, 2013

Dennis Wingo is another of my favorite guests. I was pleased that his show was moved to Tuesday night so I could listen live. That said:

1. Wingo’s constant refrain of the lack of “wise leadership” came off as condescending and arrogant. The implication that anyone that does not happen to share Wingo’s personal convictions about the importance of space lacks wisdom makes space advocacy seem more like a religious cult than a science and technology advocacy group.

2. I think Wingo is being disingenuous about the “Solomon’s choice” between SLS and ISS. Neither program is defensible as worth the future costs but Wingo desperately wants a manned program of some sort so he sets up false dilemma of choosing one or the other conveniently ignoring the option of “none of the above”. Both programs could be replaced with a very modest launch cost subsidy for cubesat launches and have all the benefits that Wingo was claiming.

3. Wingo’s claim that millions of people want to invest in space but are unable to because of qualified investor laws is suspect. There are ways to do so but thus far the “millions” have not taken advantage of them. The failure of the X-prize Foundation to raise the full $10 million in prize money is instructive. There have been numerous efforts to form space investment clubs that have foundered on the unwillingness to actually contribute money. The unwillingness of Musk to take SpaceX public is also suggestive.

Alan M - October 22, 2013

Well said. I mostly agree. I also usually agree with Mr. Wingo, but he kinda lost me on this show. He sounded like a circus barker – Yea, Yea, Space. The problem I see is when someone commits to space as there livelyhood. Then everything can be suspect because they need to promote their projects to make money(in a tough industry). They need to seem relavent so they regularly write stuff to stir the pot, sadly kinda like our politics.

God Bless everyone involved in pushing space activity forward. Thank You all for your work.

Kelly Starks - October 23, 2013

Very big agree! New space folks HATE SLS, they are doing backflips to justify why “of course” SLS will be killed (and then the money will go to my beloved “newspace” firm). Which of course (like Dennis here) for you to constantly ignore the political realities

1- SLS has broad by partisan support. Its the top thing congress will support above anything in NASA. Which is a reasonable priority since it keeps the last vendors of manned space launch capacity in the US alive. Pretty much all the expertise in maned space, engineering for same, etc in the US is tied up in those companies. If SLS stops, those people are all laid off, the company facilities are broken up (like all the rest of them were), and congress would have effectivlly killed the space program for years/decade(s)?

2- ISS is tied up with international deals, and canceling it early will upset international relations. Given US folks pretty much just do servicing of the station – unless we want to train other nations to do it, or official shut down our ground support efforts (both are a significant hit to US prestige related to space).

So seriously impacting either program is a no go politically due to it messing up things voters would really care about, and short of pork, Voters see NASA is there for #1- jobs in district, #2- national prestige. So congress will eiather slow them down, or kill something else – NASA isn’t expecting 20% cuts or something, so it wouldn’t come down to killing one or the other. You could get desperate and give them commercial style contracts and cut costs by a factor of 4 – but voters wouldn’t like that kind of cost savings.

Dennis going off on how “wise leadership” would of course do what he wants, and “… millions of people want to invest in space..” though don’t due to some evil investment rules; was frankly a great example of NewSpace or space advocate folks arrogance and self enforced ignorance. A great example of why space advocates can’t connect to folks in the real world who don’t share their biases (or religious faith?), and who vastly outnumber “space cadets” in voting power.

The solomons choice doesn’t exist, the two golden children will be retained, though may be reduced a bit. The “wisemen of Washington” (as Obama called them) generally know which side of issues their voters will butter.

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