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Open Lines, Sunday, 12-28-14 December 29, 2014

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Open Lines, Sunday, 12-28-14


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Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston; Topics:  We discussed a variety of topics ranging from advanced technology, movie reviews, Spaces & Mars, Orion.  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 http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

Welcome to our last Open Lines program for 2014.  We discussed a variety of topics over the course of our 2 hour 15 minute program.  While there were actually two breaks, I will write this summary from the perspective two segments.  In the first segment, I made several announcements including remembering Space Show guests and notable space industry professionals who passed away this year.  I also talked briefly about my recent Aerojet Rocketdyne tour and an article that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel under the headline  “SpaceX plans for lots of launches, then on to Mars.”  You can easily find this article using your favorite search engine.  I also forgot to mention that SLS Debate guest Rick Boozer published an article which may interest you, “Why do the major news media exempt NASA from critical investigation?”  You can read his article a  http://linkd.in/1AXvwBs.  An early email was received from Carl asking what I thought of the known plans for Elon and SpaceX to go to Mars.  I was then asked about some current movies which I gave my opinion on, then Marshall called to note the absence of technology discussions on the Sunday television talk shows.  We talked about technology in general, the apparent focus for many people away from technology, including many in the media.  John called in from Ft. Worth regarding the SpaceX article about going to Mars.  He focused on the probable high costs of developing the new rocket and its engines plus other costs.  He suggested a 15-20 year timetable.  Doug both emailed in and called to talk with John on another line and they had a nice little debate about what John was talking about.

In our next segment, Jeff from Tucson called in to talk about this being the year of the human spaceflight space capsule and the Orion space vehicle.  Due to Jeff not seeing the start of the development of the full Orion spaceflight system, he questioned the type of missions Orion could fulfill.  Doug called back to debate Jeff and they both had much to say about future Orion missions and the development of the Orion system.  I told Jeff what Orion said on its website and looked for the development timeline for the full system but could not find it.  I did take issue with Jeff’s conclusions about Orion but of course much will depend on the continued development of the project with all its systems as well as SLS.  Tim called in to talk more about Elon and SpaceX. Our final caller Dwayne, mentioned CNN doing a technology episode (see http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/12/23/can-man-create-a-sun).  Dwayne also mentioned the recent India spaceflight test launch for components a human spaceflight mission.  Dwayne brought up some interesting facts about the test flight, hardware development and the Indian program.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog above.  You can reach any of the callers through me.


1. lereyna - January 4, 2015

During the discussion on weather Musk would be able to get to Mars came the point that he is definitely a man that is hard to bet against, and while the exact architecture or timeline may be different to what he or any other may conceptualize right now, he’ll most like remain focused and will probably achieve his goal.

One of the greatest issues however that did come out during the show and many previous shows is the issue of human factors and the duration of the trip, so my question is, the government being so slow in developing advanced propulsion or not serious at all, what stops a private entity from going for, say NTR, is it just that it’s too expensive or that it’s not allowed for a private to throw some money to at least advance any research on any nuclear stuff? Thanks.

2. Mark - January 2, 2015

Since the movie “Interstellar” was mentioned again on the SpaceShow, I think that although everybody, who listens to the show knows that it wasn’t a flawless epic, to say the least, (love as force, anyone?), everybody might think that it was the best science fiction movie of 2014.

It wasn’t.

And, of course, “Gravity” is even less of a contender for the title.

If none of these, than what?

There is a very short little movie on the Web, a movie that has been mentioned on the SpaceShow, but possibly forgotten because I haven’t heard it ever mentioned again.

It is called “Wanderers” (taken from the first chapter of Carl Sagan’s book “Pale Blue Dot”).

And it is a little masterpiece that evokes what we want out of space exploration a lot better than any puffed-up overhyped mawkish Hollywood production.

The author of it deserves applause.

See it here:

Not possible not to enjoy it.


If anybody wants to read a really good postmortem of Interstellar, there is a very good article on Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams site, called “Interstellar: Herald to the Stars or a Siren’s song?”

Link: http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=32136

Matt - January 2, 2015

Yes, it is a master-piece of imagination.

3. DDAY - December 29, 2014

I sorta understood what Jeff from Tucson was getting at, but I also thought that David’s “So what’s your point?” response was valid.

There is no spacecraft currently in flight or on the drawing boards that gets out of LEO on its own–not Soyuz, Shenzhou, Dragon or CST-100. They all need something that pushes them out of LEO if they are going to leave LEO. There’s no reason to single out Orion for this because it has always been the case (true also for Apollo). And as David pointed out, Orion is part of a system that includes the SLS. That was true even during Constellation, when the Orion was going to be pushed out of LEO by an Ares V second stage (which would also push the Altair lunar lander). And the reality is that SLS/Orion _can_ leave LEO when used together. That’s the way it is designed.

Getting back to Jeff’s comments, if you go back and dig through Apollo history you’ll find that the Service Module was actually over-designed for the mission. That large rocket engine and fuel was there for extra margin at the Moon (and in many ways it was a legacy of the early Direct Ascent mission mode for Apollo, which was rejected in favor of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous). And in fact, all that extra margin wasn’t necessary for basic Moon missions, which allowed NASA to pack additional instruments into the SIM bay for the later Apollo missions. If you dig through the archives, you will find proposals for smaller Service Module designs for LEO-only missions. If Apollo had stayed in service into the 1970s and beyond, it is possible that NASA would have gone with the smaller SM without the big engine and extra fuel. Those designs looked a lot like the Orion and its SM (i.e. the “mushroom shape” that Jeff referred to).

The issue here is where you want to push the slider on a continuum of capabilities for the SM. Do you add propulsion capability and fuel to the SM and take it away from the launch vehicle, or do you make your SM smaller and put that capability into the launch vehicle? There are a lot of trades that someone can make when deciding on this. (Indeed, it is possible to go too far: a really small SM eliminates margin and takes away room for secondary payloads and equipment that you might want to carry on the SM.)

If Orion is going to perform missions a lot longer than 21 days it is going to need additional hardware and capabilities. That is not a question. But it’s true for any space vehicle.

DDAY - December 29, 2014

One additional thing: If Jeff is really referring to the SLS upper stage and its ability to launch payloads beyond LEO, that’s a question worth exploring. The place to find information on that is at the NASASpaceflight.com forums. As I understand it, the first SLS will launch with an Interim Upper Stage, and the second with the Exploration Upper Stage. The latter has not been fully defined yet.

Matt - December 29, 2014

No, that is not true. Apollo’s service module did not have large reserves of propellant as you proposed. May be 5% at maximum. I was just designed for its purpose. Jeff presented good observations in the show, which introduced many questions about future of Orion and about NASA’s missing overall manned space flight conception for next decades. Orion capsule should serve as lifeboat and as a return capsule for a real interplanetar spacecraft to Mars itself or its moons and not more.

4. Matt - December 29, 2014

Two short comments:

1. I support Jeff’s (from Tucson) critics about the deficits in Orion’s design and the lack of an overall plan in regard to the use of this vehicle for manned deep space mission very strongly. Robert Zubrin would have given him the best support.

2. Hello David, what is the meaning of “human” space flight, which you used in your show description? Is this a kind of less demanding or less hazardous space flight? I know only the term manned spaceflight and will keep it, despite political thought control.

DDAY - December 29, 2014

Do you know any women in your life? Ask a few of them what they think of that.

Matt - December 29, 2014

Why this personal attack? It seems for me that you do not understand what the political objectives behind this kind of language engineering. By the way, nearly all the women that I know, which is quite a number, do not have any problem with male based historical grown style of language. They do not even think about it. The “problem” is made artificially by a specific marxist/leftist group of people, which try to change society by such measures in their way.

Kirk - December 30, 2014

Matt, what is objectionable is not your choice of one, more historically common term over another, more recent term which you categorize as politically correct, but is instead your feigned ignorance of David’s use of them as synonyms, followed by your suggestion that human space flight should somehow be less demanding or less hazardous, which would seem to suggest that you do not consider the terms to be synonymous, and that the rigors of manned spaceflight are not suitable for women.

No one was correcting your choice of words. Use whichever terms you wish, but your joke fell flat.

Matt - December 31, 2014

It was not mentioned as a joke, because the underlying reality of political manipulation is nothing I can laugh about it. Please aware that even in the word “woman” you can find “man”, dating backing to the Anglo-Saxion origin of English language (as a good dictionary says). Maybe the feminists and leftist language manipulators shall look for a political correct replacement of the word “woman”.

5. Joe from Houston - December 29, 2014

When you plan a manned trip to Mars, you are inevitably faced with the big white elephant in the room, i.e., risk of death in space due to the known hazards of space travel for periods longer than a year or even 2 outside of our protective Van Allen Belt. This elephant existed during the Apollo Era but it was the dwarfed version, i.e., a 4-day round trip in a one-shot chemically powered pack of vehicles that landed the crew back on Earth.
The difference now is the technology has advanced to the state of complete automation just like it has for major military weapon delivery systems that protect us. Your smartphone can control the Saturn V, Apollo capsule, and the Lunar Lander, all automatically. All you have to do is touch the Run Mission button on your touchscreen.
True, software and hardware often crash, lockup, get viruses, etc. relying on people to fix them and get them back on course. The bottom line is unmanned mission technology exists and improves faster, safer, and cheaper than manned missions and requires no rest for the weary involved with the mission.
This elephant standing in the room is the reason why Elon Musck is not revealing his mission plan. If he reveals his plan like Mars One did, he is basically risking giving up and throwing in the towel because the Mars One plan now looks like Swiss cheese. It was merely an academic exercise to get a grade or maintain favor from the faculty by some really eager and enthusiastic students.
My idea that attracts government funding based on a path of least resistance to a Mars mission. It is to enter and play in the room next to the one containing the big white elephant. If you do your mission in the room next to the one with the big white elephant in it, wouldn’t you think that when your game ends you would get a lot of attention and admiration in pulling this technology demonstration off?
When the big white elephant grows too big, others will play other games and beat you at the Path of Least Resistance Game that achieves the primary goals.
The secondary goals of a manned trip to Mars are the stories told, the pictures and data collected, and the rocks returned to capture the public’s hearts and minds that supports the notion that our technology defeats our foreign competitors technology. This notion is the politically derived reason for the endgame like it was during the Apollo Era. This endgame is the primary reason for government funding.
Elon Musk knows that if their is no endgame there is no funding. That is why he is holding his cards right now. I’ll bet he is planning an unmanned mission to Mars to successfully demonstrate the technology first. This is exactly what he has been doing for the last 10 years. He demonstrates the new technology in the form of unmanned missions that the big boys do not do. This is the truth!
Putting people in harms way for this technology demonstration merely brings the big white elephant back in the room. If our foreign competitors demonstrate the technology before we do without people embedded in the technology, we lose the game.
If we decide to go above and beyond simply demonstrating the technology by embedding people into the mission to ensure its success, and we do it after a foreign competitor demonstrates the technology without people embedded into the mission, we lose the politically motivated endgame. Their technology is better than ours since ours required people-in-the-loop to make it work and theirs didn’t.

Matt - December 29, 2014

Are there any detailed Mars plans and activities of Elon Musk known to public, which are more as objective description?

Joe from Houston - December 29, 2014

This guy is special. He is an entrepreneur. He knows the game of Risk like the back of his hand. He makes outlandish claims on what he is going to do like Iron Man and then he delivers. Failure is expected. So far, nobody has ridden his rockets into or returned from space. If you take his electric cars seriously, there are so many safety features in them, that other car manufacturers are going to copy them. He has so much money and power, he completely ignores credentialed and outside experts who critique his plan. The closest ones that can convince others of his shortcomings are not going to convince him. When NASA officials told him not to launch, he successfully launched anyway, promising to take full responsibility for his actions if it failed. It did not fail. Even if it had, his plan would manage that failure.

Matt - December 29, 2014

Thanks for that interesting view on Musk. Yes, he is really special. He delivers, that makes him different to 99% of great speakers or speaking heads ( I like this American phrase). He promises also somewhat more as he is able to deliver in the moment and takes the risk. However, also Musk (today’s Howard Hughes?) will somewhere find his limits and set-backs, based on his personality. That contains also the question about profit return of his companies.

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