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Dr. Doug Plata, Monday, 5-11-15 May 12, 2015

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Dr. Doug Plata, Monday, 5-11-15


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Guest:  Dr. Doug Plata.  Topics: Return to the Moon, Space Access Society & relevant, topical space news & information.  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.  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.


We welcomed Dr. Doug Plata back to the show to discuss his Return to the Moon (RTM) segment within the Space Access Society (SAS) meeting last week in Phoenix, plus space policy and other topical issues.  Due to a server glitch and phone line issues in connecting with Doug, this 100 minute show does not have a break as we took our breaks to reconnect to the server and Doug.  As we started out our discussion, Doug gave a shout out to Space Access and to the founder of it, Henry Vanderbilt.  Doug then turned his attention to his Return to the Moon conference within the Space Access Society conference. Doug also provided us with his specific definition for Lunar Cots.   He mentioned the key speakers including Jeff Greason, Jim Muncy, Erik Seedhouse, and Dave Masten.  He summarized each of their presentations, plus he mentioned the SAS lead in speaker to his segment, Dennis Stone of NASA JSC, and the speaker after the RTM segment, Bruce Pittman.  Doug said both speakers were so on topic that in reality they could have easily been part of the RTM segment.  Doug discussed lunar lander options, powering rovers on the lunar surface, especially after taking a call from Jon in New Jersey.  He went into some detail on the presentations within the RTM segment.  BJohn in Sweden asked several quality questions via email so pay attention to them when I read them on air.  Space policy and politics came u as Doug was concerned that a NASA RTM effort might be part of a larger international effort, not a public private partnership effort and it would result in footprints on the Moon all over again without sustainability.  Near the end of the program, he discussed this with Dr. Lurio who called in to raise issues around Doug’s comments & concern.  Doug also reported on the rest of SAS including the Virgin Galactic talk/update.  Again, I apologize for the streaming and phone line issues early in this show.


Post your comments/questions on TSS blog.  You can reach dug through me @ drspace@thespaceshow.com.



1. rocketscirick - May 15, 2015

Toward the end of the show, Doug mentioned meeting a listener of The Space Show who mostly listens on archive. I don’t know if he was talking about me or not, but I confess. I’m one of the mostly-archive listeners. To Doug, I have one thing to say: Finger Monkeys!!! (He’ll understand.) Seriously, I think he did a great job with the Lunar COTS mini-conference.

I have several comments:

1. This was my first trip to Space Access. I had heard about it in years past, but didn’t consider myself enough of a propulsion guy (particularly, an experimentalist) to warrant the trip. This year, I’ve spent an extensive amount of time on propulsion issues; it was finally time to make the trip.

One of the other attendees asked me my impression of the conference; I told him this was a bit like drinking from a fire hose for the amount of information it conveyed. Actually, it probably wasn’t that bad; but I was taking extensive notes.

All the talks were good (which is why it was a bit like a fire hose). A lot of guests I listen to on The Space Show were there. I agree with Doug that Dave Masten’s talk was unique; I believe he was finally able to talk about Masten Space Systems’ working relationship with ULA, something he couldn’t really mention before. The use of a Centaur as part of a lunar lander is something I’d never seen before.

2. I drove from the Bay area to Phoenix. This was a little crazy. (You’ll see the point of this in a bit…) A few months ago, a member of one of the local rocket propulsion groups *strongly* urged me to go. I hesitated. He said he makes the trip in one day, thus saving airfare. No big deal. Nevertheless, I still questioned my sanity in making the trip by car. (I met another person from the same propulsion group at the conference; he was surprised that I drove.)

However, on the way back, I decided to make a side trip into the Mojave Desert, and searched for the X-15 Major Michael Adams Memorial, which was spoken of by show guest Michelle Adams. This is very easy to miss, but I finally found it. As an X-15 fanatic, this is like holy ground, and probably my once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. So after all that, I’m glad I drove.

3. On the relationship between small satellites and human space flight and settlement, I personally believe there is a concrete relation. (Alas, it’s going to take me time, like Charles, to make it out to SmallSat.) The problem with a lot of human space flight development is that it waits on missions to the ISS, and depends on passing very strict protocols to get there. If you want to robustly develop a technology, you need to push it to its limits, and sometimes break it. This is not something that should be done inside the ISS or around any extremely expensive primary spacecraft. However, components of the technology can be tested on a small scale in something like a CubeSat. This doesn’t handle all situations, but has the potential to accelerate a lot of development. This is particularly useful for relatively quick turnaround iterative experiments.

The major hurdle, however, is to demonstrate an integrated system that does life support, yet keep it small. Ideally, you’d like to try this with a primate so that there is applicability to human space flight. A key part of the answer is something Doug told me a few years ago: Finger Monkeys, or called more properly, Pygmy Marmoset.

I believe there is a roadmap to improving human space flight that goes through flying a small primate like a Pygmy Marmoset in what is effectively a small satellite. It needs to be done in a safe, humane way, and biology can be inherently messy. Nevertheless, the launch mass for a small satellite hosting finger monkeys is a far cry from the requirement for humans. If one wants to test the gravity prescription in partial G environment using counterbalanced small satellites, this would be a logical way to go.

This also highlights a need for small launch vehicles, which is a lot of the motivation behind Space Access. It may be that they way to mature technology for human space flight and settlement is through CubeSats and other nanosatellites sent aloft by on-demand small launch vehicles.

2. jimjxr - May 15, 2015

Regarding ESA and JAXA lunar lander, it looks to me they don’t have enough budget to do this. They have their hands full with ISS contribution already, even if they put their ISS money into lunar lander it’s probably something like $1 billion a year, it would take decades to build a government lander at this funding level.

DougSpace - June 1, 2015

Jim, I believe that you are probably correct about the cost of a government lander regardless of which government that is. This is one of the main reasons why I think it important that the lunar lander be developed as part of a public-private program and that no free SLS launches be offered for it. It needs to be developed at lower cost and it especially needs to operate at lower costs.

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