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Open Lines, Sunday, 5-31-15 June 1, 2015

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Open Lines, Sunday, 5-31-15

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/2483-BWB-2015-05-31.mp3

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Guest: Open Lines. Topics: Space Show website & crowdfunding, space industry news, issues, & events covering timely topics. 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.

Welcome to our final Open Lines program for May 2015. During the first segment of our 1 hour 46 minute program, I threw out some suggested topics for discussion including Space Show website changes, our planned crowd funding project for financing the new website, a satirical article in The Onion, “NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045” (see www.theonion.com/article/nasa-announces-bold-plan-still-exist-2045-50398), and the possibility of the government regulating lunar and asteroid mining plus other topics as well. Tim from Huntsville was our first caller. He misunderstood my comment about The Onion article and wanted to know what bold plan NASA was announcing for 2045. I clarified the matter with him but he still seemed to think the article had more to do with the reality of NASA today rather than just a comedy article in The Onion. I disagreed with him but he did say that space policy based on a two term administration and then changing was not productive and should be changed. Later in my conversation with Tim I mentioned an LA Times article by Jerry Hirsch which was highly critical of Elon Must for taking government subsidies. Little did I know that this article would be the hot topic of the day on this Open Lines program. The actual article, “Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies” can be read at www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html#page=1. As I sated on air with several callers and emailers, I thought the article was incomplete and a hit piece since it ignored the basic economic facts of government non-cash subsidies. Dennis Wingo called in to refute the article though Kelly Starks emailed us in support of the main theme of the article. During John’s call from Florida, I was asked to see if the article’s author would come on The Space Show. I commented that I was probably not that interested in talking to him and noted my experience with general audience journalists (not all of them) as compared to talking with space journalists. In the meantime, Marshall called to chime in on the presidential cycle and space policy and what it means for long term space projects. We did note several projects that have survived through various administrations such as Hubble, many of the planetary science missions, SLS and more.

In the second segment, Tom, a first time caller to the show from Seattle, wanted to talk about his view of the space industry being immature. By immature, he meant that doing only a hundred or fewer launches a year and not that much new being done in space indicated being immature to him. He also supported Rocket Lab, Planet Labs and the emerging cubesat industry. We talked about the need to lower the cost of space access to get more players and ventures in space. Michael Listner called into to talk in detail about the newly passed House commercial space bill. He said it was passed on party lines and would go to the Senate and there would have to be compromises for it to go to the President. He talked about problems areas including company liability for example. He also mentioned the new title for astronauts who will fly on the Dragon and CST 100, Government Astronauts. By giving the crew this title, they will not be designated spaceflight participants, thus their safety can be regulated NASA and the spacecraft will need some sort of certification or something to fly government astronauts on board. This will allow NASA to set crew safety standards. He referenced a Space Review article which you can read here: http://thespacereview.com/article/2759/1. Doug from S. California was our next caller. He introduced us to the term paraterraforming. Doug explained this to us in some detail. He also called it “reversible exploration.” This discussion included noting the ethical issues around any type of terraforming, radiation, energy requirements, and more.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above. Also, please post suggestions or email me regarding crowd funding incentive and video ideas for creating a new Space Show website.

Comments»

1. J Fincannon - June 4, 2015

Doug, the show that mentioned the “approved zone” for humans to be and keep out zones for locations with potential Mars life was
http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=2452
with Erik Conway.
But the person informing us of the zones was not Erik but rather Dwayne Day at ~48 minutes into the show. Since this show I have gotten an independent confirmation that this is the formulated policy so far, presumably from a presentation at the Humans to Mars conference with the NASA Planetary Protection Officer presenting.

2. J Fincannon - June 2, 2015

Doug was correct about some prior guest saying they thought the humans would land in an approved zone with no impact to potential Martian life forms. Presumably the area would have been scoured. (This is a case where having transcripts of the shows would help, but of course too costly to implement.)

I consider the whole issue of landing people on Mars to be a non-starter. First, you need to rule out Martian life. This seems impossible since you have to look everywhere, even underground (how far in deep cracks) over long periods (i.e. seasonal and daily variation). We have to know what Martian life looks like before we find it. We can test for the potential life we can think of but what about the life we can’t think of? Even large keepout zones seem ludricrous since the terrestrial biota in the center of the zone can blow outside the zone. This is not just ethics we are talking about, but science which is odd because I do not hear much pushback on sending people to Mars from scientists. It is odd that there are not alot of instruments on every robotic mission to look specifically for life.

What I find interesting is that pople are willynilly planning on sending humans to Mars without addressing these considerations first. It makes me wonder what is going to stop the “polluters” from dropping a load of terrestrial biota on Mars before they know there are no Martian life forms to destroy/contaminate by this event. Didn’t Musk want to send a greenhouse there? It seems like there should have been a huge outcry from the Mars scientists. Where/when would this get stopped if it could? It sounds like a space treaty sort of thing.

If it can be conclusively proven there is no life (likely impossible), then there is no ethical reason you cannot terraform. Some might propose if there is Martian life found, then preserving them in a zoo or storage facility is enough, but this has many problems making it infeasible. I have wondered how we could mix and mingle with non-terrestrial biota. Is there a way to make it impossible for us to contaminate? Can a person survive without the microbes in his/her body? Is that enough if it were possible? I don’t know the answer.

Regarding where we can allow people to live in space, orbiting vehicles seem the best option (with artifical gravity and radiation shielding) and robots (disinfected) to the surface. In fact, it has been proposed to use humans in orbit to operate remote vehicles using telepresence at Mars or Venus.

Matt - June 4, 2015

Good comment, specially also your following cry:

“It is odd that there are not alot of instruments on every robotic mission to look specifically for life.”

B John - June 5, 2015

The explanation is simple: It is hard to detect life with a portable miniaturized instrument. Viking tried and got ambiguous results. NASA has learned the lesson and now goes systematically from physics to chemistry to geology to mineralogy before going to biology. The time it takes is a function of the budget, not thof the method. The ExoMars rover by ESA and Russia (good luck!) will focus on looking for biosignatures from 2-3 meter deep underground drill samples. So NASA doesn’t need to do that yet. They instead plan for a sample return mission, which would make available all the labs on Earth now and in times to come. Requires patience, but will be the best in the end. If the ExoMars rover finds life, we sure want to have a closer look at samples of it anyway.

NASA’s Mars robotic policy gets a golden star in my book. If those who manage the robotic part of NASA took over Human Space Flight, then soon even pigs would fly.

Matt - June 5, 2015

In my view you show too much understanding for NASA’s policy. Nearly 40 years after Viking is should possible to develop more reliable life detecting instruments. I hope NASA has been started at least some R&D in this field. The NASA shall do the difficult things and follow the easy way as you propose.

B John - June 5, 2015

There are some ideas around about how to make different chemical detectors Mars rover compatible. But whatever lands on Mars is upwards a decade old since mission specification. A sample to Earth makes huge labs available. Mass, size and hand on human operations are not a problem on Earth. And it keeps on improving, quickly. We would really know everything there is to know about a sample returned from Mars.

I do hope that it will be better, but my prediction is that this ExoMars rover will find some results indicative of ancient life, and others which refute the same. Because the chemical processes involved are unknown, but are being mapped by Curiosity and Mars2020 and the orbiters.

I hate Curiosity! It is slower than a sloth. I look at what Emily Lakdawalla writes about it once a month, but often it basically says that nothing happened since last month. Slower than a sloth. Will it ever get to that mountain? Unfortunately, Mars2020 will operate in the same way. But then NASA really really needs to do something new. However could we send a crew to Mars when we communicate with robots there on a once-per-day basis? Judging from how Earth dependent the ISS is, it doesn’t look good for a Mars crew which is out of contact 12½ hours per day.

Matt - June 5, 2015

Correction: …NASA shall …. not follow …easy way

J Fincannon - June 5, 2015

Gil Levin has made modifications to the Viking Labelled Release Experiment that should handle most problems with it. Of course, if life is terribly different than ours, it won’t work. Not sure I would want it brought back to Earth though. Perhaps a Moon base or space station around the Moon. We need to make sure it is safe.

Matt - June 5, 2015

Yes, that is good reason for a space station around Mars or on Deimos, also because Marsian microbes might not survive the long trip to Earth.

Large style settlement on Mars will not happen for a long time due different cases.

B John - June 7, 2015

The problem is that the labs needed are on Earth. If we could send those labs to orbit, or to a lunar base, then we might as well send them to Mars. But we can’t. So since Muhammed won’t go to Mars, a piece of Mars has to come to Muhammed. Mars orbiting and landed equipment should focus on identifying interesting places to drill up samples from. The real analysis can only be done on Earth. Even in 100 years, labs on Earth will be far better than any lab in space. Sample returns are always motivated.

J FIncannon - June 7, 2015

Obviously we can’t match the labs on Earth in space. But there are questions whether any Mars sample is going to be viable by the time it reaches Earth. What are we going to do, freeze it for the trip, stick in in a preservative solution? Anyway, all the Mars sample return missions I have seen sample surface materials only and are highly complex. Also, I would not be comfortable bringing the sample to the Earth surface, so we need the space rated labs anyway. Moore’s Law is making the lab electronics smaller, so perhaps reasonable sized equipment can be made for Mars robots. Levin’s new equipment sounded like it could be put in penetrators! That’s pretty small.

Matt - June 8, 2015

Yes, we need also labs able to operate in-situ. Dr. Levin believes that it may even not adequate to store the samples on Mars for later sample return for longer time, because it may not survive the procedure.


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