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Dr. Doug Plata, Sunday, 9-13-15 September 13, 2015

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Dr. Doug Plata, Sunday, 9-13-15


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Guest: Dr. Doug Plata. Topics: Doug’s Space Advocate Projects present and to do. 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 space advocate projects that he has already done. In addition, he created a wish list of future advocate projects that he wants to do on his own or in collaboration with others. His 27 page Power Point Presentation detailing all of these projects has been posted to The Space Show blog so please take a look at it and follow along with us during the discussion. Dr. Plata’s discussion follows the PPT page by page. You can see it at https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. In the first segment of our 2 hour 7 minute discussion, Doug explained why he does these projects citing having fun as a major motivating factor.   He does go through the PPT topics and slides in order so rather than going through each one here in the summary, follow along with the PPT presentation on the blog. Some of the project had a more detailed discussion than others such as the theme park ride, the Gravitron which came up in the second segment. Listeners asked him several email questions on a variety of topics including how he could open up his projects to collaboration with others that were not physically in the same location or area as Doug. Doug was also asked if one needed an engineering, physics or other specific background to do what he was doing and Doug said no. I asked Doug if he felt constrained by physics, engineering, human factors medical science, etc. with his projects. This resulted in an interesting and most practical discussion and repose. Doug also coined a great phrase in response to this question, “Physics does not work in Power Point!” Later in the first segment, he talked in detail about large landers and the Centaur upper stage. His PPT shows pictures of his projects and where applicable, he created images to help us along in our understanding. We continued talking about the projects he has already done for the balance of the segment.

In the second segment, we finished the discussion of his already done projects but we spent some time on the Gravitron. Here, Doug talked about additional experiments he would like to do revolving around the Graviton but he was not sure that the ride operators would be all that cooperative with him in allowing him and others to do these experiments. It is an interesting discussion, don’t miss it. Doug soon turned to his wish list projects which start on slide 11. As before, our discussion tracked the slide number so it is easy to follow along with us. Among the listener questions that he fielded in this segment, one asked him how he knew for sure that there was sufficient water ice on the Moon at the poles or anywhere for that matter. Don’t miss his response. John from Ft. Worth called this segment to follow up on his earlier dried food comments. John and Doug talked about dried food, the old C-rations used by the military or the more modern MREs, psychological food, the need to have fresh food, vegetables, greens, and such. Doug explained his theory on what fresh items might be most suitable for growing on say a Mars mission. Later in the segment, both listeners and I suggested Doug organize this and see if he could sell it as a mini-series for influencing kids based on the old Mr. Wizard TV show from decades ago. In fact, thorough out the show, Doug received many suggestions for increased marketing and awareness for his projects like this with little cost, hardly any lab equipment, and in the home environment. When we got to slide 24, Doug had much to say about experiments using a Finger monkey. He was not sure if one would have to do some sort of IRB to use the animal, especially if it was just a space advocate experiment. Near the end of the segment, Doug spoke in detail about humans vs. robots and robots that could repair other robots. Doug offered specific ideas regarding the humans vs. robot debate. He offered us good concluding points but again, he stated that having fun doing these projects was a big part of why he does it & why anyone should do it. One final question came in just before the show ended. This listener wanted to know if he was doing an end run around traditional space advocacy organizations because everything he talked about during our program was individual to him or other advocates. Not once did he make mention of any of the space advocacy organizations. Don’t miss his response to this question.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog above. You can reach Doug through me or his website per his PPT, www.lunarcots.com.



1. rocketscirick - September 18, 2015

I’m a bit confused about the Gravitron, perhaps because I am thinking of another ride. Does the Gravitron stay horizontal, and then the floor drops down, or does it lift up to a certain angle (e.g., 45 degrees), at which point the floor is naturally far away? The reason I ask is because I expect the latter to produce uneven sinusoidal G forces.

DougSpace - September 20, 2015

Yes, the Gravitron ride at my local theme park is strictly horizontal. There are other types of similar rides which rotates up at an angle or which has the floor drop out. But in the case of the one that I am using, it doesn’t do either of these things.

2. J Fincannon - September 16, 2015

After listening to the program, I have the following comments.

The purpose of the projects should have a formal mission statement. Sure its fun, but it really sounds like you are pursuing STEM and/or space advocacy. It was vague and if you want to get support, it needs to be more concrete. It seemed to me focused mainly on STEM, and that’s fine, so it should be more decoratively stated.

About the food, I have wondered about how radiation would affect the nutritive value (or whether cosmic rays could make it harmful!).

The solar drapes idea is fine at the poles except that you get significant shadowing of drape onto drape two times of the month. You have a longer harness to your vehicle too, which makes it less efficient. Also, I would suspect that thin film solar cells have too low an efficiency to compete with the higher efficiency triple junction ones. It is good to support that way though because you can minimize structural loads and reduce dust accumulation.

You mention Peaks of Eternal Light on the Moon. There are no such locations on the Moon.

As to melting metals, it might be better to do more math to figure the right design.

It would be nice if you would create a book of you experiments for STEM use. If you do, I would recommend you include safety considerations. For instance, microwaving dirt could be dangerous, depending on the kind of dirt. I would also include a section for each experiment called “Do The Math”, to show how the experiment is a meaningful analog.

I would have thought pursing a software approach would be useful, especially since it is cheap and kid like software. That game called Minecraft is an example, although I would prefer it have more math in it. Just tune it for the Moon/South Pole/etc.

Sounds like you are having fun!

DougSpace - September 20, 2015

“you get significant shadowing of drape onto drape two times of the month”

True, so my thinking is to, if possible, line the drapes in the direction of the natural shadow so that the drapes are shadowing each other while you are in the natural shadow anyhow, so it doesn’t matter at least for that time. It may also be possible to time one’s transportation circuits during the time that the panels are being shadowed.

And yes, I know that there’s no real Peak of Eternal Light. But I’m not sure what else they are called. Do you? Apparently, there are locations which can be connected by wire whereby you get electricity throughout the lunar day.

“thin film solar cells have too low an efficiency to compete with the higher efficiency triple junction ones”.

That may well be true. So it ultimately comes down to specific power meaning W/kg and we’d probably want to go with which ever solar arrays gives the best specific power.

J Fincannon - September 21, 2015

“…line the drapes in the direction of the natural shadow…”
This would work for once a month, but the other time of the month it is unlikely to coincide with such shadowing. At least for the best illuminated spots at the poles. Just a minor issue. I do like the downward deployment and used that concept in a rigid panel rover solar array design at one time to overcome the high accelerations encountered when driving over the lunar terrain.

“And yes, I know that there’s no real Peak of Eternal Light. But I’m not sure what else they are called. Do you? Apparently, there are locations which can be connected by wire whereby you get electricity throughout the lunar day.”

Mark Robinson has coined the term “persistently illuminated region”. Others have said “maximum illumination area”. As to connecting them by wire, I have not seen practical proposals to connect by wire of even beamed power that can produce 100% power, avoiding the need for energy storage. Remember, there are times when the shadow of the Earth will pass over these “persistently illuminated regions”, requiring energy storage to survive the freezing anyway.

DougSpace - September 22, 2015

I have only heard (or was it read) Dr. Spudis confirming that there apparently is a place that is a few km separated that, if joined together by a wire would give 100% power.

You are right about the remaining self-shadowing once a month. In that case one could have a portion of it not in a line but perpendicular to the main line to provide a bit of power. But at any rate, I think it likely that we’re going to have to deal with lack of power for periods of time. I think that solar panels can survive the cold but the vehicles down in the permanently-shadowed crater need to deal with the cryogenic temperatures as well as the loss of power. My guess is that having a fuel cell to burn the propellant/LOX to keep things warm until the power starts flowing again. The advantage of this is that one can use this approach immediately with the residual propellant that is budgeted to ensure a safe landing.

I have also read the term “peak of persistent illumination”.

J Fincannon - September 23, 2015

Spudis would not have said that.

In “Illumination conditions at the lunar south pole”,
Spudis/Bussey/Robinson, Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 26, Issue 9, pg 1187-1190, May 1, 1999 showed results from Clementine that stated “While we find no area that receives permanent illumination, we do find two areas, only 10 km apart, which collectively receive sunlight for over 98% of the time.”

In “Illumination conditions of the south pole of the Moon derived using Kaguya topography”, Bussey/Spudis/etal. , Icarus 208 (2010) pg 558–564, they state “However two other areas, less than 10 km apart from each other, are collectively lit for 94% of the year.” In the report they state how the prior Clementine data had gaps and assumptions that made it inaccurate.

I do not think Spudis used the LRO data, but Mazarico does in: http://www-geodyn.mit.edu/mazarico_illumination_icarus11.pdf While he does not explicitly state in his paper that connecting sites cannot give 100% annual solar power, you can deduce this from his figures. The two spots Spudis wanted to connect are what he calls “A’ and “B” and they can NEVER avoid being shadowed together by distant Malapert mountain. Even adding the 40 km away point “C” to the mix does not avoid Malapert’s shadow.

3. B John - September 15, 2015

Doug, my impression is that most of the technologies you propose are already very well established:
– steaming water from dirt
– electrolysis
– melting metals with sunlight
– freezing water into whatever shape
– dry food
– setting up drapes
– robotics
– spacehab architectures
– self healing walls (Bigelow, or a crude frozen mercury layer)
– hydroponics
– et cetera

All of the above sounds like very well established industries already, which you can find in your phonebook. Some of it matured already in the 19th century. Thousands of thousands of science papers have been published about all of that. Many already take a degree in for example hydroponics before they start spending the rest of their careers trying to move that technology forward.

You don’t need to reinvent all those wheels already rolling. Just call the established experts and tell them about your idea about demonstrating their fantastic work to the public. That’d flatter them. Ask and propose them about how it could be done with respect to spaceflight. That’d inspire them labrats!

I think you should specialize on high level mission design and on public demonstrations. Leaving all of the how-to-do-it to all the expert guys who are already doing it.

Just my thoughts. I love your hobby anyway! But if you have ambitions to promote spaceflight with it, then specialize on a single service and stand on the shoulders of others, everyone else does.

DougSpace - September 20, 2015

At some point I need to get into the details if for no other reason then just to ensure that there’s not an obvious show-stopper that I’m blind to. If there is then the high-level mission design isn’t worth anything. Certainly the experts should be able to improve upon the design. But, for example, I had an electrical engineering friend go through and confirm my own calculations to ensure that there would be enough room in the mass budget to include solar arrays within the first launch. Without a basic idea, I wouldn’t be able to give any honest guess as to how much it would cost until breakeven. Stuff like that.

4. J Fincannon - September 14, 2015

It might help a larger percentage of readers to have a PDF version of the Powerpoint file.

B John - September 14, 2015

This free online PDF-converter works really great, no registration, no hazzle:

J Fincannon - September 15, 2015

Perhaps. But I think the protocol is to share documents using PDF because next to JPG or similar image files, it is fairly secure from viruses. PPT can be susceptible to viruses. Your online converter may work, but then we need to check their bonafides. It all gets time consuming.

B John - September 15, 2015

Yes, and certainly from some anonymous free website! But considering the DIY space engineering in the slides here, that’s just one of all the factors which are simply overlooked. (Are there ghosts in the Overlook Hotel of The Shining…)

I watched them during the Show and I think that the slides are pretty much optional. Maybe you could ask Doug Plata to email you the images in your prefered format?

J Fincannon - September 15, 2015

Thanks, but I have a copy. I am just thinking of others.

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