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Dr. Stuart Robbins, Sunday, 9-27-15 September 28, 2015

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Dr. Stuart Robbins, Sunday, 9-27-15


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Guest: Dr. Stuart Robbins. Topics: Craters throughout the solar system, Mars, lunar science, pseudo astronomy, education & public outreach. 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. Stuart Robbins to the show to discuss craters throughout the solar system, life experiments for Mars, thresholds for evidence, his PseudoAstronomy blog and podcasts, and education plus public outreach. In the first segment of our 1 hour 37 minute program, Dr. Robbins started out by sharing with us how he got interested in Mars as part of his thesis project. We then discussed his crater analysis work on Mars, Mercury, our Moon, and Saturn’s moons. This detailed crater discussion was most interesting so don’t miss it. Additional topics included why study craters, dating, Carbon14 and other radio metric ways to date objects & zones off Earth. You will learn about the significance of crater size per planetary body, determining age, impacts and more. We even compared impact craters on Earth to those elsewhere in the solar system. Also discussed were Canyon Diablo Meteorites regarding Meteor Crater in Arizona, and the use of craters as a poor man’s drill. Listeners asked about asteroid impacts and the impact on possible life or past life traces in an impact crater. Prior to the segment ending, he talked about the high bar needed for confirming evidence of life off Earth.

In the second segment, Dr. Doug called in to talk about a way to do an experiment, possibly no costlier than Curiosity, to search for life on Mars. This involved the use of a tethered rover which our caller explained. More than technology issues, our guest pointed out the policy and economic challenges that are today governing space policy & projects which made him skeptical about doing something like Doug suggested. Dr. Robbins was asked several times during our discussion if NASA wanted to discover and disclose life on Mars. When this discussion comes up on programs, planetary protection is brought up and with Dr. Robbins, this is also what happened. Note how Dr. Robbins described planetary protection during our discussion. I switched topics and asked him to talk about his blog and podcast, Exposing PseudoAstronomy. You can read his blog @ https://pseudoastro.wordpress.com. You can hear his podcasts @ http://podcast.sjrdesign.net. More questions came in applicable to life on Mars, the threshold necessary for convincing evidence of Martian life, then I asked him about some of the popular paranormal and UFO topics that often pass off as real science. We talked about what makes so many of these stories believable to so many people. I wondered if it was our collective poor science education but Stuart suggested other reasons which you will hear him discuss. Adrian sent in a great email question about the expectation to find DNA off Earth which Adrian pointed was a bogus expectation. I read his note in full, Dr. Robbins agreed completely with him as do I so again, don’t miss what Adrian had to say. Stuart also talked about some of the famous UFO cases, image faking, CGI, and more. Near the end of the show, I asked if we could expect new big announcements from our Mars studies or would it be a much slower evolving process. He said the big things had probably been studied so he expected a type of evolutionary process for new Mars information. On the other hand, because we know so little about Pluto, New Horizons was providing us with giant leaps forward with our Pluto knowledge. The last question came in from Randy who wanted to zero out costs and risks and then find out if humans produced better research or was it robots. The answer was humans but when you add in risk and costs, the answer goes to robots. Listen to how Stuart explained this. Don’t miss Stuart’s closing comments.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above. You can reach Dr. Robbins through his website, http://about.sjrdesign.net, or me.


1. Andy Hill - October 5, 2015

When people talk about mining the moon it might be easier to use a magnet to collect meteorite deposited iron rather than drilling equipment to extract ore for refining.

2. A New Interview and New Movie from New Horizons Data | Exposing PseudoAstronomy - October 1, 2015

[…] First up, I was interviewed live for about 100 minutes on this past Sunday on David Livingston’s “The Space Show.” We spent the first half talking about my research (impact craters) and the second half about the education & public outreach that I do. Since it was live, and a call-in show, there was one call and many e-mailed questions that I responded to. There’s also an associated blog, so you can comment on the interview there if you wish. […]

3. Matthias Hutter - September 29, 2015

Copied from an e-mail:

Concerning the September 27th (Dr. Stuart Robbins) and September 25th (Dr. Gil Levin)

As you and Robbins mentioned around the hour mark, Planetary Protection rules require extreme sterilization for probes send to sites possible containing alien life, to avoid cross-contamination and thus rendering scientific results void.

The main issue with these requirement is that most current space electronics and scientific instruments can’t withstand the sterilization steps required. This is also a main reason NASA rejects life detection proposals – no conspiracy needed 🙂

The process used for Viking:

Currently, the NASA-approved sterilization modalities include dry heat microbial reduction (DHMR) and vapor phase hydrogen peroxide (VHP). The Mars Viking landers were subjected to DHMR at the sub-system and full-system levels, with the Viking-1 lander (as a terminal sterilization step) being heated at 111.7 ˚C (233.1 ˚F) for 30.23 h at a specified humidity of 1.3 mg/mL. The quantitative impacts of the Viking-based treatments, on the surface, encapsulated, and mated materials, serve as the basis for today’s Category IVa-c bioburden constraints. The DHMR specifications were recently expanded beyond the original Viking specifications, allowing for an increase in the degree of bioburden reduction from 4 to 6-orders of magnitude with a greater range of acceptable humidity control.

From: http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/methods

Excerpt from Jet Propulsion laboratory paper:

Since Viking, the materials and processes used to fabricate spacecraft have advanced steadily. In addition, there are often reasons to use commercial-off-the-shelf products or hardware designs from prior (but recent) missions. These trends often create technical obstacles for planetary protection when the hardware as designed cannot survive exposure to DHMR temperatures. Plastic packaging, nanometer-scale features only a few atoms thick, and conductive epoxy attachment methods, are a few of the design features of modern spacecraft electronics that, at best, make DHMR a risk to long-term reliability, or at worst, impossible without risking immediate damage. In addition, many instrument sensors cannot be exposed to elevated temperatures without risk of permanent damage. Some instrument and spacecraft structures have critical alignment requirements that limit maximum allowable temperatures as well. The availability of alternate microbial reduction methods and approaches is necessary to accomplish science goals for certain strategic missions (especially those involving the search for life) and to do so within programmatic schedule and cost constraints. Today, alternative techniques (namely, specification for surface sterilization using vapor hydrogen peroxide and an expanded DHMR specification) are close to approval by NASA; although none has yet been included in the policy documentation

Source: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/docs/PPCCTECHREPORT3.pdf

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