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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Tuesday, 12-15-15 December 16, 2015

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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Tuesday, 12-15-15


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Guest: Robert (Bob) Zimmerman; Topics: Apollo 8, heavy lift, Moon-Mars, commercial space, and much more.  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 Bob back to the show for the last time in 2015.  During the first segment of the 2 hour program, Bob started our by remembering Apollo 8’s flight around the Moon on Christmas Eve, plus he talked about his new edition Kindle version of his classic book, “Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8.”  Bob spent some time retelling the full Apollo 8 story, how it came about that Frank Borman and crew decided to read the first twelve chapters of Genesis for the huge broadcast that was heard around the world, then he contrasted the astronaut’s freedom to choose their own words to what he expected would prevail today.  What do you think?  Post your comments about this on the blog.  After the Apollo 8 story, we discussed the return to flight by both Orbital ATK and SpaceX.  Bob shared his perspectives about this plus his rational for NASA wanting to work with possibly four companies for commercial spaceflight for cargo to the ISS.  Caller Richard Easton was next to talk about Apollo 8, then he wanted to know Bob’s thoughts on the need to first go to the Moon before going to Mars. This turned into a mini-discussion that included reference to the NASA Roadmap to Mars, the Elon Musk plans to go to Mars and why, along with giant rockets, with Bob commenting on why giant rockets would be inefficient and not necessary. His call consumed the balance of the first segment.


In the second segment,  I read an email from Doug asking about ISS plans and the possible impact on a Bigelow space station.  Jody emailed in a question asking about the space positions for the presidential candidates for both parties.  Bob limited his comments to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump, Sen. Rubio, and Senator Cruz.  In the process of talking about their positions, he went after big government programs such as SLS and Orion.  Jack sent in a question asking about recent XCOR changes in management.  Bob had much to say about this, though it was more about the company in general and the industry.  He did take the opportunity to applaud Blue Origin.  Doug called the show and his call consumed almost all of the balance of the second segment.  Bob and Doug had a grand old time planning missions without heavy lift rockets using multiple launches of the F9, ion & solar propulsion.  I refrained from entering their discussion and let the two continue until we needed to move on near the end of the show.  Bob was again critical of SpaceX wanting to build giant heavy rockets for going to Mars saying FH was large enough and efficient.  The assumptions the two made were in my opinion very generous but at least we know where Doug and Bob stand on these issues.  If you have comments about their discussion make sure you post your comments on the blog.


Please do post all your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can reach Mr. Zimmerman through his website, www.behindtheblack.com.  You can reach any caller or emailer through me.


1. J FIncannon - December 31, 2015

Bob is always an interesting guest.

I had two issues with his statements. First, was about how much better (more “lean”) it would be to run ISS privately than the way it currently is. Perhaps he does not understand how much work goes into making sure the ISS operates. There are alot of people that act as sustaining engineering. Expertise is required and must be maintained in all the components and systems. Monitoring and understanding sensor data and matching it with analytical models is time consuming. It is hard to envision a way to have a few people do this kind of job. If one was to start a space station design from scratch with all sorts of AI and sensor webs and knowledge bases, it could perhaps be done. But for an existing spacecraft, this is hard to imagine being retrofitted to be done. Many sensors for ISS were eliminated to save cost and mass.

The other problem I had was his insistence that if one’s dream is to go to Mars, then the government should not stop you. This ignores planetary protection. If Musk were to land people on Mars and this contaminated Mars’ potential biosphere, it would not be good since if Mars life does exist, it would possibly be affected or could never be confirmed to be uniquely “Martian”. Even just landing a rover or vehicle requires planetary protection regulations to assure such contamination is minimized. Landing people to me seems like it is impossible to avoid such contamination (although the regulators may define things to make it seem like they are)but in any event, the government from which the vehicle is launched must enforce treaties that require planetary protection. In this case, the US government must prohibit Musk’s vehicle from landing on Mars unless somehow they are assured these regulations are enforced. How this can be done, I do not know. It seems like a lot of trust would be involved to permit a private company to do this.

2. Thorsten - December 20, 2015

I am listening to the Space Show since about a year and a half. Since then, Bob Zimmerman definitely stood out as a guest in a number of ways.
I am European (German to be precise) and as such it strikes me how openly Zimmerman’s statements tend to be colored if not guided by ideology. The ISS statements concerning private operation are a good example. I fully agree to Michael Listners assessment on those statements. That’s exactly what came to my mind when I heard them.

Another example are his political statements during the interview. In Germany, you would never find such open partisanship for either side in a science or technical interview.
Btw, the usage of the term “socialist” in the US is something that I think most Europeans don’t concur with at all. It appears to me that it is used to denigrate any political attitude different from the Republican right wing opinion by placing it into close vicinity to socialism which is deemed to be communist anyway. In the way the word “socialist” is used by Zimmerman, the German chancellor Angela Merkel would have to be considered a socialist politician.
In Europe the socialism can be anything from social democracy to communism, and the former is anything but a totalitarian political direction. And Merkel would never be considered as socialist here.

On a final note: be assured that most people in Europe would have a VERY bad feeling if Mr. T. would be elected as next US president.

Dr. Livingston, I really appreciate your show and I am eager to get access to any new show that is being published. There are shows that I find more interesting (especially when it gets technical), and some which I would not completely listen to (when for my taste there is too much marketing blabla 😉 ). But anyway, that’s just a matter of personal taste.
After having listened to the show with Bob Zimmerman, I finally felt I had to give some feedback with a bit of a different point of view.

Jim - December 20, 2015

Thorsten, I am also a German man and I have to say that you must an extreme leftist (or at least a brainwashed “Gutmensch”), if you are considering Merkel being not a socialist politician. Mr. Zimmerman is completely right. Angela Merkel is a grown and educated communist youth leader (früher FDJ-Funktionärin für Propaganda und Agitation) and with some probability even a former STASI snitch (“IM Erika”).

Merkel has turned the “CDU” party in way to the left that this party cannot be considered as conservative party at present. Merkel’s “CDU” Party cannot divide now from the socialist (“social democratic”) party “SPD” if you are reviewing its political content. It becomes also obviously that Merkel has no problems to build a future government together even with radical leftist as the so called “Greens” if necessary. I hope (as many Germans too) that Mr. Trump (who is able to cooperate with Putin) will be successful, because it is the chance for a better world.

B John - December 21, 2015

I’m a European too, and this maybe shows how very divided Europe is.

I think Bob Zimmerman is one of the greatest commentators on space policy right now. He made an even better show last time David invited him. He’s so often spot on. If you love socialists and hate “the T” whome the free people elects, it is because you have been heavily indoctrinated. You have simply been fooled by the Lords of the government who violently steal most of your money and dictate how you must live your life. You are a fooled socialist slave who no longer have any choice but to subside and obey every order blindly. You as a German, don’t you recognize that state of (inter(national))socialism, haven’t you learned anything at all???

3. Michael J. Listner - December 16, 2015

I’m going to call shenanigans on the ISS being transferred over to private hands. Aside from the overhead, including maintenance, which is huge despite what Mr. Zimmerman claims, there is the issue that not all the modules are owned by the United States. Core modules of the ISS are owned not only by the US, but by Russia as well. Aside from the financial aspect of transferring ownership, there are issues of continuing liability for the modules. Couple that with the political nightmare involved and the likelihood the ISS was never intended to be a profit-generating operation, and you have a recipe for disaster trying to make the ISS private.

4. B John - December 16, 2015

On the question if Blue Origin reused the upper stage on the successful mission, I think the first stage launched and landed without an upper stage.

Jim Davis - December 16, 2015

In regard to Zimmerman’s question about why Neil Armstrong left the military I’m not sure there is much mystery here. Armstrong was in the Naval Reserve and called up to serve in the Korean War. Once the war was over he returned to civilian life. I don’t think he ever had any desire to be a career military man.

In regard to mistakes Zimmerman has made on past shows the most egregious was his assertion a few years back (I think in 2010) that Spaceship Two had (or would have) transcontinental range and waxed triumphant over the superiority of private enterprise accomplishing what the government could not. My respect for him took a serious hit that day.

But Zimmerman remains a “must listen” guest and well deserves his prime Tuesday night slot.

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