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Dr. Catharine Conley, Monday, 10-8-12 October 9, 2012

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Dr. Catharine Conley, Monday, 10-8-12


Guest: Dr. Catharine Conley. Topics: NASA & international planetary protection policy, methodology, & applications. You are invited to comment, ask questions, & discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, & any discussion must be relevant & applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We welcomed Dr. Catharine Conley, NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer to the show for a comprehensive discussion on the subject of planetary protection. Planetary Protection is concerned with preventing the transfer of life between planetary bodies. For more information, visit the NASA Planetary Protection website at http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov. Dr. Conley started our discussion with the definition of planetary protection, followed by a brief history dating back to the Apollo missions & planetary quarantine. Dr. Conley talked extensively about microbes & their survival. One of the points she made in response to a question was just how friendly the very cold temperatures of space could be for microbes.  On the other hand, radiation & the UV light are the enemies of microbial survival. We talked about a Mars sample return mission, what safety precautions would be taken, & then our guest was asked about using the ISS or the Moon as a quarantine lab to protect Earth. You will hear why this is not a good idea & later when asked about using a Bigelow habitat as a planetary protection lab since it would not be a government lab, our guest applied the same reasoning. Dr. Conley talked about the Viking missions as the most stringent ever for planetary protection. In terms of the methodology, we talked about how a mission is prepared for planetary protection, the probability of contamination, & I asked about cost-benefit analysis & the value of added costs & more time for planetary protection if the probability of contamination was so low. As you will hear, building in planetary protection starting with the concept stage is not a significant contributor to costs as its usually less than 1% of mission costs. We also talked about protocols for a NEO mission, the New Horizons mission on the way to Pluto, & missions to other planets & flyby missions. Next, our guest addressed issues with Mars Science Lab & Curiosity. Near the end of the first segment, we talked about international protocols, Article 9 of the OST, & the international COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy. Dr. Conley talked about international space agency adherence to the policy, country by country. Viruses & extra-terrestrial life possibilities brought us to the close of this segment.

In our second segment, Dr. Conley talked about the need for public awareness & educational outreach regarding planetary protection. Listeners asked about human flights to Mars, even one way flights.  Don’t miss this discussion. Did you know that it is very likely that humans will be restricted as to where they can go on Mars based on planetary protection policy? Or, by the time we send humans to Mars, we will have learned enough about Mars so that the human part regarding planetary protection will not prove to be much of a threat or risk. We talked about terreforming, what to do with a crew member death on Mars & being able to bury the body, then we talked about planetary protection policy among the NASA centers. Near the end, our guest was asked about the Phobos-Grunt mission & the Russian adherence to planetary protection policies. We inquired about Mars meteorites here on Earth & future missions being worked on with the planetary protection office including two Mars missions & the concept of a Europa mission.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog. If you want to contact Dr. Conley, send your note to me & I will forward it to her.

Dr. Chris Impey, Sunday, 4-15-12 April 15, 2012

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Dr. Chris Impey, Sunday, 4-15-12


Guest:  Dr. Chris Impey.  Topics:  We discuss Dr. Impey’s new book, “How It Began: A time-Traveler’s Guide To The Universe” along with astronomy, physics, and cosmology topics. We also discussed space policy and the future of human spaceflight plus science missions. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  We welcomed Dr. Chris Impey back to the program to discuss his new book.  Remember, if you buy the book from Amazon using the following URL, Amazon makes a contribution to The Space Show/OGLF:  www.amazon.com/How-It-Began-Time-Travelers-Universe/dp/0393080021/ref=onegiantlea20.  For the Kindle version, use www.amazon.com/How-It-Began-Time-Travelers-ebook/dp/B005LW5J30/ref=onegiantlea20.  During the first half of the program, Dr. Impey talked about the book’s structure which is a bit different from other books addressing similar topics.  For example, the further outward in the universe you go via reading the book, the more backward in time you go which is why the book is a time-traveler’s guidebook to the universe.  Dr. Impey explains this to us and the going back in time is with us for the entire Space Show discussion.  Our first stop was our Moon and our guest had much to say about it, including its origins, why and how it orbits Earth at about 240,000 miles, and more.  We also learned what Earth would probably be like without the Moon.  As we went into deeper space after leaving the Moon, we talked about the Kepler Space Telescope (KST) and finding exoplanets plus searching for exomoons.  A listener asked about the delay encountered with supernova 1987A and our guest explained this to us.  I also asked our guest about his statement on page 19 at the bottom about time and Apollo becoming a “distant cultural memory.”  This turned into a lively discussion you don’t want to miss.  We then talked about human spaceflight (HSF) with Dr. Impey suggesting that due to the high cost of HSF and the constant improvements with robotics, we might very well see advanced robotic missions over the coming years rather than human missions which may prove unaffordable.  Don’t miss this conversation, it may very well be an accurate forecast for the future for HSF and robotic missions.

In the second half of our program, we moved out into the universe and talked about the Big Bang, First Light, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  We also talked about large Earth-based telescopes, Hubble, and looking back close to 13 billion years with JWST while the universe is about 13.7 billions years old.  We talked about why one cannot see the origins of the Big Bang with optical telescopes, but what we can “see” with microwaves.  A listener asked about the Cosmological Principle and another asked about human time travel.  This brought up the topic of black holes.  Questions came up about string theory and the Multiverse, and then John called in to discuss both dark energy and dark matter which turned out to be another fascinating discussion led by Dr. Impey.  Later, we went back to discussing HSF and we learned about the potential for nanobot probes for interstellar missions.  Fleets of such probes acting in a sort of relay fashion might just be real someday.  Near the end of the program, Dr. Impey discussed geopolitics as a driver for space exploration and said more about the early time after the Big Bang for the first 100 million years or so.

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