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Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Friday, 8-24-12 August 24, 2012

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Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Friday, 8-24-12


Guest:  Dr. Farouk El-Baz.  Topics:  Apollo lunar landing site selection, lunar geology, Mars-desert analogs and more.  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. Farouk El-Baz to The Space Show.  Please visit his website for lots more information on the topics we discussed, lots of great pictures, plus many additional important topics, www.faroudelbaz.com. We started our discussion with Dr. El-Baz having a Star Trek shuttle craft named in his honor. Its a great story you will enjoy hearing. From Star Trek, we got down to business and wanted to know about the Apollo lunar landing site selection process. Dr. El-Baz told us how they did it, especially given the absence of any real information about the lunar geology and surface.  Three of the concerns he mentioned included the site being free of rocks, absolutely flat, and making sure the Lunar Lander would not sink in the lunar dust.  What’s more, Dr. El-Baz was 29 years old when he was in charge of doing this.  As you will hear, age is an important part of this discussion in the second segment near the end of the program.  I did ask Dr. El-Baz about selecting sites using Egyptian mythology as conspiracy theories suggest, plus his response to those who do not believe we ever went to the Moon. With the latter point, he had much to say about Moon rocks as proof of our lunar visits.  His comments on Orion and mythology were very interesting.  Another question asked him dealt with the shutting down of the program.  NASA risk averseness was the top reason.  Nels asked many questions about a possible Apollo polar orbit and lunar ice.  Our guest had much to say about this, the sun angles needed for landing, lighting, and more.  As we moved to lunar commerce, our guest talked about mining titanium and HE3 but not at this time.  I asked Dr. El-Baz about the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight (ASTF) and working with the Soviets, then we returned to the plausibility of lunar commerce at this time.

As we started the second segment, we talked about commercial ROI opportunities for cargo to the ISS by the private companies but he suggested everything else was more distant and would probably need testing & seeding by the government.  I then asked him about his work studying deserts and using Earth deserts as analogs for studying Mars.  Dr. El-Baz had much to say about deserts, Mars, about their formation by rivers that had dried up & were buried under sand and how they know that.  We talked about Earth movement, especially the SaharaDesert, and the impact of natural geological events on climate change.  Imaging satellites were discussed & I asked our guest if we would have been able to have today’s knowledge were it not for the space program.  Don’t miss his fascinating answer.  At another point in our discussion, Dr. El-Baz mentioned 126 separate university research projects during Apollo.  The last listener question asked our guest about the extremely young age of the Apollo scientific & work force.  Dr. El-Baz had much to say about this, said that the work could only have been done by people in their 20’s and 30’s.  He said the older folks need to step aside and let the young people go forward, make the mistakes & solve the problems.  In the end, age made a huge difference for the good of the Apollo program.  Our guest also commented on our present day aging space & technology workforce.

Please post your comments/questions on the blog.  If you want to email Dr. El-Baz, send your note to me & I will forward it to him.

Michael Ciannilli, Leonard David, Tuesday, 7-17-12 July 17, 2012

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Michael Ciannilli, Leonard David, Tuesday, 7-17-12


Lessons Learned from the Columbia accident & NASA’s human spaceflight experience

Guests:  Michael Ciannilli, Leonard David.  Topics:  Columbia lessons learned & human spaceflight safety issues.  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 Michael Ciannilli of NASA to the program to discuss lessons learned from the Columbia accident & NASA’s history of human spaceflight. Leonard David of Space.com returned as a co-host for this program.  Our nearly two hour no break discussion started with Michael providing us with an historical overview of the Columbia accident.  We talked about the debris retrieval process & the fact that about 38% of Columbia was retrieved.  Michael was asked about surprises & among the many he mentioned, one in particular dealt with the tile & thermal impact showing burning on the inside & how that was a clue to what happened to Columbia.  Michael then listed several lessons learned.  When I asked if he could prioritize the items he mentioned, he said they were all important.  We talked about the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), return to flight, incorporating lessons learned, & more.  Leonard asked about the idea of NASA HSF safety excesses & we asked Michael if lessons learned & HSF safety issues were shared with both the private sector companies & the Russians.  I asked Michael about educational outreach & he had some interesting things to say about the international internet audience as well as the local audience.  The subject of urban legends came up in the outreach discussion & we honed in on the idea of the possibility of a rescue mission.  You do not want to miss this important discussion.  Other issues discussed included the foam problem, Leonard asked about the “bone matrix” he saw in use at the CAIB hearings, & I mentioned the need to really know & understand the hardware given our recent intimate visit with Endeavour.  Cultural issues were a part of this discussion, including the risk of workforce lulls & the need to avoid complacency.  Michael cited tile issues as an example going back to STS 1 and studying all missions to really understand tile concerns.  One email dealt with NASA risk aversion & some space enthusiasts saying that to open the space frontier we need to “kill more people.”  Michael addressed these issues, going over the NASA mission & imperatives, their responsibilities, and the risks of all sorts of consequences coming to life.  We talked about individual worker responsibility and accountability with Michael giving us both NASA and personal insights into this subject.  We then talked about the balancing act required in weighing the risk trades of cutting costs, cutting corners, taking more risks, taking less risks, etc.  He suggested private companies will go through a similar process and talked about the consequences of decisions which can be devastating with the loss of a crew to the termination of a program or the loss of the company.  Michael explained the Criticality One status and what it means in the risk analysis process.  Another listener asked if shuttles still had life left in them at the time of retirement. The short answer was yes but don’t miss what Michael has to say about the condition of space shuttle fleet at the time of retirement.  Another issue discussed dealt with trying to find a lower cost way of operating shuttle and dealing with all their infrastructure without compromising safety.  Near the end of the program, we took a Southern California call asking about potentially different standards for government astronauts and private-sector astronauts.  I was asked to lead off with my opinion which I did from a business liability perspective, then Michael and Leonard discussed the subject. We had lots to say about informed consent, litigation, & the uncertainties inherent when involved in a jury trial.  As we were winding down the program, Michael provided us with his closing comments, then I added in my own comments that focused on the sports inspirational speaker, Ray Lewis, linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, who gives a terrific inspirational speech to teams around the country, “Pissed Off For Greatness.”  You can find lots of information about this by using Google for his name or the speech title.  Essentially, this is about not accepting mediocrity in what you do & I extrapolated it to space.  HSF workers, regardless of being with NASA or any company as well as others involved in the space field cannot accept mediocrity.  Being pissed off for greatness implies that if you are not pissed off for greatness, then you willing to settle for being mediocre in what you do.  Michael, Leonard and I talked about this at the end of the program.  I hope you will concur with me that extrapolating this inspirational sports talk to space fits.  Michael closed us out by saying it takes courage to stand up and say something if you believe something is off or not right in the program.  He further said it takes a lot to challenge the bureaucracy and stand up but that we all have to do it when the situation arises.

Please post your comments and questions on The Space Show blog URL above.  If you want to email Michael or Leonard, do so through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com and I will forward it to the person of your choice.