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Dr. Erik Conway, Monday, 4-13-15 April 14, 2015

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Dr. Erik Conway

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/2452-BWB-2015-04-13.mp3

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Guest:  Dr. Erik Conway.  Topics:  Dr. Conway’s book, “Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars”  & 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 Dr. Erik Conway to the show to discuss his new book, “Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars,” JPL history, engineering, Mars missions, and much more all from the historical perspective.  In the first segment of our 1 hour 28 minute discussion, I asked Dr. Conway how JPL engineers did things that led to major Mars exploration breakthroughs.  He cited the Mars Pathfinder mission as an example and the decision to use airbags for the landing.  Dr. Conway took us through the process, the cost benefit analysis of the decision and the role played by budgets, the engineers, policy makers, and others contributing to the mission.  Our guest provided us with other examples as well from other Mars projects and missions.  Listeners asked our guest about human missions.  Here, Dr. Conway had much to say throughout our discussion focusing on the fact that humans are dirty with bacteria, planetary protection is a priority, and there is zero risk or near zero risk for a human mission.  When asked if the Moon required the same planetary protection policies as Mars, he said no though in the early days of lunar exploration, it did.  I asked our guest about the roles played by policy makers and engineers and this resulted is a very interesting discussion. Don’t miss it.  Listener Barbara in Seattle asked our guest about Curiosity cost overruns and how that would be reported on in history.  This led to a discussion about the impact of management and others on the initial design and budgets.  Later, Dr. Conway was asked why JPL had a focus on Mars in the first place.  Doug called in to ask about the humans vs. robot debate for science.  Don’t miss the response to this question by our guest.  Doug also brought up the issue of finding past or present life on Mars and what that might mean for future  Mars missions.  Dr. Conway agreed that probably all sides in the argument of avoiding Mars to avoid contaminating and disturbing life to the opposite perspective will be arguing the issues for a long time to come.  Dr. Conway addressed commercialization and while supporting reduced launch costs said the cost reduction needed to be magnitudes lower than even the lower costs of today.  Dwayne called and addressed planetary protection, then he turned his attention toward asking about the research opportunities at JPL for outside historical researchers.  Erik explained why these opportunities were limited, partly holding ITAR responsible.

In the second segment, Erik talked about the risk versus return on the costs.  He talked about there being almost zero tolerance for accidents and losses with Mars missions and human missions.  He also said the zero risk tolerance for these missions has been a significant cost driver.  Our guest had much to say on this subject with regards to Mars so don’t miss it as it covered most of the second segment. Later in this segment, Jake inquired about the early JPL history and its founders and their impact on the JPL of today.  Penny wanted to know about the Cal Tech-JPL relationship.  Dwayne sent in an email asking about the Faster, Better, Cheaper programs and what happened with the JPL programs using this approach.  This was an interesting way to wind up the show. As we were ending we learned that Goddard has no historian so their programs are not being recorded or document.  I sked Erik the difference in JPL and the APL.  Note how he explained the difference between the two labs, their risk tolerance, and decision process.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can reach Dr. Conway through JPL or me.

Andy Weir, Monday, 11-10-14 November 11, 2014

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Andy Weir, Monday, 11-10-14

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/2353-BWB-2014-11-10.mp3

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Guest:  Andy Weir.  Topics:  We engaged author Andy Weir in a thorough discussion of his best selling book, “The Martian” along with the essential engineering & needed technology for survival.  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 http://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 best selling author Andy Weir to the program to discuss his book “The Martian.”  For more information, visit his websites, http://www.andyweirauthor.com and http://www.galactanet.com.   During the first segment of our 100 minute show, Andy started out by telling us how he came up with the story idea, & his three years spent in writing the book.  I asked if he used consultants, NASA, or other aerospace experts.  He said no & that most of the feedback and help came through suggestions from people who read the chapters he put up on his website.  Andy also did his own research, math work, physics, and engineering analysis.  He talked about a few errors that were pointed out to him & indicated that the most challenging work were the times and orbits regarding Mars and the missions described in the book. During the show, Andy got lots of email questions and phone calls regarding certain story lines and sections of the book.  He was also asked about life on Mars but that issue was not relevant to his story.  He did get questions about the human waste recycling carried out on Mars & why he chose Mars and not the Moon or another destination.  Sandra asked him about the private space company plans to visit and/or settle Mars given how hard it was for Andy’s character, Watney, to survive.  Andy had very interesting comments on this question including the Elon Musk Mars plans and then Mars One.  Human factors were brought up including radiation, microgravity, vision problems, and more.  Andy did address these issues in the book so listen to his reply to this line of questioning.  As the segment ended, we talked about using Phobos and Deneb for Martian navigation along with Watney’s trek to get to Pathfinder to use its parts for communication.  NASA came up several times in the segment as readers get a pretty good “view” of NASA problem solving, information, data, and PR control, plus amazing creativity.

In the second segment, we had lots of listener emails and phone calls.  Andy was asked what science fiction had influenced him, then he got an interesting email from Andrew in Tucson who had actually worked on the Pathfinder hardware.  Andrew said Andy was spot on accurate!  Dr. Doug called on many topics including using the Hohmann Transfer Orbit which Andy did not use as he designed Hermes, the big spaceship, to work with constant acceleration using ion propulsion.  The Aldrin Cycler was also mentioned.  Listeners mentioned the new movie Interstellar and made some comparisons if they had read “The Martian” and seen the move.  In both segments, we talked about “The Martian” being made into a film for release in a year.  Andy said so far the scriptfollowed the book but he did say he has no editorial input to the movie.  We got a call from Curt in Taiwan who wished there was a PG version of the book given he wants his kids to read it and some of the language is course.  Sara emailed us from Denver asking if Andy had considered making the hero character Watney a woman instead of a man.  Tim was the last caller & he wanted to know if the hard science & engineering would be in the movie.  During this final segment, Andy was asked about how he got to Mars without a transfer orbit.  He suggested we view his animated video on this at http://www.galactanet.com/martian/hermes.mp4.  In addition, he referred us to his Google talk.  You can easily find it by searching for “Andy Weir Google Talk.”

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can reach Andy through his websites or me.