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Guest: Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston; Topics: Multiple listener phone calls on various topics including commercial space economics, LEO commercial space stations, the Gateway, lunar return, Moonwards, SLS and much more.
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Welcome to our one segment 2 hour 20 minute Open Lines discussion. Note that there were some audio difficulties with our callers using cell phones as well as my system given I had to continue making tech tweaks with my equipment which from time to time took me away from the microphone. I apologize for these audio issues.
Our first caller was Paul Turner who has updated his book, " "The Space Trade" which focuses on how to develop real estate in orbit. Paul has been calling recent Open Lines programs to talk about his economics and my challenges to him regarding how he might implement his plan. Today, Paul talked about computer project costs, what might need to be included to computer the costs, specific assumptions he has been making, markets for commercial space, building out the structure of what he referred to as the spinship which would be the shell of a LEO equatorial orbiting space station that would rent out the interior to businesses much like what is done with a terrestrial business park. We talked about profit making opportunities, risks, opportunity costs and more. Paul will keep us posted and will continue to be transparent with his analysis and project development so we will hear from him again in the near future. In the meantime, if you have comments, suggestions or thoughts to share with him, please post them on our blog as Paul will be watching and will be sure to get them once you post them. Paul's discussion consumed a good part of first half of the program.
Our next call came from Gene in Pasadena. He wanted to talk about the previous discussion with Paul plus his own business experience some 20 years ago. We focuses on the need to accurately determine costs, transportation costing issues, scheduling, and the problems in providing detailed and accurate estimates given the state of the industry today. While agreeing that conditions were more favorable today than at any other time for commercial development, much more factual information and hard numbers were needed to create an accurate costing analysis, market and ROI analysis and related items. In discussing this with Gene, I cited some old talks I gave using costing out with market assumptions for something basic here on Earth, an ice cream shop. We also talked opportunity costs, investor options, and the fact that just because someone has lots of money and loves space does not mean they will throw it away on a space cadet type of business plan.
Terry from Texas was our next call. We talked about the lunar Gateway project, NASA, the coming elections and space as a possible legacy project for the president. Terry was concerned that we were always kicking human spaceflight (HSF) down the road with delays. Even Boeing was faced with redesign issues for its hardware and SpaceX frequently reported delays. Terry was frustrated given his being 73 and I joined in with his frustration.
While waiting for our next call, I spoked about the new film that comes out in my area Thursday, Oct. 11, "First Man." I noted that Michelle Evans was a consultant on the film regarding Armstrong's life at Edwards AFB and that Michelle would be returning to the program on Tuesday, Oct. 16 to discuss the film with me. I will have seen the film prior to the 16th and I look forward to the discussion with Michelle of X-15 fame. If you have a chance, see the film this coming weekend and join us on the show on the 16th.
Our next caller was Kim from Mexico. She mentioned humans to the Moon and new lunar interest. Kim noted five lunar projects underway to go to the Moon so listen up for the five projects. Most were AI & Robotic as HSF to the Moon still lags. We talked about the role AI and robots would play in getting humans to the Moon and Mars. A side discussion came up when I mentioned how one would get to Moonwards and sims and VR were mentioned. I speculated on a similar amusement park ride for the Saturn 5 launch and flight to the Moon. We spent a few minutes on that digression, then Kim mentioned the Gateway, the Chinese space program and the fact that with the Gateway project, Russia might be more interested in working with the Chinese as they don't see a big place and role for them with the Gateway. Kim also mentioned the Airbus project, The New Moon Race (www.themoonrace.org). I hope to have a guest on the show about this project. If any listeners to this program can help out in getting a quality guest with expertise on this project on TSS, please contact me.
Our final call was from SLS John. John argued that the reality was SLS and the Gateway were the only game in town and it was either this or nothing. I ranted that being given the choice of something that was not so desirable or nothing had to stop and we needed a better way of designing and creating policy and projects. If you can suggest better ways of starting out so we don't get stuck with what I referenced as yet another "Sophie's Choice" for space, please post your idea(s) on our blog. John suggested an unlikely alternative which included the cancellation of SLS and sole contracting with SpaceX for the BFR to take over. We also talked about the Gateway Halo orbit limitation and SLS with Orion capabilities. An additional topic that came up near the end of our discussion was the recent announcement of the very large Lockheed lunar lander. Funding issues for future Falcon and BFRs were discussed along with SLS future funding chains.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. If you want to reach any of the callers, let me know and I will put you in touch with them.