Broadcast 403 (Special Edition)

10 Oct 2005 Dr. Mike Gruntman
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Dr. Michael Gruntman, Chair of Astronautics at the Viterbi School Engineering of USC was the special guest for this Space Show program. As author of the superb book, "Blazing the Trail: The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry," we started our discussion with questions pertaining to the history of rockets starting with Asia and moving to Greece and Egypt. We talked about rockets and their development by military's and wars throughout the centuries up to the current period. I asked Dr. Gruntman where we would be in the development of rocketry if we did not have wars and armies. He seemed to think we would be far less developed with rocketry than we are now and that space as a program would be virtually nonexistent. We talked about the rockets of the early 1900's with a range of just a few miles, perhaps up to four miles. We also spoke about the hypothesis that Dr. Teller's pushing for the H-bomb program actually accelerated the development of the Atlas ICBM and narrowed the missile gap. The gap would have been a significant problem had President Truman not listened to Dr. Teller on this issue. We also talked about the Chinese space program, the challenge of going to the Moon and the need for national will and government strength to undertake a lunar mission. Thus, Dr. Gruntman is not sure that private companies can do a lunar mission without government support or partnership. I asked Dr. Gruntman to discuss the rocket equation which he did and he gave us the surprising origin of it which comes from Great Britain. You will find this discussion most interesting. When asked if modern day rockets, engineering, science, etc. could bend the rocket equation or make it more sympathetic to our wanting to get off the planet, he did not think so and said improvements in space access costs would come from systems managements, operations, better materials and construction, and that they might combine to lower launch costs over a long time by a factor of one or two, not the needed ten or more. You will also find his discussion on this subject most interesting and factual. Dr. Gruntman spoke about what it was like being in the old Soviet Union and he described living under a totalitarian regime. I asked him what he thought of the United States given so many people claim that our leadership is totalitarian, we are losing our rights, we have an abusive government, etc. While this topic is outside the framework of The Space Show, Dr. Gruntman did answer it. Listen to the program to hear what he has to say about the realities of life in a totalitarian state and the realities of life in today's United States. Dr. Gruntman's website for his book is so check it out and also his book. If you have questions or comments for him, send him an e-mail at