Broadcast 1490 (Special Edition)

05 Jan 2011 Elliot H. Pulham
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Guest: Elliot Pulham. Topics: Investing in space, R&D, innovative technology, space policy. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. To learn more about The Space Foundation, www.spacefoundation.org. The op-ed discussed during this program is at http://newsletters.spacefoundation.org/spacewatch/issues/id/41. Mr. Pulham mentioned that we seem to be relying on our 60-70s technical excellence as we move toward the future, rather than continuing to invest in these areas. We talked about the benefits of pushing the technology envelope and the need to continue with R&D & technical investments. Mr. Pulham defined the difference in a government expense as compared to a government investment. Becky inquired about the private sector taking over the R&D efforts for the country. As you will hear, both Elliot and I doubted this because there is little or no profit potential in basic research and as you will hear our guest say, corporations are in business to make a profit. No profit, eventually no company, business, or jobs. In the absence of basic research being profitable, it falls on the government to fund most if not all of this type of technical investment in our future. When we narrowed the discussion to space, Elliot pointed out the high cost for space systems and space exploration making it even harder for private industry to engage in the basic research and infrastructure needs. Various missions were talked about such as Hubble, the James Webb Telescope, Cassini, & Magellan in the context of their not being for profit missions, their huge costs that bleed money off from other programs, and their long term nature which is becoming an increasing problem for Congress and the nation as we do not support long attention spans. Another point Elliot made was the idea of mission creep in that a project today takes a very long time to complete with substantial cost overruns and this threatens not only the survival of the program but other programs as well that need funding. Given that Congress does not fund to do everything but allows NASA to have a full plate, obviously something has to give in this arrangement. The VSE was cited as an example. Dallas phoned in to suggest that we could do a much better of job with the budget that space gets and suggested spending money on how to get to where we are going as well as what we plan on doing when we get there. It was also mentioned that we should focus on what we want out of the private sector. What more can the private sector do to augment the mission and the vision? Late in this one hour, one segment program, we talked about solutions and breaking the cycle of dependence on pork and our reluctance to not reinvest in these needed national wealth building areas. I asked about the educational outreach programs of The Space Foundation as they are very active in walking the talk that Elliot brought to this discussion. Later, Elaine in Tucson sent in a note about the various space stakeholders and our diversity with what we want out of space development/exploration. Political and visionary leadership was discussed. Trent asked about the Chinese space policy and how the U.S. viewed China. Elliot had much to say on this subject. We concluded the discussion with Elliot suggesting we watch three areas for 2011: The upcoming visit to the U.S. of Chinese President Hu Jintao, the organization of the new congress with leadership assignments and then the release of the presidential budget for FY 12 sometime in early February 2011. If you have questions or comments for Elliot Pulham, post them on the blog URL. You can also use the Contact page at the Space Foundation website. Make sure you reference Mr. Pulham and The Space Show: www.spacefoundation.org/about/contactus.php.

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