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Guest: Dr. Haym Benaroya; Topics: Lunar return, costs, wealth building, challenges, needed technology, national policy and more.
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We welcomed back Dr. Haym Benaroya for a two segment almost two hour discussion about returning to the Moon, challenges, needed technology, making timelines for arrival and more. Note that the break between first and second segments was once again used to read sponsor messages and thank our sponsors. We started our discussion with my asking our guest how he saw our chances for returning to the Moon by either the White House 2024 deadline or by the later arrival timeline of 2028. This started a wide ranging discussion covering most of the first segment regarding lunar return challenges at all levels, what might be needed, and our questioning as to what actual bending metal type work might be going on to get us back to the Moon by these dates. Both Haym and I noted that lots needed to be done to make either timeline into reality.
During this first segment discussion, I commented that I saw more White House lunar return activity with the new Executive Order plus the very recent Artemis Accords just announced for a US sponsored international type of draft agreement for lunar mining than bending metal lunar return development. Haym commented on the NASA robotic lander awards recently announced, plus the new three company study selection for humans getting to the Moon's surface. That said, our guest went through many of the engineering and economic challenges to get back to the Moon and then questioned out loud what work was actually being done to mitigate those challenges, develop systems and hardware needed, and to advance our TRL levels which he said were very low. In fact at one point he identified a few TRL's at a 1.
Much of the first segment was spent detailing what I summarized above. Several listeners sent us emailed about our discussion and some even supported our back of the envelope analysis that we really needed to "get going" if we really wanted to get back to the Moon by 2028 let alone 2024. For example, one listener brought up the infamous Gravity RX needed for humans BLEO per the frequent comments by Dr. Logan, a Space Show guest who has talked about the lack of the gravity RX on most all of his Space Show programs. Helen emailed a question about the chemical makeup of the Moon with oxygen wanting to know if we had the technology to split the molecules to make fuel while on the surface of the Moon. Don't miss what Dr. Benaroya said in response to Helen's question. Marshall called during this segment to suggest that we were repeating the Apollo program with Artemis but that when we did Apollo, we were competing against the Soviet Union. He said we were not competing now so he questioned if we could do Artemis. Marshall and Haym had an excellent discussion on this point, including talking about competing with China, like it or not. Don't miss it.
We started the second segment with a call from Ft. Worth John. H was concerned that Artemis was nothing more than flags and footprints for a modern version of Apollo. john and Haym talked about the need for reusable technology, possibly viable wealth creating lunar businesses and industries and the fact that there must be more wealth at the end than all the costs for developing, going to, and operating lunar projects. John and Haym also talked about the national prestige aspect of returning to the Moon and how that might figure in with possible program delays for budget, politic, or Covid 19 reasons. The probability of cost overruns in the return to the Moon project was assessed as high.
I changed the subject and asked our professor guest about his student interest in the Moon and Mars. Haym said very high but listen to what he had to say. One of his students, Ray, gave us a call so you can hear from a student as to their excitement about returning to the Moon. I took the opportunity to talk with Ray not just about the Moon, space engineering and his interests, but also the Covid 19 problem. He said he was 22 so I asked what he and his peers thought of the virus, risks, shelter at home, all of it. He had very articulate and interesting comment which he shared with us. I was impressed. As this was a spontaneous discussion, Ray clearly showed himself to be a quality young man with a promising future.
Tim from Huntsville called. He asked Haym about the NASA Kilopower project being used for power on the Moon. Haym did not have much to say to Tim as not that much has been finalized with this NASA project that has been featured on several earlier Space Show program. SLS was mentioned in this discussion.
Dr. Benaroya offered concluding comments. Please post your comments/questions on the blog for this show. You can reach our guest through me or his Rutgers University faculty page.