Broadcast 1441 (Special Edition)

10 Oct 2010 Dr. Alan Stern
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Guest: Dr. Alan Stern. Topics: Pluto, Kuiper Belt, New Horizons, commercial space, commercial suborbital research. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, http://thespaceshowoutsidethebox.blogspot.com. We welcomed back Dr. Alan Stern to the program. As Dr. Stern is a noted planetary scientist, we started off with a comprehensive discussions of planet definition issues, including Pluto, the Kuiper Belt, dwarf planets, the New Horizons Mission, the possibility of life someplace in the solar system given the rate of new planet discovery, and much more. As part of this discussion, Dr. Stern got questions from the listeners including one about the asteroid Ceres asking if it should be considered a planet. As you will hear, Dr. Stern does say that as the largest asteroid, it is a dwarf planet. Later he was asked about competition within NASA and the FY 11 proposed NASA budget between the robotic/science side and the human space flight side of NASA. We then took a question from Brian, a middle school student in Toledo, Ohio about the power used in transmitting to and from New Horizons and the speed of light. Dr. Stern had much to say in response to this question about the speed of light. We then transitioned into the year 2011 being the 50th anniversary of human space flight. In this discussion, Alan suggested that progress in human space flight had been disadvantaged by having had a government monopoly in the field but now a type of revolution was taking place. With human spaceflight being a government project, outside the box thinking had not flourished. Terry then called in to ask about the arrival of New Horizons and the impact on science with the Pluto winter. Dr. Stern had lots to say on this so don't miss it. We started the second segment talking again about commercial suborbital research flights. He said the key would be frequent and lower cost flights. During our discussion about commercial suborbital flights, many listeners sent in challenging questions regarding the market for the flights and comparing the cost with available sounding rockets that have more capability than the upcoming commercial suborbital flights will have. Dr. Stern answered these challenging questions given his perspective and understanding of the interest and potential demand for the flights and the cost models that are being used for the developing business plans. After hearing this discussion, post your comments on the blog above to let us know what you think about this developing industry. As we started the third and final segment, Alan told us about the upcoming Next Generation Suborbital Research Conference (NSRC-2011) in Orlando, Fl. Alan received a listener question about how government agencies and organizations might contract for services (flights) with a commercial company given that when they contract with a government agency, its a cashless transfer of funds from one agency to another. As the show ended, we talked about the largest possible market for the commercial suborbital industry which might be the foreign market. Don't miss this discussion. Please post your comments and questions on the above blog URL as Dr. Stern is inundated with email.

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