Broadcast 2983 Dr. Michael Wall

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

The Space Foundation Conference

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Guest:  Dr. Mike Wall;  Space journalism, reporting on space stories, connecting with readers and audiences and much more including a discussion on vipers & Australian snakes.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,   Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See

We welcomed Dr. Mike Wall to the show for this 94 minute one segment discussion.  We started out with my noting Mike’s experience working as a herpetologist and with vipers in the Tucson area. We exchanged some rattlesnake stories and experiences, Mike told us about working with some of very poisonous snakes in Australia, then we turned our attention to space and space journalism matters.

Mike and I started the space part of our discussion by mentioning the search for alien life, exoplanets, interstellar projects, and more.  Mike explained that these were areas of his interest and the he like to focus on them in his journalism.  We talked about some of the projects such as Breakthrough Starshot and being able to travel 20-30% the speed of light.  I also asked Mike about the way stories are picked and influenced by the editor.  We talked about editor choices with topics or subjects like the solar eclipse or the end of the Cassini mission.  He said those were the obvious kind of stories that everyone knows will be covered and reported on.  Doing reporting on lesser known stories or even the unknown is more difficult.  Don’t miss what Mike had to on this subject.

Bob in Denver sent in an email asking if it was hard to connect with a general audience and reach people via space.  He also wanted to know if this was getting easier to do.  Mike had much to say on this subject so you definitely want to hear this mini-discussion.  Mike commented that it was not like the time when we went to the Moon and were developing the early days of Apollo and our space program.  One thing he did say that it is getting easier as there is lots of interest with exoplanets and some of the big name space newsmakers.

Mike and I had an extensive discussion about the search for life off earth. We talked about SETI, the discovery of the exoplanets and what that may mean for finding either past, current, or intelligent life off Earth.  We came back to this topic later in the show, especially toward the end when we started discussing timelines.

Sally in Tacoma sent in a question asking about public private partnerships, more players, more projects, more subsets of activities like private space stations, lunar habs, orbital private space stations, and ore.  Mike was asked if the public was connecting with people like Bigelow, Bezos, Musk, etc.  He said Musk was clearly the most prominent player but was less certain of the prominence of some of the other names and companies once you left the space and tech arenas.  He mentioned that there was an Op-Ed section on for these and other folks to write about their opinions and thoughts.  If you are not already following that part of the website, you should do so as there are some excellent articles posted there. 

I asked Mike what he thought the biggest story was for 2017 so far and if it might get replaced by an even bigger story in the last three months of the year.  He said the total solar eclipse story was by far the biggest story and he doubted anything would top it.  He mentioned other stories and projects but nothing to compare to the eclipse.  Not even the final run by Cassini. 

John T. called in. Unfortunately, John had a bad phone line so he was not on long but he wanted to know if there was new news about Bigelow Aerospace, or possibly updates.  Mike was not aware of any updates but did comment on some of the current Bigelow activities.  We then talked about Axiom, a company wanting to build a private station.  I asked if Bigelow and Axiom were in competition with each other or were they pursuing different types of business activity with a private space station.  Mike commented on possible different markets for private space stations but that field is still developing.

Listener Jack sent in a note asking Dr. Wall if he thought NewSpace was succeeding or was it still in the hopeful or rhetoric stage.  This was an interesting discussion with Mike and me mentioning some specific companies such as Planet.   Mike said we may have to wait an additional 2-3 years to find out about NewSpace success. He said we needed patience.  I followed this question up by asking Mike what he saw for space tourism given we are still not seeing commercial suborbital tourism.  I asked him if the industry was passing over this potential sector given all the delays and missed timelines.  Despite the lack of progress so to speak, Mike thought it would happen but it might be hard to pick the winners at this time. 

Student Bob in the Los Angeles area asked Mike for the best path to become a space journalist.  He wanted to know if one should go to journalism school, become an aerospace engineer or scientist.  Mike had some very interesting suggestions for Bob so I urge you to listen to what he said. Share this information with families and people you know that may want to pursue a space news and reporting career or any type of reporting or writing career.  A listener asked an interesting question regarding why we never hear about journalists being selected to be part of a space settlement crew.  This proved to also be a fun conversation, especially when I asked Mike if he would want to go and live on a space settlement to be the journalist reporting back to Earth from the settlement. 

Wanda wanted to know what Mike thought discovery of ET life might mean on our culture.  Wanda included discovering intelligent life in her question.  Mike did respond in detail to her question. He discussed finding past life, current molecular life, and intelligent life.  See if you agree with what he said would happen with the discovery of each level of life.  Post your comment about this on the blog. 

Near the end of the show, I asked Mike for his thoughts on the theme of the Starship Congress which was “Space is for Everyone.”  I told him what I thought it meant, then Mike suggested another meaning and how he understood it.  Don’t miss what he said about it.  This led me to asking him if he was watching the new sci-fi comedy parody of Star Trek on Fox, “Oroville.”  I mentioned the recent episode where the captain and first officer were kidnapped to be the humans in a zoo collection elsewhere in the galaxy  I brought this new show up based on some of the comments Mike said in his answer about the Congress theme.

As we were nearing the end of the show, I asked Mike for his thoughts on time lines for getting humans to the Moon, humans to Mars, for the reality of Breakthrough Starshot.  Michael had interesting comments to say about each of these but after talking about Starshot, he said if we got to 20-30% of the speed of light, it would be a “galvanizing moment” for humans.  Don’t miss this time line discussion. 

The final set of questions deal with reporting on the mundane, taking things for granting, and if our guest felt he had to be aware of and work hard to convey interest and passion to the reader.  Mike had much to say in response to this question so don’t miss it.  You may be surprised by some of what he shared with us. 

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog.  You can reach Dr. Mike Wall through me or




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18 Sep 2017 Dr. Michael Wall
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