Broadcast 3481 Robert (Bob) Zimmerman

The Space Foundation Conference

24 Mar 2020 Robert Zimmerman
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Guest:  Robert (Bob) Zimmerman;  Topics: space conferences, Mars surface & geology, Covid-19 and space industry, government reaction to Covid-19, SLS, Starship and much more.

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We welcomed Bob Zimmerman back to the show. Originally this was a two segment 2 hour 15 to 20 minute program.  However, while processing the program file for podcasting and the archives, I lost power.  Despite having APC backups, I lost the part of the file that was not saved, approximately the last 30-45 minutes of the program.  My IT person and I tried to recover it but we could not do so.  That said, almost all of the program survived and is now playing as an archived mp3 and for the podcast community.  This summary will mostly pertain to the parts of the program that are archived but I will at least mention what was lost given the notes I take during each interview.  Once again the break between first and second segments focused on sponsors with my reading the sponsor messages which are very important for The Space Show and our sponsors.

Bob started the discussion by telling us that the Lunar and Planetary Science Conf scheduled for March in Houston was cancelled but he decided, based on conference abstracts posted on the event website, to report on what would have been presented each day based on the abstracts.  You can follow along with most of his comments using the event website, www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2020/.  Bob took us through some of the abstracts that caught his attention but said that the discussions scheduled for the last day were the most exciting to him.  He was talking about buried ice or glaciers on Mars.  Don't miss the rather detailed discussion Bob provided with us on this subject.   In addition, Bob talked about other solar system bodies including Mercury, Ceres (the Dawn Mission), and the Moon.  Other early program topics included mention of the virus and SpaceX not shutting down their California plant per the shelter in place order.  He also said ESA had suspended two missions and Ariane Space cancelled launches.  Bob said both Russia and China were doing space business as usual.

Robert from Houston was our first caller.  He was interested in knowing about carbon and water molecules on Mercury and the Jovian moons. Bob said he did not mention that topic relevant to Jovian Moon but they did talk about it relevant to Mercury.  Bob suggested ice was probably more accurate than carbon and water molecules.  Robert talked about extremophiles here on Earth plus they both spoke about Mars, microbial life on Mars though Bob said that from what he could see of evidence of microbial or any life on Earth's surface compared to seeing nothing on the Mars surface, he was skeptical of life on Mars.  Don't miss all of what they said on this topic.  Before ending their conversation, more was said about SpaceX and Starship. 

Marshall called to ask a question about the "virtual" conference Bob spoke about early in the show.  Don't miss Bob's comments made in response to the questions being asked by Marshall.  He also wanted to ask about the 1,000 Caves of Mars.  This prompted a huge response from Bob which you do not want to miss.  The Scientific American article Bob mentioned can be found here:  https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/life-unbounded/the-1000-caves-of-mars.  Bob had been posting about this on his own site, www.behindtheblack.com so he had lots to say about the subject.

We ended the first segment by my reading sponsor messages.  We picked up the second segment with a phone call from Dr. Doug.

Doug primarily called to talk about SpaceX and Starship, possible government shutdowns and Musk not wanting to shut down.  That said, the virus was the initial focus.  Bob continued to say he was appalled by federal and state government over reaction to the virus.  I reminded Bob that Doug was an MD and a specialist in public health so I suggested he let Doug talk on the virus subject.  Doug did share some perspectives with us but since he will be the guest on this subject on April 19,  he moved quickly to his preferred topic, SpaceX.   Starship as compared to SLS was a big topic.  One of the things Doug brought up was what he thought would be a government tipping point to Starship over SLS once Starship was making orbital flights.  Doug and Bob had an excellent discussion on this subject so be sure to hear every word of it.

Ft. Worth John called next to discuss his ongoing analysis of the virus.  He has been reporting to us for several weeks with his virus analysis and putting updates on our various program blogs.  He talked about mortality rates and group stats and more.  At this point, the remainder of the program was lost as my power outage took place as I was about to go into one of my public health policy rants similar to what I did with Robert on the recent Open Lines program. 

Another topic lost due to the power outage was Bob talking about Starship, accidents and eventually people being killed.  He has adopted the Rand Simberg philosophy on this topic in that human spaceflight is and will be risky with loss of life but that should not stop us from going and exploring space.  Bob provided us with his own multi-minute rant on this topic which I am sure many of you have heard before on earlier Zimmerman Space Show programs.  I suggested and asked about a safety example with a question about new cars with all the bells and whistles for safety extras you could buy.  I suggested looking at the accident stats of those cars compared to cars without such equipment provided driver profiles were similar.  For the remainder of the program, John and Bob talked about risk taking as compared to risk aversion.

Bob concluded the program with a brief summary and a look ahead to his July 7th program.  We both wanted to return to the space topic, to leave virus talk behind and to take a look a budget issues for getting to the Moon in light of all the new debt being created to fight Covid 19. 

Please post your comments/questions on the blog for this show. You can reach Bob through me on his own excellent website, www.behindtheblack.com.

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