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Guest: Dr. Jeff Foust; Topics: Multiple timely and current events in the private, commercial and public space sectors. Our discussion topics reflected the excitement in today's growing space industry.
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We welcomed back Dr. Jeff Foust for this two segment 96 minute discussion leading off with Jeff reporting on the successful Starhopper demo short flight a few hours earlier. Jeff described the demo test and then we talked about the SpaceX Starship Mark1 which is the next step in the development process for the SpaceX Starship rocket to eventually go to Mars. Dr. Doug sent in an early emailing asking our guest why NASA seemed to be dismissing the accomplishments and successes to date for Starship. Don't miss how Jeff responded to this question.
SLS was next on the hit parade list. After Jeff had brought us current with SLS affairs, Andrea from Spokane sent in a note asking if it was still a bipartisan congressional favorite. Discussing SLS congressional support took us to the return to the Moon topic and recent National Space Council meetings which Dr. Foust reported on for this program. It appears the NSC is still supportive of the Artemis back to the Moon plan and the timeline including the 2024 landing. I then brought up the question of funding and budgets including the additional portion for going to the Moon. This led to budget talks.
Jeff had much to say about Fiscal Year 2020 bills and budgets plus the ongoing lunar costs that have not been determined or looked favorably upon by Congress. This ongoing funding could be in the neighborhood of $30 billion over five years but so far it is an unknown. Jeff suggested that the additional funding for the Moon for FY 2020 would be agreed upon (more or less) but he was not sure about the future years. Don't miss this important discussion. A listener asked Jeff if anyone in government seemed concerned about the rising national debt and ongoing interest rate and economic issues. For sure you want to hear how Jeff answered this listener's question.
Jeff was asked about the new $2 billion prize proposal for a Musk vs. Bezos competition and race to the Moon. Jeff was not optimistic that it would happen but listen carefully to his analysis of the offer. He also talked about why mainstream and traditional aerospace probably would not being supportive of it plus the government may not like it for many reasons including lack of control of the project and outcome. So far Mr. Musk has indicated he would participate but there has been no word yet from Mr. Bezos.
I asked Jeff for his thoughts on The Space Force, China and many of the concerns brought to our attention by our recent guest USAF General Steve Kwast. Jeff had some disagreements with the high intensity concerns about China expressed by the General during our interview and in other interviews, both in his op-ed articles and in media interviews. Let us know what you think about the Chinese issues which focus on electromagnetic advancement, our vulnerabilities with electricity and our grid, the issue of what rules become dominant in space and more. Post on the blog and join our discussion. Jeff mentioned the new Space Command standing up in the next few days plus he explained how it would be different from the old Space Command .
Marshall called to talk about the latest Russian docking glitch with the ISS. Jeff did a good job of explaining it to us. Marshall and Jeff then talked technical talk for a few minutes, then Marshall asked about the Russian robot Fedor on the ISS. This launched a robotics discussion for the ISS, including the US robot that was on the station a few years and will be returning soon. Don't miss our robotic discussion.
In the second segment of our program, we set an agenda that included nuclear bombs suggested by Mr. Musk to terraform Mars, the Mars 2020 project, the ESA-Russian EXOMARS project, the Chinese Mars project plus the UAE and their Martian "Hope" orbiter mission. All of these projects and programs are scheduled for 2020 so Mars will be a very busy place. Jeff spent a few minutes talking about each of the above Mars missions, including the Musk idea of nuking Mars to terraform it.
Ft. Worth John called to talk Starship, the chances of failure or success, SLS, and more. He wanted to know about other factors needed for going to Mars including life support and human factors, wondering where SpaceX was on those items. Jeff did talk about life support, suggesting SpaceX may be contracting most of this work out. Jeff assumed SpaceX was working on these issues but it does not get any press time yet.
Artemis and the Moon by 2024 was broken down into a more detailed discussion. For example, Jeff said the only role of SLS was to fly the astronauts to the Gateway using Orion. Building the Gateway and getting material to lunar orbit was to be handled by the commercial launchers. Here, he talked about ULA, Blue and SpaceX. We then got a call from David in New Jersey who wanted to talk rocket motors starting with the Russian RD180 and the excitement behind the success of SpaceX. He was very enthusiastic about SpaceX succeeding with Starship. Other rocket motor development projects were talked about including the BE4 being built by Blue Origin for the New Glenn plus the ULA Vulcan. The SpaceX Raptor was part of this discussion. Don't miss what David and Jeff had to say about today's large rocket motor development capability.
In the remaining minutes of the program, Jeff went into more details about the planned 2020 Mars missions by the US, ESA, Russia, China, and the UAE. We then switched topics to bring up the issue of planetary protection and the tardigrade incident with SpaceIL, the Arch Foundation here in the U.S., SpaceX and regulatory oversight of payloads. Jeff broke it all down for us in a very clear fashion so make sure you hear his comments on this subject. I suspect we will hear more about the need for private sector oversight regarding payloads and missions in the future.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this page. You can reach Dr. Jeff Foust through me, Space News, or The Space Review.