Broadcast 1387 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

01 Jul 2010 Robert Block
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Guest: Bobby Block. Topics: space journalism, space policy news, Florida Space Coast. We welcomed Bobby Block, Space Editor for the Orlando Sentinel to the show. We started our first segment which was one hour by asking Bobby about his transition to space journalism from his previous journalistic assignments at the Wall Street Journal, as a foreign correspondent, even covering various global hot spots. You will find his transition story interesting. Bobby offered us his opinion on Florida space policy and politics and some of the positions being articulated by Senator Nelson in the state. He spent considerable time describing the state of the current situation regarding space policy, NASA, the government, Florida, etc. One word he used was "messy." He did say two things were certain: Payments to Russia for flights on the Soyuz and the Cots program. We talked about the Space Coast job layoff situation and asked the hard to answer question about the balance between space as a jobs program and space for the best space program the nation can have. We talked about new technology and job creation, not just in space. Toward the end of this particular discussion I asked if the commercial sector could create a sufficient number of new jobs to compensate for the jobs being lost. You might be surprised by his response. Toward the end of this segment, a caller asked about the Orlando Sentinel reporting on the 2009 article about a preliminary 45th Space Wing AF study showing that the crew of Orion "will not survive" an explosion of the Ares I rocket within the first minute of launch because blazing chunks of solid-rocket fuel would melt the parachutes on the crew-escape system (http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2009/08/nasa-b...). This was an important discussion, not just in terms of Orion and Ares 1 crew safety and abort, but in terms of Air Force reports and the reporting carried out by the Orlando Sentinel. You can read the controversial report at http://www.scribd.com/doc/17465006/USAF-Report-Ares-I-Abort-Will-Kill-Or.... I urge you to seek out the counter arguments to the engineering and physics of this report. Several Space Show programs have even addressed problems with this report. As we started the second segment, a caller discussed sustainability and the challenges to anything new represented by those supporting the status quo. During this segment, a listener suggested that the space program new policy had the mark of Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator. Bobby commented on that assumption and refuted it by calling our attention to the new U.S. Space Policy released earlier this week with a significant focus on national security and DOD. Listen to his full explanation. Another listener addressed the loss of a skill set of needed employees that would impact our ability to go to deep space. Bobby reminded us that civil space was not a national security program, its part of the discretionary budget, and its treated as such. A listener from Italy asked about NASA stories leaked to the press. Bobby said this was natural across all branches and activities of the government. In summarizing his comments, Mr. Block said the new space policy had some good points in it but portions of it were not good politics. Civil space was not a defense program. He did not know what the outcome would be for FY 11 due to the confusion and mess in the debate. He said in the background, the arguments are solids versus liquids and there is no leadership to pull any idea or school of thought together. If we have a year of fighting and CR, the risk is the NASA budget might be reduced and human spaceflight might be deferred or undermined for years to come. If you have a question or comment for Bobby Block, you can reach him at RBlock@orlandosentinel.com. His blog, The Write Stuff, can be found at http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff.

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