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Guest: Robert (Bob) Zimmerman; Topics: We discussed a variety of topics starting with the smallsat industry with launchers and ending with comments about the Boeing 737 Max and possible Boeing space impact. See tags for an idea of all topics discussed.
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We welcomed Bob Zimmerman back to the show for our two segment one hour 57 minute wide ranging discussion covering many different space and related topics. As you will hear, this was a classic Bob Zimmerman program with his push for competition, private sector development in the space industries, capitalism, and as he likes to point out, freedom. We started the discussion talking about the success of Rocket Lab with their latest launch. This quickly moved into a discussion about the developing smallsat industry, the numerous small launchers dedicated to serve this industry, plus Bob provided us with a brief status report on several of the better known small launcher companies. He also spoke to the advantages of the new dedicated small launchers as compared to ride shares. Note the advantages and disadvantages that he talked about.
I asked Bob about the Chinese developing small launchers and a small sat industry plus a private industry per comments made the night before by Dr. Greg Autry about many of the components of the Chinese space industry. Bob confirmed what Dr. Autry was talking about but pointed out some solid reasons why he did not think the Chinese could take over this particular market through low pricing and product dumping. Let us know what you think about this subject by posting on our blog.
Our first caller was Marshall. He wanted to know about SLS, why a big rocket was needed and if Falcon 9 of FH could do the job. Bob attempted to explain the argument for a heavy lift rocket but I added to Bob's comments with a focus on human spaceflight. Bob has previously expressed his opinion that he does not believe heavy lift has advantages but myself and many others in the industry don't agree with him. The heavy lift argument is a well known debate topic. Of course for the Gateway, SLS is a different story and that was where Marshall was headed with his SLS and Orion questions.
Marshall's called prompted Bob to start talking about the Gateway which he opposes as do many others including myself. Bob spent a considerable amount of time pointing out why he did not support the Gateway but one argument I had not heard before or thought about was the fact that unlike other big space projects, the Gateway was not the result of elected members of our government voting for the program as was the case with the other projects. Listen to what he said about this and let us know what you think about the matter. Does it make a difference in your thinking about the Gateway? Both Bob and I had other comments about the Gateway as did Marshall. If you are interested in returning to the Moon, the current plans for the Lunar Gateway, then do listen to all of what Bob had to say. We would be interested in your thoughts, especially those of you who like and support the Gateway. Let us know why.
One could not talk about returning to the Moon and the Gateway without talking about SLS. For years Bob has been opposing SLS and he still opposes it. He pointed to a recent article by Eric Berger on returning to the Moon, SLS and the Gateway. If you have not read it, you should do so. You can find the article here: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/05/facing-2024-deadline-nasa-issues-a-report-defending-the-lunar-gateway. Also check out https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/04/cost-politics-and-bureaucracy-may-doom-plan-for-2024-moon-landing. In addition, Bob pointed to his own article on his Behind The Black Site re this subject: https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/essays-and-commentaries/the-battle-over-trumps-moon-effort-exposes-washingtons-power-hungry-bureaucracy.
Another subject addressed by Bob was the lunar return timeline of 2024. I asked Bob if he thought we could do it. He said technically yes but the politics of the day would prevent it. I then asked him to provide a compelling reason(s) for returning to the Moon with people. Bob did provide reasons so listen up to what he said. After hearing his reasons, I suggested if that was his sales approach to the American people for returning t the Moon and spending whatever it costs to do it, that I thought he would have a hard sell. Once again, we would like your ideas on this subject. What are your compelling reasons for going to the Moon. John Hunt from Ft. Worth called to join this discussion. John wanted to talk about Falcon 9 costs, Falcon Heavy possibilities, the Gateway, Orion and more. Bob went through some of the F9 costs figures and he mentioned possible additional players from Blue Origin and maybe even the use of Dream Chaser as a second state.
Linda from Reno asked Bob if he had an updates on the SpaceX Dragon accident. Bob said he had heard that the problem might have been in the test and not with the Dragon capsule. He thought we would have an official cause within a month. Next, we took another call from Marshall to talk Elon and Starship or Super Heavy (he kept referring to the big SpaceX rocket as the BFR).
An email listener as Bob what he knew about the new planetary protection policy given some recent articles about it. Bob had much to say about planetary protection which was not that supportive of it. Listen to all of his narrative and reasons for being skeptical about it (a very mild way of describing his thoughts on planetary protection). The bottom line for Bob was that to him Planetary Protection policies were minor issues if one were to explore space and establish settlement. Here he made a pitch for making sure people had the freedom to settle.
As we were nearing the end of the program, I asked Bob for his opinion on why space seemed to be less and less bipartisan than it was when The Space Show started back in 2001. Bob had much say on this subject, had multiple parties and factions to blame (clearly bipartisan blame) and said both parties were failing us but for different reasons. Bob talked about the partisan divide in the country now and I said to do great things we somehow needed to come together rather than fight with each other and promote hatred for one side or the other. By the way, coming together to me does not mean everyone agrees and rubber stamps the other. To me, it means honest debate, mutual respect, and paying attention to fact not fantasy. I know people can use the same facts and draw different conclusions and that's fine but if the debate is based on lies, contempt for the other, a lack of trust and respect, well, no progress can possibly be made. I believe good policy, including good policy for space, comes from honest and respectful debate and compromise. All parties should be on the same page for doing the best for the nation. I understand that the best for the nation may be subjective but again, it can work as I have suggested. It has worked for decades and decades with our country and personally I would like to see us return to the idea of doing the best for the country rather than self-interests, party interests, etc. For us to return humans to the Moon to stay, to head for Mars, for space settlement, we must find a way to work together rather than fight, divide and hate.
Before the program ended, Penny wanted to know if the US was still buying Soyuz seats. Bob said the potential was there as explained how NASA might get seats allotted to Being. Another listener asked Bob for a Boeing Starliner CST 100 update. The last listener question dealt with Boeing and their 737 MAX problems. The listener wanted to know if the 737 MAX problems and possible liabilities could spill over and adversely impact the part of Boeing dedicated to space projects and hardware. Don't miss Bob's response.
You can reach Bob Zimmerman through his blog, www.behindtheblack.com. I also strongly recommend your reading this blog on a regular basis as Bob covers many topics, not just space. He also has great historical entertainment videos that you will enjoy seeing. Don't forget to post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.