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Guest: Dr. Robert Zubrin; topics: Bob's new book, "The Case For Space: How The Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up A Future OF Limitless Possibility, the Gateway, lunar return, Mars, policy, China, Pell Grant funding and more.
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We welcomed back to the show Dr. Robert (Bob) Zubrin for a one segment 1 hour 42 minute passionate, exciting, and comprehensive discussion concerning why space, returning to the Moon and how, funding lunar return and Mars, alternatives to the NASA architecture, hardware, SpaceX, Blue Origin, SLS, Orion, fusion energy, point to point and so very much more. Bob spent time discussing his book which addressed many of the issues and topics we talked about in this program. Bob was classic "Bob Zubrin." At his best! There is no easy way to summarize this discussion so my best advices is to listen carefully, take some notes, buy his book and READ IT and understand the issues involved. Let us know when you agree and disagree with Bob by posting on our blog. We want to hear from you. For this summary, I will touch upon some highlights of our conversation but by no means does this summary replace not listening to what Bob had to say nonstop for 1 hour 42 minutes.
Our discussion started with my question to Bob asking if we really did have a future of limitless possibilities per his book subtitle. Bob went head first into his response and from this point our discussion evolved. Bob quickly pointed out why now was the time due to SpaceX lowering launch costs by orders of magnitude and showing that the impossible could be done given a new way of thinking, something he mentioned frequently during our discussion. Bob went into detail about lowering launch costs, technology development and what to expect form the future, plus why all of this matters. Don't miss what he had to say.
Our discussion evolved into lunar concerns. Bob had much to say about the NASA architecture for the Moon involving the overweight Orion, SLS, and of course the Gateway. We spent lots of time on these matters with Bob providing crystal clear analysis as to why in his opinion w won't be returning to the Moon with the NASA plan and architecture. Let us know if you agree by posting on the blog. Bob also focused on funding the additional $1.6-8 billion for the Moon program and timetable through the use of Pell Grants. Pell Grants are for college education but they have unused money in them as the amount of funding has been decreasing. The Administration says that they can use this excess Pell Grant funding for returning to the Moon. Bob spent lots of time on this, pointing out why he thought it was a horrible and very destructive way to finance the Moon program. He thought it would forever divide space in Congress into a partisan issue, throwing away decades of space being bipartisan. For more information on Pell Grant Moon funding, check out this WAPO article on the subject though if you search for the topic, you will find much more that has been written about it: www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/trump-targets-pell-grant-money-for-nasas-budget-boost/2019/05/13/cbade6e2-75e8-11e9-a7bf-c8a43b84ee31_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.cbdf67f03588. What do you think of using surplus Pell Grant funds for paying for the Moon project? Use our blog to let us know hour opinion.
Several email listeners sent in various notes and comments regarding the Gateway. Bob called the Gateway nothing more than Tollbooth. He penned a good short article on this which you can find at the Mars Society website, "Zubrin Responds To New Pence-NASA Lunar initiative" at http://www.marssociety.org/zubrin-responds-to-new-pence-nasa-lunar-initiative. In discussing the Gateway, Bob presented alternative architecture, vehicle and hardware ideas, plus tentative economics in support of what he was proposing.
Marshall was our fist caller. He inquired about a lander, the Pell Grant funding, other hardware issues, possible SpaceX delays, on orbit fuel issues and more. During Marshall's call, Bob was asked if he had spoken to NASA Administrator Bridenstine regarding his plans. Don't miss what Bob said in response to this question. This conversation led to one involving the development and use of fusion energy for spaceflight. Bob had much to say about this plus he reported that small entrepreneurial companies were making progress which he compared to the huge multi-government ITER project. China came back up and Bob talked about his recent visit there to watch an entrepreneurial Chinese company rocket launch. Don't miss his description of the launch plus his discussion of entrepreneurial Chinese small launcher companies, competition for Rocket Lab and others, plus their goals for the small sat business.
Listeners continued sending in questions for Bob. Susan wanted to know the impact of our failing to return to the Moon on Mars and other parts of our human program. Once again, don't miss what Bob said in response to her question. Bob addressed space vision issues, multiple visions like the one proposed by Jeff Bezos which is different from Bob's vision and other related items. Later he said that "only cultures that choose to go to space will be part of the space fairing culture." He also talked about saying space was full of materials for Earth and in space. He said space was full of only raw materials. It would be human ingenuity that turned the raw materials into materials of value. Bob then address Mars for scientific reasons but was not supportive of it for leaving Earth should Earth be destroyed. He said the science learned from Mars and elsewhere would teach us how to protect and defend Earth so leaving Earth before the incoming hit would not be considered. He had much to say on this topic.
As we were getting close to the end of the show, I asked Bob why all of this was important, especially to a general audience type of person, not a space person. For an answer, we turned to Part II of his book, "Why We Must." Bob addressed this question by writing five chapters: Ch. 9: For the Knowledge; Ch. 10: For the Challenge; Chapter 11: For Our Survival; Chapter 12: For Our Freedom; and Chapter 13: For the Future. He concluded with a chapter on what was needed to realize what he had been writing about over more than 300 pages in his newest book. Bob spent time explaining each of the reasons in some detail. Note what he said about the Freedom reason when he was in China, Russian and in talking to Americans.
Other topics talked about before the program ended was the upcoming Mars Society Conference at USC from Oct. 17-20, 2019. In response to a question, Bob offered suggestions for how to make your views known to members of congress. He also talked about his Aviation Week and Space Technology Op-Ed which is also on his Facebook page. See https://aviationweek.com/space/opinion-nasa-has-chosen-hard-way-reach-mars. There is a shorter version of it on The Mars Society website at http://www.marssociety.org/zubrin-comments-on-new-independent-report-on-humans-mars-mission. This is about NASA doing Mars the hard way. Also see https://spacenews.com/independent-report-concludes-2033-human-mars-mission-is-not-feasible. The main report by the IDA is titled "Evaluation of a Human Mission to Mars by 2033" and can be downloaded at https://www.ida.org/idamedia/Corporate/Files/Publications/STPIPubs/2019/D-10510.pdf. Don’t miss what Bob said about this report.
Near the end, John from Ft. Worth called with questions about the Starship timetable. Bob said he thought was pointing to 2024-25. Bob and John talked about the Falcon rockets and Starship before Bob offered us his program summary for our discussion.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this program. You can reach Dr. Zubrin through me or the Mars Society website.