Broadcast 3100 Dr. Alan Stern

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Guest:  Dr. Alan Stern;  Topics:  New Horizons and Alan's new book, "Chasing New Horizons: Inside The Epic First Mission To Pluto," spacecraft design and power issues, rocket trades & more.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,   Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See   

We welcomed Dr. Alan Stern back to the program for this two segment 89 minute discussion about Pluto, the New Horizons history and mission, Pluto discoveries, Kuiper Belt discoveries, spacecraft issues and much much more.  We started our discussion with Dr. Stern telling about the total history of New Horizons including the genesis of the idea to go to Pluto years before there was ever an actual NASA mission in the planning and development stage.  We spent a good part of the first segment going over the New Horizons history and the actual mission plus discoveries so far.  Some of the topics mentioned included the speed of New Horizons as it few by Pluto and why it could not be slowed down.  Our guest talked about power requirements, rockets, the lack of drag and the did come comparisons with the Dawn Mission which was an orbital mission for Ceres.  He explained the different requirements and cost issues for an orbital mission compared to a flyby mission.  Also mentioned was just how complex Pluto was turning out to be along with issues relevant to Pluto and the Earth-Moon system. 

Marshall called to talk about redefining a planet, Pluto being demoted from being a planet and the need to explore for other targets in the Kuiper Belt.  Don't miss what Alan talked about regarding each of Marshall's concerns including the potential discovery of new planets in the solar system.

Todd in San Diego asked about getting more missions on the books, suggesting that the answer involved more than just lowering the cost of space access.  Don't miss what Alan said in reply to Todd as this was a topic he had considered many times before.  Listener Alice asked Dr. Stern how Pluto was created.  I then asked our guest if the Pluto photo on the cover had been altered by NASA or was the photo representative of what Pluto would like had we been a passenger aboard New Horizons passing by the planet.  Don't miss what our guest said in response to all of the above.  In addition, we took another pass at explaining the differences with an orbiter and flyby mission.  Before the break, a listener asked about adding more nuclear power to the mission for it to last longer.  Alan responded in Part 2 of our discussion.

In the second segment, we took a call from Terry who talked about other targets in the Kuiper Belt and then he brought up following the mission health with updates through tone.  This opened the door for Alan to talk about Beacon Tones.  This was an important discussion so don't miss it.  Alan then went back and told us the New Horizons story about not having enough nuclear material for a full mission let alone an extended mission.  He talked about the half-life and RTG but also the DOE having some problems and not giving New Horizons a full load for the mission.  Don't miss this story which is also in the book.  Before leaving the power topic, Donna in Portland wanted to know about the use of solar for the mission.  Don't miss all of what Alan said but for the most part, solar was not desirable at Saturn and beyond.  For the outer planets, nuclear is preferred with an RTG.

Toward the end of the program Dr. Stern talked extensively about the New Horizon budget and costs plus the new planetary mission financial model based on New Horizons.  This conversation was followed by a note from Montreal by Burton asking about the use of a magnetometer aboard New Horizons.  Alan explained that the instrument was not on the mission, citing the budget model discussed. 

Tim called to ask about SLS and Falcon Heavy and how the mission might have changed were one of those larger rockets used for the launch.  Alan explained the pros and cons of using the larger rockets.  Let us know what you think by posting your comments on our blog.  Paul emailed us asking about the spacecraft manufacturing process, the secrets of durability, and why our terrestrial products are not made as well.  Alan had much to say in response to Paul do don't miss it.  Our final call was from John in Freemont who also asked about additional Kuiper Belt targets suggesting that there was a need to find new targets.  Alan concluded the program talking about the availability of his book, how to get an autographed copy, and his upcoming national book tour where you can meet both Dr. Grinspoon and Alan.  He concluded by sharing some of his future plans with us plus the missions he continues to work on that are still operating.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.  You can reach Dr. Stern through me or his book website,  You can also find out about his national book tour at this site.




Chasing New Horizons

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15 Apr 2018 Dr. Alan Stern
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