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Guest: Dr. Ajay Kothari; Topic: Returning to the Moon post Covid 19. Be sure to read Dr. Kothari's Space Review article from May 11, 2020. He has posted a link to this article on the blog plus to other relevant documents. The bottom line for Dr. Kothari was and is that it is essential to return to the surface of the Moon, we are in a fierce competition with China that also involves national security, we must bypass the Gateway and go direct using the FH or a yet to be built other large commercial rocket. He explained the need for returning to the Moon has having two points. The first dealt with US national security. The second dealt with unifying and exciting the public by getting about 1,000 people on the Moon, using lava tubes for settlement and showing what the lunar folks do on live stream to excite the public. This excitement will transfer to a demand from the people to the government for more for more lunar programming despite probable NASA budget constraints given our increasing national debt.
Ajay did spent lots of time during our two part 1 hour 32 minute program explaining his plan and why he believes it will address our national security needs regarding our competition with China in a new type of Cold War, plus the excitement his plan will generate which will bring the country together again as it once did when we had the early space program. Dr. Kothari repeated these themes throughout the program. He was excited just talking with us about his ideas.
As for Lava tubes, Marshall called to compare them with Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I referred both Ajay and Marshall to the program I did with a lava tube expert on Sept. 24, 2019, #3380. Neither Marshall or Ajay could address specific questions about lava tubes but most of what came up in the discussion was discussed in this archived Space Show program. Ajay further described his excitement by saying that live streaming from the Moon the lava tube exploration and discovery work would be so exciting that people all over the world would watch and even maybe pay up to $10 to join the live stream. At one point he said such an exciting live stream from the Moon might reach a billion person audience.
Much was said during the program about the need to bypass Gateway and go direct to the surface of the Moon. Ajay outlined his plan using FH launches and landers. Listen to the part of our discussion where he described his plan though more detail such as payload, number of launches and more. Another first segment topic was Ajay's statement of need for the use of Public Private Partnerships to get to the lunar surface ASAP. He added in Mars and had some things to say about Mars but his primary interest was getting to the Moon first, establishing a working lunar base with eyes toward a Mars visit in the near term.
For the second segment, we led with an email from Ben in Boston who questioned Ajay's plan given Congress continuing with SLS and NASA following the congressional mandate. This started a discussion lasting most of the second segment concerning the need for Ajay to develop a plan of implementation and work toward getting it accepted as policy. Ajay currently has no such plan and as you will hear, asked for ideas, suggestion, and help in getting a plan going with the right people. He said he had try to contact Bridenstine but never got a reply. He had not really reached out to members of congress. The same with the National Space Council. When you hear Ajay talking about this, you will agree he needs help. I pointed out that he was bucking up against a big deal, existing national policy. I advised him to refine his presentation and find a way to make his case before people that could help. He also said if he talked to the congressional committees and explained his ideas regarding national security and excitement with unity, they would agree. I challenged him on that point because I don't agree that he would get that outcome from such a meeting.
Later in the second segment, Ajay advocated for reusable launchers, he again talked about China and national security issues and he repeated his ideas for success of his plan based on excitement with the public. I asked him for a succinct summary when we were at the end of the program and he repeated much of what we had been talking about during the program. I offered a few ideas to him but in my opinion, if he wants to get his ideas in the hands of people that make policy, he needs to refine it, document what he advocates, and meet with people, especially if in person conferences ever return. Otherwise, he needs find other ways and/or paths to put his material, ideas, and refined presentation in the hands of movers and shakers. To do this, Ajay needs some help so I suggested people who like his idea or even parts of it contact him to help him with it.
As for The Space Show, I do agree with part of what Ajay promotes but I am skeptical of excitement or his ability to influence and change existing policy. I do think those making policy will alter policy based on our worsening budget and national debt issues. I believe these issues will probably adversely impact our lunar plans regardless of who might win the November presidential election. In addition, I don't believe it possible or advisable to try to recreate Apollo in 2020 and the coming years. We are a different US today, too much is different from that early period and even back then the excitement did not last. One listener even pointed out to Ajay given the public started losing interest in the Apollo lunar missions. Ajay said that was because the astronauts did the same boring things but his idea to live stream the lava tubes and other lunar resident activities would correct that. I remain skeptical but would like to believe things could be that simple.
Please let us know what you think about the Kothari plan to return to the Moon. Let us know if you have suggestions for him as to how to kickstart his idea. Post all your comments/questions on the blog for this show as I will be sure to get them to Dr. Kothari. You can reach Dr. Kothari through me or his company Astrox which is at www.astrox.com.