Broadcast 791 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

16 Jul 2007 Donald A. Beattie
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Donald A. Beattie, author of the Apogee book, "ISScapades: The Crippling of America's Space Program," was the guest for this Space Show program. Given Mr. Beattie's vast NASA, NSF, and related government experience, we discussed in depth decision making, budget and funding, and policy with regards to government programs, specifically those relating to the ISS and our space program. I strongly recommend your reading his book as well as listening to this show as our discussion is heavy on solid information based on being there, being part of the process, and having the experience to reach and draw useful conclusions that can help us do better in the future. Listeners asked many questions about the ISS development, including issues surrounding the delays, budget process and cost overruns, management issues, and the frequent change of leadership at the top of NASA. We talked about the position of the administrator being political and what that means for large program management and continuity. As a result of other listener questions, we also talked about oversight with Congress, the OMB, and other possible parties. Our discussion led us to issues about returning to the Moon and going to Mars. We talked about gravity issues and radiation, plus other human factors. Don talked about using the ISS for human factors learning and experimentation among other things, and he talked about important failed program in this respect such as the Japanese plan and effort to have a centrifuge on Station. Don made it clear that he was not in favor of returning to the Moon. You will certainly want to hear his detailed discussion on this issue. A glimpse of why he believes this has to do with competing priorities and needs for federal dollars and the fact that we have learned most of the science that can be learned from the Moon. He cites a previous American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) study which stated that most science that could be learned from the Moon was learned, that it was not cost effective to be there, and that NASA even shut down the systems that were on the Moon from our previous visits because the information being received was not justifying the cost of keeping these transmitting systems turned on. As you will hear, he does not think it will be productive to develop lunar resources or other frequently mentioned possible commercial ventures. We then talked about human Mars missions from a similar perspective and other possible human missions that he recommends. We also talked about the robotics and their value. Listeners called in to take issue with his belief about returning to the Moon so again, this is a must listen to discussion. Don cited a recently published article in Space Times published by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) stating that we do not now have the technology and capability to put humans on Mars and what would be involved in trying to develop this capability. Also included in this comprehensive discussion was the international aspect of our space program, the ISS, and the VSE, including specifics about the 15 partner ISS program, plus a discussion of private sector potential in space and the fact that doing things in space is hard and costly and will likely remain that way forever. Doing things with people in space will be even more costly and complex. Listeners are welcome to send their comments and questions to Donald Beattie through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com. As soon as I receive them from you, I will forward them to Don.

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