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We welcomed Doug Messier back to the program for a 94 minute discussion starting out with the success of the Perseverance Mars rover landing earlier in the day. Most of the first segment was devoted to Perseverance, the various science experiments plans, the onboard hardware and instruments such as the helicopter, microphones, advanced cameras, MOXIE to make O2 out of the Martian atmosphere plus more. Listen as Doug and callers/emailers discuss the instrument package, the experiments and the search for possible past life on Mars. Also discussed was the landing site, Jezero Crater, plus the actual landing and how the systems worked without a flaw. Before moving to NewSpace & commercial space news, Doug updated us on the UAE mission to Mars as well as the Chinese mission to Mars. As you will hear, Mars is already a very busy place about to get much busier.
Doug talked about the proliferation of SPACS as a way for space companies to go public. He mentioned a few by name, Virgin Galactic, the new BlackSky SPAC with a valuation of $1.5 billion. He mentioned some issues related to this type of investment too but did say that at this time there was a bull investment market going on (no investment advice intended). Doug mentioned several of the players, took a deep dive into Virgin Galactic and suborbital tourism, plus some safety issues facing VG. In fact, Doug posted a recent article on Parabolic Arc about some of the issues while the WAPO wrote a similar article. You can find Doug's article here: http://parabolicarc.com/2021/02/11/virgin-galactics-second-suborbital-flight-nearly-destroyed-ship-and-killed-crew/. FYI, Doug has many more Virgin Galactic articles on his news site for Feb and recent months. To access all of them just type in Virgin Galactic in the website search box.
One listener wanted to know if either Blue Origin or Virgin would actually start commercial tourism flights this year. Doug was not sure, said Blue had been focusing on the B4 engine work in support of the ULA Vulcan rocket system. There were listener emails asking about free space stations or even destinations for tourists. Doug said he was skeptical but listen to all of what he said on the subject. Doug then moved on to talking about SpaceX continuing to put up more Starlinks plus we talked about the early days of service for the Starlink network. If you are using Starline, let us know, give us a call, and tell us what you think of the service.
Artemis and returning to the Moon were big topics on this program. Doug thought we would stay the course with the new administration though time lines might be pushed back some. Doug did mention that the $3-4 billion requested by NASA was gutted to $800 million, driving home the 2028 lunar landing date, if at all. Doug had additional commentary about the return to the Moon deadline so be sure to listen to all of what he had to say.
Listeners brought up the Bloomberg op-ed about cancelling SLS. This was a big topic on the program. In addition, Doug was asked the fate of Orion if SLS got cancelled. Be sure to listen to what Doug and others had to say about possibly ending SLS. Ft. Worth John called on to say if they killed SLS they would be killing Orion at the same time. Doug simply said "probably."
As we were nearing the end of our program, Doug was asked about what we might keep our eyes on. He suggested continuing to watch SpaceX, but also what was going on in Europe, Canada and other areas. He mentioned One Webb coming back into play and starting to carry out launches. He talked about a future planetary mission, DART. This was described as a NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test to demonstrate asteroid deflection by a kinetic impactor. ESA plans a follow up mission to go to the impacted asteroid and check it out. Doug then mentioned the Crew Dragon 2 mission set for April 20 with NASA buying a seat on a Soyuz in case of a SpaceX delay. Before closing, he told us about a new launch pad in NZ for RocketLab plus he mentioned other entrepreneurial and start-up space launch companies. Before closing, Ricky sent in a note from NM asking if 2021 would be the year that suborbital tourism started. To find out what Doug had to say, listen to his summary and concluding comments.
Please post all comments/questions for this on the blog for this program. You can reach Doug through me or through Parabolic Arc.·