Broadcast 3359 Rand Simberg

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

The Space Foundation Conference

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Guest:  Rand Simberg; Topics:  Payload review, payload authorizations, continual government supervision of space activities, SpaceIL, tardigrades on the Moon, Planetary Protection, OST.

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We welcomed back Rand Simberg for a two segment 93 minute discussion regarding the unauthorized tardigrade payload that crash-landed on the Moon with the SpaceIL lunar lander.  The American company that put the tardigrades on the payload without telling anyone was Arch Mission Foundation.  I suggest you read the articles about this I have posted on the blog for this show, in particular the article by Loren Grush on Verge.  This article in particular does a good job of explaining the arguments and problems which Rand discussed in detail during our 93 minute program.

Rand started the discussion by introducing us to the matter of the unauthorized tardigrade payload on the SpaceIL lunar lander that crashed on the Moon.  After discussing this in-depth, Rand began pointing out the issues given that there was no payload review carried out but as you will hear, ambiguous Outer Space Treaty Article 6 and Article 9 language suggests that there should have been a review and authorization for the payload.  That said, Rand pointed out during the program that there was no harmful contamination and some of the other terms mentioned in the treaty language were not applicable.  Rand spent the entire discussion talking about this and why there is a need to define specific legal terms because as you will hear him say, there are folks that want space only for science.  Rand and others want space to spread humans throughout the solar system.  This appears to be argument, space mostly for science so everyone else is heavily regulated and controlled as to what they can do in space or space for all the purposes we talk about on The Space Show and that Rand articulated during this program. 

We had several callers during the program with most asking questions about the existing regulations, planetary protection, and the legal definition clarifications that Rand was talking about.  Note that Rand did talk about opposing views to what he was promoting, he mentioned several of the space attorneys involved in the discussion and their perspective, plus he referenced the perspective of Dr. Linda Billings as she was referenced and quoted in Loren's Verge article.  In addition to the phone calls, several emails were received seeking clarification and asking questions about the process, the enforcement of regulations, and how to avoid excessive regulation for the emerging commercial space industry. 

In the second segment, we continued along the lines of the first segment but a question came up about space settlements creating their own law thus negating the OST and regulatory issues here on Earth.  Rand said that as long as the settlements were Earth dependent, which he thought would be for a very long time, Earth would control the regulatory and legal environment.  Dr. Doug then called to question what Rand was saying about being independent as Doug had different ideas about that and thought Rand's requirement for being Earth independent was perhaps too strict.  Doug and Rand had a good discussion on this for several minutes.  In the end, Rand told Doug that he was concerned with what was happening now and the immediate future and Doug was talking about things that would not happen for decades or maybe even longer.  They argued back and forth about that but finally Doug got it as to what Rand was saying about near term needs and that he was focused on such needs in this discussion and in his attempt to clarify regulations to mitigate business and other risks and uncertainties.

During the remainder of the second segment Rand continued to discuss the need for clarification with the legal arguments plus listeners kept wanting to know the actual risk of contamination with having the tardigrades encased in amber somewhere on the lunar surface.  In addition, Rand was asked for more information on the multi-lateral agreement (MLA) concept over amending the OST.  Rand had much to say about this.  At one point I suggested that this case, though unplanned, has turned out to be a good test case for clearing up confusing treaty language though others involved in this discussion with Rand suggest leaving the language alone as the vagueness of the language may prove an asset for the private sector in space.

Please post your comments/questions on the blog for this show.  You can reach Rand Simberg through me or his own blog,




Tiny Tardigrades on the Moon and Planetary Protection

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20 Aug 2019 Rand Simberg
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