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Guest: Dr. Haym Benaroya; Topics: The government's lunar return plan for humans on the Moon, The Gateway, delays and challenges, human safety and health risks, Starship, commercial companies and a human lunar return, China lunar plans and much more.
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We welcomed Dr. Benaroya back to the program to discuss our efforts to return humans to the Moon. With new and challenging information on NASA's budget issues, schedule delays, technology challenges including the Gateway and SLS, there has been reason for concern. Note the substantive article on this subject by Eric Berger of Ars Technica that Dr. Benaroya reference early in his comments: "We got a leaked look at NASA’s future Moon missions—and likely delays" (https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/06/we-got-a-leaked-look-at-nasas-future-moon-missions-and-likely-delays). For this discussion, our guest referenced what Eric Berger reported in the article plus he added his own commentary and expertise to the issues at hand. Overall, Dr. Benaroya was in agreement with Eric and was very concerned about the reality of our getting back to the Moon with humans anytime soon. Going forward, our guest spent most of his time with us responding to listener questions and calls about the Gateway, SLS, SpaceX and Starship, the proposed lunar South Pole landing place which Haym did not like and thought it was not a safe choice. He did elaborate on this so don't miss why he was not in favor of the selected landing place. At one point during the early part of the discussion, Haym suggested that NASA might even have or reach the mission exhaustion point.
Delays with technology development factored into his analysis. The delay in the lunar spacesuit development was a serious issue. Another issue that came up was protecting the lunar environment and landing site from rocket engine blast on landing and takeoff. This is a serious concern given the plausible spread of regolith fairly far given the 1/6 gravity of the moon. Knowing the toxicity and challenges brought about by the low lunar gravity and rocket motor exhaust, protecting the habitat and landing site from the blast is important but appears to be lacking in its development pace. In addition, Haym was not pleased with an initial landing at the south pole. Listen to his explanation. Post your comments on this on our blog. At one point in the discussion, Haym referenced well known Notre Dame professor Dr. Clive Neal who has suggested timelines for the program are so long that they have become meaningless. Dr. Neal has been a Space Show guest both in 2010 and more recently in late 2021.
Listeners asked our guest about China and their lunar program. For the most part, listeners wanted to know if Haym thought we were in a critical race back to the Moon with China. Haym thought so but suggested our leaders were not fully on board with that idea - yet. Once again, listen to all of what our guest had to say on this topic, then let us know your thoughts by posting them on our blog for this show. Additional topics came up including nuclear reactors on the lunar surface, Starship killing the SLS program once and for all but what about Orion, and the different set of rules used by China than western countries. Fremont John inquired about lunar habitat construction.
As we neared the end of the program, I switched our topics to what was happening in our economy, both in general and in the commercial space side of things. Haym was concerned, suggested a slowdown of capital flows and spending at best but maybe worse in terms of a shakeup or bubble bursting in more or less the NewSpace portion of commercial space. Don't miss all of what Haym had to say about the economy, inflation, commercial space, and the challenges it probably presents for returning humans to the Moon.
Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach our guest through me or his faculty page at Rutgers University in the Mechanical Engineering Department.