Broadcast 3071 Dr. Pascal Lee

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Guest:  Dr. Pascal Lee; Topics:  Mars, why we go, humans to Mars economics, lunar development, lunar water ice, lava tubes, searching for life, US policy, and much more.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See

We welcomed back Dr. Pascal Lee for a comprehensive one segment two hour discussion on Mars including humans to Mars, the role of the Moon in supporting humans to Mars, lunar water ice, lunar lava tubes and much more.  We started the program with Dr. Lee strongly supporting the recent SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch and the Tesla roadster payload.  He talked about inspiration, STEM support and other critical issues that support the national interest.  When asked about planetary protection issues and decontamination for the Tesla payload, he said they were not applicable as the Tesla was not landing on any celestial body. Don't miss all of what he said on this topic.  We then talked about the negative publicity that showed up regarding Musk, SpaceX and the FH launch.  I referenced several of the articles that I had seen.  Listen to how Pascal countered the negativity.  Let us know what you think by posting your comments on the blog.

Pascal talked about why we want to have human missions to Mars.  He said the science was important but it was for national interest and security reasons.  Among those reasons cited, he rated STEM support as very high.  He referenced national issue and STEM support during Apollo as a point of comparison to today.  He also mentioned that China was going to the Moon and maybe others.  He indicated that the US would be compelled to return to the Moon.  He then talked about using the Moon as a stepping stone to learn and prepare for going to Mars.  As for the bottom line, he said we needed to do both, go to the Moon and go on to Mars. 

Specific to Mars, he said there were new discoveries of massive amounts of exposed ice in the high to mid latitudes.  He discussed this ice and what it may mean to human missions in some detail.  He fielded several listener emails and a call from Marshall.  At one point he said we might be able to extract water from the Martian atmosphere but we were not yet able to do that.  Marshall talked to Pascal about using space solar power as opposed to nuclear power.  Pascal explained the type of energy that would be needed and he supported nuclear power for the most part.  Don't miss this discussion.

Pascal was asked about the cost to Mars.  His answer was detailed so pay attention as it included a component for increasing the NASA budget by about $10 billion per year with the balance coming from international partners and their space programs.  He broke the costs down in various ways.  His idea would require about a $30 billion a year NASA budget rather than the nearly $20 billion a year NASA current gets if the FY 2019 NASA budget gets approved.  This was an important part of our discussion so don't miss Pascal's economic analysis and budget/cost plans.  He said it would cost a trillion dollars over 25 years for humans to Mars and a $40 billion/year budget for NASA and others.  Keep in mind that part of the NASA budget goes to other segments and projects and directorates so even if NASA got all the money he said was necessary, it would not all go to Mars.  Still, listen to his plan and let us know your thoughts.  Keep in mind that both Pascal and I see these government expenditures as an investment in our future.  Government spending can either be for an investment or an expense which is a topic I have addressed on many past Space Show programs.  Making an investment has a payoff even for government and the nation.  The trick is that the investment has to be a quality one and properly managed.  All of this may seem challenging in this day and age.

Since we did not take a break, for the second part of the discussion I read an email blog post by Kirk referencing a "European Geomorphology paper which claims that not only does Mariner Valley show signs of glaciation, but that a significant amount of glacial ice (up to one million cubic kilometers!) remains buried under the canyon floor."  Pascal spent some time discussing this matter and then Kirk called in to continue the discussion.  Don't miss what the two of them said about the canyon, ice, and related issues.  This was a very interesting part of our discussion.

BJohn sent in two emails, the first suggesting it would be cheaper to bring water with us given the entry to the market of the FH.  Pascal agreed at least for the short term.  His second email asked if any "Mars analog experiment extracted CO2 out of the atmosphere to manufacture a hundred tons of rocket fuel, as needed for a crewed Mars ascent vehicle."  The simple answer was not as of this time.  Again, don't miss all of what Pascal said in response to BJohn's email

For the balance of the program we turned our attention to the Moon.  Pascal talked about LRO findings, lava tubes, polar water or lunar ice, and related topics.  He referenced his recent SETI paper about lava tubes near the North Pole.  Listener Bill from VA asked about that paper and the rebuttal issued by Dr. Spudis on his blog saying that the site was not near the North Pole and that there were no lava tubes in the area talked about in the SETI paper.  Listen to what Pascal said in response to the Spudis paper which is on his Air and Space blog. Let us know what you think by posting on TSS blog.  Was it a matter of sort of semantics or should there be more to it as indicated by Dr. Spudis.  We want to know your thoughts on the matter.

I asked Pascal to tell us what he meant when he said we had to plan for Mars on the Moon.  Pascal had much to say about using the Moon to go to Mars and listeners asked him several email questions.  Much of what Pascal said referenced searching for life on Mars so don't miss this part of the show. 

Regarding searching for life, as the program was ending we spend time talking about searching underground on Mars for life.  Pascal explained why searching underground was crucial and he suggested what we might find given we find living organisms underground on Earth is scarce and harsh environments.  This was a great discussion to bring us to the close of our program.  As part of our conclusion, we talked about the disconnect with NASA saying they were going to do great things but being underfunded so they can't do what they talk about.  Otherwise, lots of overpromising.  Pascal blamed it on the lack of leadership over the decades and of course I agreed.  We both think the private sector can make a positive difference but we realize we need the public sector and we need space leadership for the public sector.  In concluding his remarks, our guest returned to talking about searching underground for Martian life.  He provided us with details on what that search would look like so don't miss the end of this program.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog.  You can reach Pascal through me or the Mars institute website or his NASA Ames/SETI page.




Mars, water ice, and much more

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27 Feb 2018 Dr. Pascal Lee
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  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • space settlement progress

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  • helix-space the space show sponsor

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