Broadcast 1198 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

28 Jul 2009 Rand Simberg
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Guest: Rand Simberg: Topics: Evoloterra, Low cost space access, propellant depots, NASA, commercial space, heavy lift rockets. Rand Simberg returned to The Space Show to discuss both the 40th anniversary of Apollo and his Evoloterra ceremony as well as his article in The New Atlantis, "A Space Program for the Rest of Us" You can read his article at Starting with honoring the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 in Segment 1, Rand told us about the ceremony that he and his associates wrote years ago, Evoloterra. You can download the ceremony and use it by visiting I suggest you do go to this site, download it, and use it with your family and friends. I believe Evoloterra is an exceptional way to honor our leaving Earth's gravity field and going to the Moon. Let us know what you think, OK? Our discussion then moved to Rand's article per above as we discussed the importance of low cost space access and the idea that NASA should buy transportation services from the private sector, not make rockets themselves. In addition, any space transportation system would require gas stations or for space, propellant depots. Rand does a very good job of explaining this on the show but also in his paper. To become space fairing, we do need a commercial space economy and this involves affordable transportation and this requires propellant depots. Rand also talked about the options being considered by the Augustine Panel including two of the five options that focus on the use of propellant depots. He said our space transportation system needs to be scalable as space commerce grows. Toward the end of the first segment Rand put forth the idea that we do not need heavy lift vehicles and why focusing on a heavy lift vehicle track prevents affordable space access. In Segment 2, we continued talking about propellant depots, Rand fielded questions about the use of suborbital vehicles as a plus for eventually lowering the cost of space access, and NASA as a jobs program. Rand talked about the influence of Sens. Shelby and Nelson in maintaining jobs for NASA and their respective NASA centers over programs that might be better for NASA or the country. Rand was very hard hitting, factual, and blunt in his discussion of these topics. In response to listener questions, it was clear that Rand did not think Marshall could develop launch systems and their track record supported his conclusion. He thought EELVs were a better approach than Ares 1 as they already exist, do not need billions of new development money and can be upgraded for human spaceflight, saving NASA and the taxpayer lots of development money. But he also said NASA did not care about any of this including low cost space access. An overriding theme in all of the segments for today's show that was that space was simply not important to the general population and until it became important and relevant in our lives, nothing would really change within NASA or our civil space programs. He did suggest that maybe an incoming asteroid might make space relevant to the population and eventually force changes or a different set of priorities on NASA. In Segment 3, listeners commented on the incoming asteroid idea and here Rand suggested that NASA and the government would not likely be competent in dealing with such a threat. He suggested we might need a separate new agency to deal with such a threat. This is only one of many discussions you will want to hear regarding this interview with Rand Simberg. Another listener commented on NASA bashing during the show, primarily on the human spaceflight side of NASA. Rand did admit that most of what was being discussed was on the human spaceflight side but he did suggest that if NASA science was compared to science across the board by the National Science Foundation (NSF), it was not a certainty that NASA science would favorably compare to what the NSF accomplishes. You don't want to miss this discussion or this analysis and comparison. In this final Segment 3, we returned to the need for propellant depots, for NASA to start using commercial suppliers and in fact, even international suppliers to fully open up competition. This of course would require ITAR reform which was mentioned as essential. Toward the end of the program, Rand was asked if other national space agencies are following a path to commercial development such as the use of propellant depots, etc, or if they were more or less following the NASA approach to space. He said the latter was true but you will want to hear his full reply to this question. He also talked about the difficulty and challenges in changing the way NASA does business and in moving the status quo. When asked for the best way to move forward, he said the new, developing commercial space companies were changing the model and making space access relevant and he suggested that effort would continue to grow and in time these companies would make space relevant to the people. Another relevant article written by Rand that you should read was "The Path Not Taken." Rand wrote this in 2005 and you can find it at You can read his blog, Transterrestrial Musings at If you want to send your comments or questions to Rand, please use



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