In the first half, space historian Robert Zimmerman discussed NASA, space technology, and climate research, as well as planets and asteroids. While the US government's manned space program seems stalled at this point, commercial development is picking up some of the slack, he said. NASA in the end will become a customer, subsidizing private companies to build rockets and capsules, he added, noting that Boeing is developing a capsule to get people up into space.
There are places on Mars that seem to recycle methane, and this is a significant discovery because it suggests there could be microbial life producing the effect, he said. The sun may be going through a quiet/dimming phase and this could cause a cooling over the Earth in the next couple of decades. Whether global warming might counteract this trend remains to be determined, Zimmerman noted. He also talked about the necessity for humankind to leave the planet to start colonies. Beyond increasing our chances for survival, "it's just glorious fun and it ennobles us," he commented.
In the latter half of the show, aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin talked about his ideas for space exploration, as well as alternative energy solutions for here on Earth. He shared his proposal for a "transorbital railroad," which doesn't require new technology but is rather a new way of doing business. In this model, the US govt. would regularly schedule space launches of medium and heavy lift vehicles, and extra payloads that could be available for use by entrepreneurs. This would encourage more enterprise by making it cheaper for people to do things in space, he explained.
Zubrin spoke in favor of the Open Fuel Standard Act, which would mandate that all new automobiles offer flex fuel-- a choice between gas or methanol. This would help fence in the price of gas, and also break America's dependence on foreign oil, he suggested.
The space age began on today's date 53 years ago, when the Soviets launched the first man-made satellite into orbit, Sputnik I. Check out this video clip from a documentary about the launch.
Bumper music from Monday October 04, 2010