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Space Policy Edition #8 - A Transition "Trumpdate", 2016 in Review, and Answering Your Questions

U.S. Capitol Building

Air Date: 01/05/2017
Run Time: 1:19:19

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Topics: Space Policy, Planetary Radio

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After an opening update on the presidential transition, Casey, Jason and Mat share their nominees for the biggest space exploration events of 2016. Then they take on fascinating questions submitted by listeners. You’ll also hear the surprising early announcement of NASA’s next Discovery missions.

The US Capitol at dusk

Martin Falbisoner

The US Capitol at dusk

A new episode of Space Policy Edition is posted on the first Friday of each month. Let us know what you think! Comment on this page or write to

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No trivia contest spoilers please!

Bryan See: 01/06/2017 10:57 CST

Mat Kaplan, Casey Dreier, and Jason Callahan, I would like to say that I am thoroughly familiar with the circumstances that led to the failures in the Russian space industry (especially Phobos-Grunt) and believe that Trump's ties to Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, who's a thug, a murderer, a killer, a gangster, and a KGB agent, will lead to a Russia-ruled United States, in which NASA being an American arm of Roscosmos. I hope James Oberg will look into that. Moreover, I am confident that the political regime that Trump created with the help of Russia is a concern and threat to anyone who believes in space exploration, especially in light of Trump's comments about his approach to cybersecurity (“It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old fashioned way because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe. I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe. I have a boy who’s 10 years old, he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”), which suggests a willingness to slow down or roll back technological progress, rather than addressing the problems that inevitably come with innovation, especially space. Also, simply by failing to seriously champion improvements in technology, which these comments suggest is plausible, the American space program is doomed. Elon Musk have warned in his interview with GQ in December 2015. “Most of us instinctively assume that technology relentlessly marches forward, but there have been times before now in human history—after the Egyptians built the Pyramids, for instance, or after the multiple advances of the Roman Empire—when the civilizations that followed could no longer do what had been done before, and perhaps there's a complacency and arrogance in assuming that this won't happen again. There’s a window that could be opened for a long time or a short time where we have an o

Frogamazog: 01/08/2017 09:21 CST

Loved this episode, as all episodes. It's always useful to hear the perspective of the informed wonks. The historical analogies are particularly interesting, though we will have to see how everything plays out. I was glad to hear SpaceX mentioned in your "year in review" segment, but I think you missed the much bigger news: A record of successful "droneship" landings of the stage 1 booster on geosynchonous missions. These missions involve a lot of deltaV, with big payloads going to high orbit, and it wasn't clear after Orbcom that these landings would be successful. However 2016 proved that they could. While the system is by no means flawless, SpaceX now has a number of previously used stages sitting around in hangers waiting to be tuned up and sent back into space. They've even done some static fires on a core out in Texas to prove that they still work. SpaceX has yet to fully flex its reuse muscle (in no small part due to the unfortunate AMOS-6 failure), but this has huge potential impact on NASA and planetary science! If Falcon Heavy is successful, stage 1 reuse is successful, and in particular if the so called "Red Dragon" mission is successful than we may have a dramatic reduction in payload delivery costs to many destinations, most notably Mars. While still pie in the sky, this opens up the possibility for more missions with more instruments and (drum roll) more science! Of course the details of this particular system may limit the set of potential destinations, I think investigators would be wise to begin thinking now about the implications and new possibilities. Forget the Interplanetary Transport System... the near term has plenty to get excited about and may make it possible to weather a reduced budget. It makes me a little bit sad that NASA remains fixated on the SLS. As beautiful and powerful as that rocket may be, the prospect of economically viable reusable rockets may make it obsolete just as it makes its first flights. Thanks for all you do!

sepiae: 01/09/2017 01:20 CST

Congratulations to the 2 selected missions. However, and completely understanding their value, truth be told they're somewhat similar. I believe there are good explanations, including some regarding measures to get not one but two off the ground, so to speak, but I could think of no less than a dozen other aims of at least equal a significance, some of which would also promise to boost more excitement in the public. But despite the good work of this edition I still can't claim to see through the details of decision-making there, and much of my lingering frustration may stem from a desire to have us be quicker in advance.

elias lostrom: 02/02/2017 12:28 CST

Thoroughly enjoyed this episode, I am also very concerned how the near future will affect the space programs. Keep it up

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