Planetary Radio • Sep 18, 2019

How to Build a Starship: The 2019 Starship Congress

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On This Episode

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David Brin

Science Fiction Author, Futurist, Astrophysicist, and Planetary Society Advisory Council member

20190918 john hunter

John Hunter

Chief Technical Officer for Green Launch

20190918 christoph lahtz icarus interstellar starship congress 2017

Christoph Lahtz

Biochemist and Icarus Interstellar board member

20190918 michael laine

Michael Laine

President for Liftport Group

20190918 daniel sheehan

Daniel Sheehan

Professor of Physics for University of San Diego

20190918 andreas tziolas

Andreas Tziolas

Co-founder and President for Icarus Interstellar

Bruce betts portrait hq library

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

Kaplan mat headshot 0114a print

Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

The biannual Starship Congress attracts starry-eyed believers in humankind’s destiny among the stars. We talk with several of them about their ideas for technologies and science that may help pave the way. Science fiction author David Brin dropped by the Congress and spends a few fun and speculative minutes with us. The September Equinox edition of The Planetary Report is ready for all to read. Editor Emily Lakdawalla gives us a sneak peek. The Milky Way has at least 54 satellite galaxies? Who knew? Bruce Betts, that’s who.

Starship Congress 2019 poster
Starship Congress 2019 poster
David Brin at the 2019 Starship Congress
David Brin at the 2019 Starship Congress

This week's question:

Name your three favorite Milky Way satellite galaxies. There’s no single correct answer.

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, September 25th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's challenge:

Create and share with us your “third-order” acronym that is related to space. A third-order acronym is an acronym containing an acronym that contains an acronym. Your acronym can be deadly serious or make us laugh!


The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the September 4 space trivia contest:

Name the last three Venus orbiters.


The three most recent Venus orbiters are Magellan, Venus Express, and Akatsuki.


NOTE: This automated transcript is currently being edited by a human. Check back soon for updates.

[00:00:00] How to build a Starship this week on planetary radio.

welcome. I'm at Kaplan of the planetary Society with more of the Human Adventure across our solar system and Way Beyond, I don't want to oversell our theme today the attendees and presenters at the Starship Congress. Aren't building a Starship, but they like to and building one starts with a lot of ideas that may seem just as wild at the outset will hear several and we'll wrap up our coverage of the congress with the great science fiction author and futurist David.

We'll start with the planetary societies senior editor and Editor in Chief of its magazine. Emily locked Walla Emily congrats on yet another great issue of the planetary report the paper copy tin my hands as we speak, but of course it's available online as well to everybody whether they are members of [00:01:00] the planetary Society are not at planetary dot-org.

It's a great issue. There's so much here. There's there's no way we're going to be able to cover. All of it. I will say that beginning with the cover. You have a nice celebration of light sail not surprising and and very welcome and there's some great stuff inside including a nice message from our boss.

The Science Guy. I'll also note there's a little tiny sidebar here about International podcast day, which has the logo of my favorite. Planetary radio but what are your favorites out of this issue? Well, this magazine gives me the opportunity to talk to scientists and engineers and get them to actually write for me about the missions that they're working on other projects that they're working on and in this particular issue of the magazine.

I managed to rectify an absence from the planetary report for a long time and that is an absence of. We have a great article about Venus science from Javier Peralta [00:02:00] summarizing what we've learned from to Fantastic missions European space agency's Venus Express and Japan's akasaki. Both of them investigating Venus's atmosphere and I learned so much editing this article about how many different layers there are two Venus's atmosphere and clouds and and how they all communicate with each other or in some cases not akatsuki's still they're doing science, and I'm just so pleased that we have this great article.

Penis. And we're going to have a Javier Peralta the author of this piece on the show fairly soon. He's been out of town. We're just waiting for him to come back so that we can record a conversation speaking of those layers of atmosphere. It's another great thing that you find in these features in the planetary report.

There's a great graphic that that very graphically shows these layers. It's pretty but it's also very instructive. Yeah. That's another thing. I really like about ending this magazine is I can make graphics that I will use. Later, and and I've never you know, I've thought a lot before about Venus's atmosphere.

I know it's thick. I [00:03:00] know they're sulfuric acid clouds, but I didn't realize how high above the surface those clouds are that there's three different Cloud layers, you know, we can send spacecraft down that could just get underneath the lowermost cloud layer and would be able to see the surface with cameras.

We should fly behind around there and balloons. Yeah, we sure should there's a lot of other good stuff here in that article and then it goes right onto one about planetary defense with aw. Vishnu ready who has already been interviewed for planetary radio and we'll be hearing from him in a week or two right here.

Yeah. I love doing articles like this where we can get updates on what's going on on topics that are of great importance to the planetary Society because it helps, you know helps me understand how to talk about an issue like planetary defense with the public in this article it explains that we've actually discovered probably discovered the asteroids that could potentially cause civilization ending disaster.

The good news is there's no asteroid currently known that could cause civilization ending [00:04:00] disaster. So the search is moved on now to what they call the city killer asteroids the ones that you know, the would ruin your whole day if they landed on New York now, it's likely because Earth is mostly empty and it's mostly ocean that an asteroid of that size would impact in a place where it may not cause any major problem to humans unless it cause like a tidal wave or something but.

It's still it's great to get an update on this find out how we're looking for them find out where we need to put our efforts in order to find them hazards. Like the ones that come from the direction. We can't see like coming out of the sun which is why we need future spacecraft like Neo Kim that could orbit between Earth and the Sun and be able to see those potentially hazardous asteroids.

It's just a real great update and visnu's a great writer and he's a great guest on planetary radio as well as people will hear very soon. If you don't mind, I want you to comment on this last feature on the inside back cover of the magazine called why I explore and it has this nice little essay by our Chief [00:05:00] Operating Officer Jennifer Vaughn.

It's important to me as an editor of this magazine to reflect the fact that although you know space is about the places we explore in the spacecraft that we explore it with ultimately it's a human endeavor. And so I really wanted to get a bunch of different voices on why we. Or it's it's one of the more common questions I get asked when I do radio interviews, like why is it worth it?

You know why spend money on space missions when we have so many problems to solve here on Earth and I started out with our CEO Jennifer Vaughn and she has her own perspective and I really look forward to exploring the diverse perspectives of other planetary Society members from. All over the world from all different walks of life to see why different people want to explore space and that will I think really helped inform us as the planetary Society in the kinds of activities that we do in the future besides.

It's inspiring you have a link here that tells people how they can get in on this. Yes, that link is [00:06:00] planetary dot org slash why explore and we really do invite people to come explain to us why they think it's important to explore the solar system. It is a terrific issue of the planetary report again, it's available at planetary dot-org keep it up will do Matt.

That's Emily locked while our senior editor and also now the editor and chief of the planetary. Rather than start by telling you about the Starship Congress. Let's hear from just one of the many presenters who spoke at the mid-september Gathering Dungeon Hunter. I'm with green launch. I'm your CTO and we've been doing tests at Yuma Proving Grounds last couple years.

We've been successful the last shot to wipe the 22nd shot. We got really good data. We're Mach 5 and then we hope to get to Mach 8 in the spring of 2020. We hope to start shots to the Karman line. And this is a great illustration of how this conference even though we're talking Interstellar is also talking about enabling Technologies, which are going to be short of getting us to the [00:07:00] to the stars.

That seems to be in part what you represent right now. We want to take one baby step at a time before you get to you know warp drive. You got to get into low orbit affordably and I think that's consistent with what elon's been doing. So we want to be the other horse in the race with a good old Eli.

If it'll kill the guy he's going to be he's going to bring the cost down to 500 a pound. Give me the briefest version of the sort of elevator speech version of your technology, which is working. Yeah, certainly. Our technology is something had been overlooked but it is too rapid expansion of hydrogen down a tube Turner had not a hydrogen explosion.

No combustion. Not at all. It's not even combustion in this case. You just get hot hydrogen you heat it up because it increases the Sound Speed and you let it expand out and just push a pro Jo down the barrel this pro pro Jo or projectile is basically a multi stage. But it's a much smaller rocket than you would need if he'll on was doing this from the ground with no first stage.

So our giant launcher the screen launch thing is our first stage. It delivers six [00:08:00] kilometers per second pretty fast extremely fast. Yeah mind-numbing the fast the shot you guys saw was about a mile per second. And so we're going to be about you know, several times that when we get to the six kilometer per second speed.

Where are you doing this work? And how far along is. Yeah, we're ypg. It's an army base. Not too far from Human represent the Yuma Proving Ground. Mehra's Ona. Ya Yuma Proving Grounds about 30 miles north east of Yuma Arizona. The Army has been extremely accommodating we get in there with this one building that used to be an electromagnetic gun building but selectively edited guns fell by the wayside.

They were that they were the flavor of the month the last 20 years, but they've never delivered the goods in my opinion. It's all the gas guns took all the records in the 90s when I built super hard for my team build super. We Crush their records and it was done for a few million dollars. We just wanted to get results.

So we just got massive data. We're launching scramjets at Mach 9 back in the late 90s with gas guns. Yes guns. Absolutely in the world record for Speed [00:09:00] by far was set with it with a gas gun in the 60s. What's the ultimate it talk about what you're hoping to be able to deliver stuff in orbit. This is just and what price?

Yeah, this is just something that we recognize long ago. Is it the the speed of these hydrogen system is matches orbital speeds orbital speeds are seven eight nine kilometers per second. Then schools kind of things, you know, 7.6 is orbital velocity, but the actual velocity to get to orbit is about nine.

Typically, that's right in the sweet spot for hydrogen gas guys. So we call them impulse launchers in their green because there's no emissions. You can actually make one that has no gunpowder if you hate CO2 your love our system because we don't emit any CO2. You got to give give your. I did the having to do with FedEx.

Oh, well, we're just in time delivery. We're basically just in time, so, I don't know if it's any sexier than that, but the idea is we launched 10 pounds 20 pounds. Maybe you need o-negative blood on the space station. You got to have it tomorrow. You can't wait for the next Russian resupply mission two months [00:10:00] later.

We launched it up you get the order to us launched up within 10 hours best of luck with it. Hey, great. Thanks. Thanks a lot for the interview. That's John Hunter. We've got links to Green launch and all the other presenters are groups. You'll hear from on this week's show page get there from planetary dot org slash radio.

The 2019 Starship Congress came to my hometown of San Diego and set up shop at the terrific Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. The organizers were the men and women behind Icarus Interstellar a nonprofit that works toward making Interstellar flight a reality. The relatively small turnout was offset by The Passion of the participants many of whom are experts in fields ranging from propulsion to biochemistry.

I couldn't be there all three days with the presentations. I heard were generally. I'll share several more conversations with you beginning with the guy in charge. My name is Andreas Zola's. I'm the president [00:11:00] of Icarus Interstellar one of the co-founders. I'm a physicist and my background I have a master's degree in the spacecraft.

I worked at NASA JPL for a couple of years one Pathfinder Mission to Mars and the Galileo Mission support when the Huygens probe was dropped into the atmosphere and I now live in Alaska. I'm a grandson a list. I used to be a professor at the University there. How long has this been going on? And why do you bring people together for this Starship Congress started in 2013 as.

Continuation of the DARPA 2011 Symposium and Florida, which was a hundred year Starship at the time. We thought that that kind of meeting of interstellar luminaries people who brought out ideas with something that was needed. We've continued it every two years. And then this year you have this interesting theme bending metal.

It's and it's I haven't seen anybody putting together a Starship [00:12:00] out there. I get to tell you the story. I always came from myself and Richard A Boosie went to NASA headquarters to meet with some Nayak folks back in 2012. I think since we were there they decided to start walking us around the corridors and we walked into I wish I remember his name, but he was a he was a project manager was working with one of our colleagues.

And as soon as we sat down he looked me and Richard a bush in the eye and he says I know what you guys are doing. But my question is when are you going to bend metal and then was born a theme and then was born a theme. He blew me out of the water. That was a note a note in my life with that was an affirmation that that that Not only was the things that occurs Interstellar we're doing were important at least to us, but they were important to others that people at Nasa HQ were want monitoring our work.

And the people really wanted to see it happen. So, you know, it was a challenge and he was really blunt and he and you know, he explained. This is what you need to do to find your missing parameters [00:13:00] build a team come until now. So what you're doing we may not be able to help you today, but maybe but we'll definitely be able to help you tomorrow.

And that's the kind of things that we really needed to help to keep going. What a great conversation what great encouragement to here at NASA headquarters. There has been a lot of what should we say virtual bending of metal a lot? Interesting practical stuff and sometimes less practical stuff.

We're going to hear from some of those people you seem to be able to entertain pretty much anything. We do have to be a little careful how I respond to this question, but I want to be I want to be clear in dicker's interstellar and Interstellar flight tends to borrow ideas from the scientific literature.

From novels from because that's where the concepts were born. And sometimes we have to work back from those things and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. You know with the you know, we see David Brin that just spoke to us today. He's as much a scientist is is an author, you know, well respected and well formed ideas, but we had to set some tenants as an organization of what it is [00:14:00] exactly that we do and there's two three things that we followed strictly the number one.

Our number 110 is that there is no one way to the Stars. People tend to get entrenched in one way or another so someone that you know, perhaps some people that have worked on light sales, you know planetary Society had amazing success, you know will say we have to only use light sales is the only way to go to explore the solar system another person who's who's in who's worked on nuclear rockets and it's not as phds is so believes this so much they'll say no no, no, it's got to be nuclear Rockets other people will say.

Hey, look chemical propulsion works just fine. It's scalable. We know how to do it if we could do it right now. Why you trying to come up with a fictitious stuff, but the purpose is not just to achieve Interstellar flight it's too it's to learn along the way of the process. So whenever I get the opportunity I make sure that I point out that what we call a Starship is both a is both a term of art as much as it [00:15:00] is a factual object.

So the effort towards achieving. My Starship is the education the know how the cultural changes that we would go through those are just as important as actually actually building it even if we don't actually get to the point where we build the Starship but we were capable of doing something like that the benefits to humanity in the benefits dearth and just in education would are worth the goal because in some sense that is the grandest achievement of any civilization to be able to proliferate.

Throughout the last two days. We've heard Lots about these Technologies and approaches and new science that do have at least potential benefits. For those of us who stay here on Earth and never venture out to Proxima Centauri before we finish though, you've got to say a word or two about your own presentation from a few hours ago today.

Which you call the minimally viable Starship you had several approaches to that and several answers [00:16:00] but one of them involve a format a form of spacecraft, which is pretty near and dear to us at the planetary Society a cubesats. Yes. It has a funny story. It was just before the first Starship Congress.

So we're working on we're doing a huge crunch of some modeling that we had done for The Icarus spacecraft. I was like bullying and we should say Icarus is the the spacecraft this Starship design right that that is the The Icarus is the name of the the flagship design which is a successor to project Daedalus.

So we have Heritage in the British interplanetary Society. But Icarus Interstellar is The Descendant descended he has a descendant of mythological descendant and the ideological. So I made a mistake, you know, like I want to kind of make a long story short to get to the Joker a little faster. I made a mistake.

I forgot like a couple of orders of magnitude. My payload was a few kilograms instead of a few thousand kilograms and I figured I'm getting such good performance. Like what did I do in my code? [00:17:00] You know, this is a probably not true. But what did I do? And then I realized that this that the the size of my spacecraft was about five kilograms instead of 50,000.

I laughed it off, you know, everyone laughed it off and then I thought well that's about the mass of a cube said and probably a few hours later. I was emailing people saying we need to do a cubesat and interesting to keep said study and see what a cubesat what the best performance of a cubesat is.

What are we going to call it? Well, it's got to be small. Let's put it in an Altoids tin. Let's see if we can fit it because initially we were thinking about a cubesat. So instead of Altoids tin, the people were calling it 10/10 and then we did win some it through certain iterations 10 1/10 2/10 3/10 for and then it ended up at 10:10.

And then no one like 10:10 and everyone started calling it 10/10 by the comic books. So project Tintin was born and it's an Interstellar cubesat, which actually uses the pre-chorus has the Icarus spacecraft secondary propulsion. And uses actually a modified light sail as a [00:18:00] reflector territory of reflectors for dinner Communications.

I was happy to see that in your animation that you shared with us. So that was fun. It's really kind of cool to see other spacecrafts arrived at very similar design choices and a Vindication and I just an affirmation I guess is the word that that we're on the right track that we're doing really good work.

We've actually reached. Reached an idea logical conclusion to a almost ten year Arc where almost all of the projects have reached their their endpoint. They've delivered their final reports and we know we know very very well what we don't know. It's fun. We're going from Research into development.

It's we're really looking forward to what the next steps are. It's an inspiring Mission and I want to thank you for inviting me to be here yesterday to talk about are like sail to which we find inspiring and we hope others do too but keep dreaming and keep bending metal. Thank you so much. And we found that we found your mission absolutely inspiring and we're actually.

[00:19:00] You know members and we appreciate we appreciate the work of our community. Hey, if you remember is your part of it. Thanks Andreas. Thank you very much. Matt. Andreas is president of Icarus Interstellar. In addition to the formal presentations, there were a handful of exhibits one caught my eye because it featured living creatures.

My name is Krista Flats. I have a mass and biochemistry and a PhD in cancer epigenetics and currently I work in biotech company developing and inventing Cancer drugs. I'm here right now and The Echoes Interstellar conference as a director. I'm a member of the board and. I'm more interested in those are biological problems in general for Interstellar flight those biological challenges are I'm gonna go out and not very far in a limb and say they are as big as any other challenge like propulsion.

Yes, we have from you have some background radiation problem speaking of propulsion. We are under this Dome at [00:20:00] the Air and Space Museum in San Diego and the Jets are going to be flying over periodically. Yes radiation is a big problem. But also the microgravity when when we cannot build a spaceship what has artificial microgravity their recycling within the spaceship will be a problem.

We need to be a hundred percent because we cannot get some nutrients from somewhere. So we need to take it with us and we need to recycle and the food production is also a big issue on this Interstellar flights. I don't know if you've read the. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, and he basically wrote the book to say Interstellar flight at least in a so-called generational Starship, you know one that might take a hundred years or 200 or 500 years to get someplace.

The challenges are enormous and some of the biggest are. Ecological yes. There's a question what we wanted what kind of Starship We want to build the most [00:21:00] likely is a Generation Starship the best option but then we need a certain amount of people several thousand people to have seen gene pool in a right size to do not degenerate over time on the on the journey.

Let me ask you about because you brought some Critters along they're not exactly extremophiles because here we are in a nice shirtsleeve environment, but but. Are these here I brought these to illustrate how different life can be so we have here one that is 3 of cancer reformers that is a there's a shrimp like horseshoe shrimp like looking creature and it didn't change since the dinosaurs its shape.

So it's a living for side but more interesting is actually that the eggs would it's laying in the ground can survive several decades under the next rain comes and they hatch and so this guy he hasn't changed much means some of his best. We're trying to bites. No, no trying to bite. I think the whole the whole strain of trilobite totally [00:22:00] died out.

There are not know living ancestors of child abuse anymore. But but but but he did he goes back to their era, right? Not not that far but he was he was he was living while the dinosaurs once ruled the world. So 65 million years ago. Yeah my mistake and he's here to represent in a sense how. Well, it was as Jeff Goldblum said that great line in the original Jurassic Park life finds a way.

Yes life can be very resistant and can enter all corners of all ecosystems actually. So and this this little this little guy lives basically in temporary water, So we have feared what can dried out for four decades and then it rains and you have a puddle and then the eggs hatch and it's there and then laying eggs again and for the next generation and you've got some other stuff here, I mean you brought along some Mars simulant regular simply simulant.

Yeah. This is Alpha version of a product [00:23:00] I think about to launch and with my soon-to-be company what I want to found it's basically a kid for kids where they. Simulated Mars regulus in different ways so they can put that in water and they can put that on soil and they have a different outcome of an animal on organism but shows them they are different ways life can emerge out of the same sample.

Of course that is not real Mass sample, and I don't claim that. I tried to raise these guys as a kid. I bought them out of a comic book brine shrimp. Yes, Brian Shams are actually a kind of real extremophiles because it can live in a very very high salt water. Sensations adopters 35% what is basically the highest amount of salt what can dissolved in water so they are they are very very very resistant against said and can live in these saltwater.

We are learning more and more that there are these extreme environments where. Not long [00:24:00] ago most biologists would have thought that can't possibly be anything living there and yet there is yes as actually a very interesting bacteria. I come from the biochemistry field and we used to autoclave our staff to be to be steroid and at that goes up to 121 degrees Celsius to be to be stare at some time ago.

They Foundation bacteria what survives actually this autoclave process and they call that strain. And these extremophiles have also a very very huge potential for biotechnology. Let me switch back to your interest in all of this as well. Just but also, you know, you have this other career looking for cancer cures.

It sounds like but why then. This interest that has brought you here to the Starship Congress. Yeah, that's that's a long story that goes supposed. I was always interested in to space also interested in to into biology. That is my [00:25:00] that's my day career what but I always circled back to space and then I tried to combine that yeah, and then I try to try to combine both Korea's and then also Balaji Emergen this it's really really interesting field and biochemistry kind of.

Goes into this because biochemistry tries to Solve the Riddle how life emerged and what is life exactly fits together. Yeah our boss Bill Nye the Science Guy. He was one of those who likes to talk about the two big questions. Where do we come from? And are we alone and this seems to fit into all of that?

Yes. Yeah. I love Ben I of course and I think the big question is really. In numbers game because just because of the vast number of planets. There is no question. There's somewhere life in the universe and question is if we can find it and yesterday in my in my talk. I talked about Europa and Enceladus is very good candidates [00:26:00] for for life under this ice sheet.

I would love to be alive when they find something outside of our planet then wish the Europa Clipper Mission luck because it could happen. Maybe not too far off. Maybe we'll both still be around. Yeah. Yeah, I really hope so. Yeah, I don't have just one more question. Where did you come from to get here to San Diego?

Actually, I live in San Diego, but originally I come from Germany and I started my postdoc in 2010. Thank you Christophe. Thanks very much for the samples here that your Critters and for helping to bring off the Starship Congress. Thank you very much. Biochemist and Icarus Interstellar board member Christoph lat.

Perhaps the most out their proposal presented at the Starship Congress was one that is apparently backed by experimental evidence as you're about to hear. I'm Daniel Sheehan and professor of physics at the University of San Diego. So he didn't have to travel too far to get here today and we are in one of the [00:27:00] exhibit areas here.

Fantastic Air and Space Museum beautiful campus by the way. I've been there several times absence. I'm a local as well. I wasn't the only one who is utterly fascinated and captivated by your presentation yesterday. Let's start with a bit of what I think you would call Dogma. Nobody. Nobody gets to violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Well, that's sort of true you realize that there's a lot of classical physicists who are now sitting up in their in their graves. Well, that's that's fine. I mean laws serve their purpose but there are very few laws of nature that haven't been updated over the years the second law dates back to the mid 19th century was developed for steam engines.

And that's that's a hundred fifty years ago hundred seventy years ago now, And things are changed you have quantum mechanics. You have General special relativity Chaos Theory so many new discoveries. It would be surprising if such a laws of Second Law would actually survive all of. [00:28:00] No doubt the audience for this program planetary radio knows all the laws of thermodynamics.

But just in case can you give just the 30 second elevator speech definition of the second law and where we're all going to end up if it's true sure. The second law says the entropy or disorder of the universe never decreases and tends to increase and we're all going to die. That's good. That's a good elevator speech a little depressing but.

Why is there now this possibility that this law which has stood the test of time for over a hundred years that that it's being questioned and with experimental evidence? Well, I think it's simply because we've moved far enough into our paradigm. That the Paradigm is becoming crystalline and kind of hardened and when Akron and windows Paradigm reaches its end point what really stands out are the exceptions and so over the last 25 years poking around the edges.

We found a number of exceptions to the second law. And so I think it's [00:29:00] run its course. It's time for it to break and be considered a very good principle rule of thumb but not. I don't know if it's possible to do this because you did it at length and with good slides yesterday, but what's an example of some experimental evidence that may indicate that the second law is not really a lot.

Oh, okay. Well the experiments that were done at the University of San Diego about five years ago. I'm were able to show that you can create two surfaces in a closed cavity where everything should have the same temperature these two different Metals in the presence of a particular gas come to two very different temperatures and stay that way that is a formal violation of the second law.

And with this kind of temperature differential you could in principle run a heat engine forever. And pull energy out of this surroundings and create electricity or something else. So experiments now indicate that the table has been set for a breakdown so you could basically just recycle that heat energy almost endlessly.

Basically. Yes. Yeah, he would [00:30:00] become recyclable, which it isn't right. Now. I mean the universe or our surroundings have tremendous amounts of native thermal energy. And if you could actually straighten it out and organize it which is what violating the second law would amount to you would have access to virtually unlimited amounts of energy in our environment and it would be inexhaustible because you can recycle.

I'm going to come to Starships in a moment. But are we talking about the possibility there for of let's say perpetual motion or at least an endless energy source. Well, yes. I mean, I mean the the typical kind of derogatory remark made against Second Law violators, is that the perpetual motion machine is that is that as if that's sort of some sort of magic incantation that drives you away?

Well, it doesn't drive me away. The second law is just another law which means that it should be tested on a regular basis with the most modern technology and techniques and the evidence now indicates that it's breakable ITIL. Why here why the Starship Congress? [00:31:00] Is there an application for getting humans across the cosmos?

Well why the Starship Congress is because people at this conference think big and like I said, they're anti dogmatists, they don't necessarily kowtow to dogma and I thought I'd find a receptive audience, but in terms of it's. Utility for Starships, one of the major problems with Starships is or Starship technology is to find an energy source that will last maybe a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years as you go from one star to another but it turns out that if you can recycle heat or thermal energy in the environment, you're carrying all the energy you ever need just in the air and water that you take a board.

You never have to bring any extra fuels along. So it reduces the weight of your Starship and makes it much easier to travel. And you demonstrated how as we've heard before I think on this show chemical Rockets fission-fusion even matter antimatter. Probably not going to cut it. Well, they have their downsize.

I wouldn't say they can't work. But if you can find a way to efficiently turn heat into work, it would just [00:32:00] obviate them and make them unnecessary and. So what's the next step we where is your research? Whereas other research around the world going? Well, there are a number of researchers around the world and our group at the University.

We're working on several Avenues which we discussed in the talk EPI catalysis and super degeneracy. And so I'm running roughly. I'm running three laboratory experiments right now to at the University and one in conjunction with a local company. Have you got some stuff online that will be able to share with listeners if they want to learn more?

Well, there are I guess there are other talks that I've given I'm at various conferences my published all of my work to make sure it's not lost. So if you want to find a you. Usually go to the University of San Diego website look me up at the you know, University librarian download a good number of my articles.

All right, we'll provide some links to some of this work that is underway the work that you've done at USD fascinating stuff. Keep bucking the system. Well, thank you very much physicist Daniel Sheehan of the University of San Diego. [00:33:00] There's a reason we don't often talk about space elevators on planetary radio.

The reason is that no one has yet figured out how to create one that could stretch from Earth's surface too far out in space. But what if you didn't build it on Earth? Hi, I'm Michael and I'm the president of lick Port group. You want to build a space elevator, but not down here under all this are up on the moon.

Yeah, yeah exactly. I was a part of the original NASA Institute for advanced concepts research team on the earth elevator many years ago almost 20 years ago and overtime my interest has kind of shifted to the moon and and it shifted because it's much easier to build the lunar elevator than the Earth.

So I know the guys that I SEC international space elevator Consortium. I love them all. Yep. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, and I what I say to them when I go if they ask come back I want to [00:34:00] talk to you when you have a hundred kilometer long tether that can support 10 tons or whatever. Of course, they're working on it.

And you know, it's almost a cliché carbon nanotubes, right but in your material on your website and we'll put a link up on this week's show page. You say you're not dealing with carbon nanotubes because you don't need them. Right exactly. The nanotubes are required for an earth-based elevator for sure.

I don't think anybody really argues that the lunar elevator though is really pretty different the environments completely different. The gravity is 16. We don't have pesky atmosphere which means we don't have wind and so our requirements are much easier and what that means is that there's now.

Depends on who you ask there's either 11 12 or 13 candidate materials that are all already strong enough. None of them are perfect and Engineering speak we call it. They're not Goldilocks are not just right. They are all mass-produced. They all [00:35:00] have the ability to be the core strength of this elevator.

Now, some of them don't handle you ultraviolet radiation very well. Some of them don't handle other kinds of radiation. Probably it's going to be a composite where you've got a thick, you know, a middle layer and then a thin extra layer but the string the string exists. The string is doable technology.

And the rest of it. I mean is that easier Imagining the elevator itself that's going to crawl up and down this thing. It really is again because of the atmosphere it's going to cost less money. The original Earth elevator might have been 15 to 20 billion dollars. This one's probably in the neighborhood of 800 million.

So the cow less than a billion dollars less than a billion by a lot less than by a lot and that includes getting everything out there all the launches. Yeah, one of our mandates one of the things I don't know if you know that our original company lift Port closed [00:36:00] down during the financial crisis.

So we had 14 people then the new version of lift ports. Only two years old and when I created the new version. I was very very clear that there were kind of three mandates that were unbreakable one had to be purchased or durable technology will assemble it. However, we need but it's got to be technology that already exists.

It's got to be simple. I refer to a dispute in the collect Simplicity because I really admire how that one Brick In The Sky did it basketball in the sky really did something really remarkable, but it didn't do 27 different remarkable things. So. Sputnik like Simplicity and then the last thing that's one of our core mandates is single launch solution everything that we need is going to go on one rocket.

So when we first looked at this about two Thousand Eleven or so, we were really looking at Atlas or Delta or Falcon early Falcon Rockets, but now the world is [00:37:00] moved. He'll happily our Direction. We've got Falcon heavy. We've got some interesting stuff on the horizon with blue origin and you know, maybe the space launch system, right?

So we have other Rockets they're larger which means ultimately with a bigger rocket we can have more string more string beans more safety more safety means more cargo and so yeah, it's one rocket that we're going to build it with one rocket. Why the moon what will make this a viable business? I'm going to go with my own philosophy.

First is that the Moon is the necessary stepping stone to the rest of the solar system. And because we're at the interstellar conference Starship Congress, I think it's the necessary stepping stone for the rest of all the other solar systems. There's really good reasons. You've got all the brainpower on one side of the equation that Earth and all the resources on the other side of the equation that the.

And then the [00:38:00] LaGrange Point becomes the glue that holds those two things together. The the that's the gravitational middle between the Earth and the moon our string goes right through the middle of it that makes for a great place to build a space station. If you have a space station there and all the smarts and all the equipment on the on the earth side and all the hardware and resources on the on the lunar side.

They meet in the middle. You can build out a fuel station for further. Solar system exploration. You can build at a shipyard where you construct new hardware. It's a port just like any other port and that's why we named our company lift board a long time ago pretty exciting stuff and worthy of a longer conversation.

But all of this that you've described with a lunar space elevator seems to fit into. What you spent most of your time talking about in the presentation that you did here at the Congress yesterday, which let me see. If you would agree that the theme was [00:39:00] kind of we have reached critical mass for space development exploiting space.

I do believe that I do believe that it's been a kind of long road 20 years to kind of watch it develop by the it has developed depending on who you ask there's a. A hundred and twenty to a hundred and fifty different launch companies. I mean that is fundamentally amazing to me compare it to the days of the Cold War where we had, you know, America versus the Soviet Union and there were two large organizations.

Yeah, the critical mass is happening. Everybody all around us sees that there's energy there's Capital there's demand there's Market requirements. There's government requirements. There's academic. And they're all pushing us towards first the moon and then you know other people want to go beyond that.

Absolutely. I agree with that. I'm really focused on the moon as the jump off point for everybody else to [00:40:00] build what they need. Michael will talk again. I hope and I hope that things move along. I wish you the best of success because I would love to be able to get a ride back ride down to the Moon right on happy to have you I'm hoping everybody wants to come.

Yeah, thanks a lot. Michael Lane of the lift Port group will finish our visit to the 2019 Starship Congress by visiting again with someone who regularly turns the highly speculative. Even the outlandish into best-selling science fiction while there it's the postman the uplift series are his Grand novel existence a disturbing but exciting Twist on First Contact.

His work is always entertaining and thought-provoking not surprising that here at the Starship Congress is David Brin another San Diego local another member of the UCSD science fiction Mafia is I call you guys hi. Oh, hey, it's great to be back with [00:41:00] the well, the people who look up that's good.

Yeah, keep looking up as they say. You just got off the stage here at the Starship Congress. I love to listen to you talk because it's great fun. One of the themes certainly was. Moon versus not full Moon versus Mars. But Moon versus those little rocks out there. Yeah Mars has a constituency. I happen to think we're going to have to do something before we do much with Mars because if we don't build up a space industry, then we may just go to Mars and do what we did with.

And that's a mistake. We should concentrate on on things that will help us to make permanent presence out there. Now those who defend going back to the moon and they say this time for good they claim that there are resources there we can exploit and what I do is I pretty savagely demolish that the only resource that we know [00:42:00] that is of any industrial value or value to humans are two things.

One is there seems to be some water ice at the lunar poles. My doctoral advisor was the I predicted it would be there and I hope so, you know, if you could leverage lunar colonies in the future, but this whole helium-3 and all of those things. It's all mythological. There are reasons why there are no metal ores at the lunar surface.

It's been Thrice melted in and the metals sank away. Whereas. There are some asteroids that are made from the core of a broken planet. In other words absolutely pure refined Metals. There's water in the asteroids far more than we could ever get from the lunar poles. Now am I saying we should never go back to the Moon it all depends on who we are humanity is going back to the Moon.

[00:43:00] Absolutely. The Chinese Indians Russians billionaires, they're all desperate to have their what I would call Bar moons fuzz their Rites of Passage. There. There there there there had today. I am a man today. I we are grown up moments there and God bless them. They'll spend whatever it takes to do it and plant Footprints in that Dusty plane and if they find anything.

America can go back to the Moon then we can sell them Landers for crying out loud. The one thing the Moon is really good for that Andy Weir. The author of The Martian said in his latest novel Artemis is tourism and that's why the Chinese art and and Indians and all that are going there. That's why we went in 1969 highly motivated tourism.

So we should build a lunar orbital. Station call it a hotel or Gateway [00:44:00] are a Gateway and and Commercial Enterprises. Jeff Bezos has lander blue moon lander doll that sell them rent them Landers rent them hotel rooms Welcome to our moon. We've been waiting 50 years for you tourists to come drop in anytime you said.

Yeah. Yeah. I had a well to give us a little bit of notice. I mean For Heaven's Sake there's orbital parameters and we have to stock up. I mean you are billionaires after all we want we want the we want the caviar to be ready for you asteroids. However are another story within the last 18 months the Japanese especially but also America did a several.

Fantastic asteroid missions unbelievably competent and glorious asteroid missions that our voters hardly know about that advanced our progress in our ability to do these things tremendously America and Japan [00:45:00] could team up and do stuff. None of the others can do why should we repeat? Doing what others can barely do 50 years after we already did it when we can do things that are 50 years ahead of them that can advance human civilization and our capabilities in space and I just want to throw in European Space Agency because Rosette.

Well yeah I mean the sample return aspects and some of the lovely lovely details that the Japanese put in their mission but yes absolutely the Europeans straddle Both Worlds so you must be excited about the psyche Mission the one that's going to one of those iron nickel asteroid. Oh, I think that's terrific.

You know, that's my doctoral dissertation was on comets and asteroids many many years ago. I'm not sure how much we can learn from an iron nickel asteroid because we have samples of iron nickel [00:46:00] asteroids that have landed on the earth. And what are you going to find a bunch of Steel, but I might be wrong.

I might be I expect to be wrong. I'd be I'm going to be expect to be delighted. Let's switch to what really is going on here today what you're a contributor to and that is the fact that these people have gotten together or here in San Diego to talk about something which. You mentioned Kim Stanley Robinson said in his wonderful book Aurora humans may never be able to do at least not in a generation spaceship that takes a hundred or 200 or 500 years to get there and that's reach other stars and yet this still motivates a lot of people, although maybe not as many people as.

Certainly, I and maybe you might have hoped would be interested in an event like this. Well, there are many many. You said a mouthful there man. There was no plenty. I'm in Tokyo compared to me. Yeah, the [00:47:00] people within the sound of my voice right now tuning into planetary radio. We all want to be a civilization this moving along.

These conferences are a bit fannish on the other hand. You're starting to get some real billionaire monies put into this Jeff Bezos with his blue origin Elon Musk with SpaceX. But beyond that you have your email nur's breakthrough project, which is funding the preliminary development of laser driven light sails that might send probes to other stars.

Similar in concept to the interstellar self-replicating probes that I have in my novel existence and that have evolved in some creepy ways. But we're almost criminal ways. Yes. Well, you know what survives survives and and and it's a very different story than shall. We say the postman [00:48:00] but in any event the point is that there are some possible ways in which.

We might check to see if there are already probes in our solar system that arrived maybe millions of years ago and have been waiting around and have been lurking there called lurkers listening to our radio and then watching our TV and then may be participating in our reality shows which is a scary thought in about 40 different ways as an American the notion that that such lurkers might be detectable.

Is is a very interesting one and there are some asteroids that come very close to the Earth that Milner's breakthrough project wants to have a look at with radar scans or possibly looking for the glints off flat or manufactured surfaces. If there's a robot on these and what did I just do I just warned them.

I just warned them. I certainly hope if [00:49:00] there are lurkers and they listen to this show they can go to what is it done David and they can contact you and let you know. Yeah, we're here you better shut up about this. Well, that's that's actually been something that I have shouted to fight Lee over radio at UFO and other.

Type lurkers I did it once with my father's CB radio in our van. Oh, yeah. YooHoo beasties out there, it's me again. I'm about to give you the phone number of the jet propulsion lab, they'll arrange these has of both kinds you want to date Madonna. I'm sure she's willing, you know, the great fire sign theater line aliens.

You must register. Yes. There's that one of the hypotheses is that. We are kept in isolation. There's their of the hundred explanations for the hypotheses for the so called Fermi Paradox why we see no sign of aliens of the hundred or so that I've cataloged over the last 35 40 years. [00:50:00] One of them is one class is the zoo hypothesis and one of the zoo hypothesis is we're too valuable to them as reality TV.

We're just as so entertaining. A few years ago. We were starting to act too sensible. So they intervened to bring reality stars to the fore and we've become a lot more funny. So it's not The Truman Show. It's the true Earth show. Yeah, you want to be on radio back to Gatherings like this though.

They continue to happen. You've been a participation a participant in this kind of effort for decades. And yet we're still a long ways from a Starship. Why is this a valuable process? Well, I think we're making progress. It's exactly pretty much this month exactly 100 years ago that the Allies at the end of World War One started selling off [00:51:00] hundreds thousands of rickety biplane.

To anybody who could Pony up five bucks Curtis, Jenny's lot of them. Yes, and it opened up what was called The barnstorming Arrow now that doesn't mean that governments weren't involved governments were very involved government's provided the mail delivery contracts the they made the airport's they made the roads that went to the airport's nevertheless.

There was a. A boom in private Endeavors. Now we've seen the preliminary signs of this already with billionaires financing investigations of asteroids. And again in my novel existence. I portray mirror multi-millionaires getting involved in all of this the barnstorming era, you know, there was an event a tragic event three four years ago in which Branson.

[00:52:00] Spaceship to crashed and only one of the two pilots survived the public acted very differently than they had during when with the death of official NASA astronauts. There was a bit of a an outcry but very quickly it subsided and and people took the attitude that well private Endeavors are judged by a different standard.

So we may be entering an era in which more and more private Endeavors take place and are willing to take greater risks while the government steps back and works on helping deliver the infrastructure just as happened a hundred years ago before we finish I know you like to talk about the Clark Center at nearby you see University of California San Diego Clark Center for the imagination which here.

Major contributor to just one piece of it this time which you finish your [00:53:00] presentation with a few minutes ago. Is it pronounced ASAP tacit is there's a story about that. Let me back up and say I'm trained as an astrophysicist and I'm on NASA commissions and I still wear that hat. I'm best known as a science fiction author, you know, Kevin Costner's movie The Postman and all of that sort of thing.

One of the things I do is I Hmong the two dozen science fiction authors who consult with government agencies about the future about things that they might not have thought of and one of the things I point out. Is that a time may come when something weird happens. It may have already happened. I mean, I maybe do just too much of a blabbermouth for them to have told already about this or that or the other Area 51 absurdity.

But if mole people ever come out of the earth, you know with their big twisty drills a commission will be formed to quickly evaluate the [00:54:00] situation. What I point out is that there's been about a hundred years of Science Fiction thought experiments about what if this happens what if that's were to happen what if that were to happen and these what ifs.

He's gedanken experiments as Einstein put it or thought experiments many of them were Silly many of them were, you know Dahmer but a great many of them were very thoughtful shouldn't any commission that's working on a something weird that's just happened have access to this vast library of thought experiments.

What if this what if. And the feature of a good science fiction story is that if some weird thing happens at a government commission get forms or a private commission or something else always they go for the obvious answer for what's going on and it always proves wrong. No, it's this [00:55:00] instead will be isn't that exactly the kind of thought experiment you would want such a commission to have at hand.

Dozens of thought experiments about mold people out of the Earth are you know flying saucers Landing or whatever it is. So task that is called. There's a story about that and you can find it very easily with with Google but it's tacit dot UCSD dot edu. What we're trying to recruit is a critical mass of some thousand or so nerds geeks.

Who've read a lot of Science Fiction who talks ideas at each other and say hello. Can you name stories in the past that were about this and someday one of those little bombs tossed into the discussion will be from some guy on a government agency saying quick. Does anybody does anybody know any stories about?

[00:56:00] Yes. So that's Tas 80 dot UCSD dot edu, and we're trying to get a critical mass because if you don't have a critical mass people will get bored and Drift Away. We need a critical mass of utter utter Geeks. This is your moment. All right, mate the moment may not come for 20 years. But this is your home you're talking to the right crowd and will put that link up on this week's show page.

It is always fun David. I look forward to seeing you as we speak now seeing you in Huntsville in about a week at the Nayak Symposium. That's right Nayak is NASA's Innovative and advanced concepts program. I'm on the Council of external advisors and we'll be at Marshall space flight center in Huntsville.

Looking at some of the Nyack Nyack funds some of the. Small grants for some of the ideas that [00:57:00] are just this side of Science Fiction which is doing what NASA ought to do and you should be proud as taxpayers that little bit gets spent on ideas that are just this side of weird. I am thanks David and thank you.

All you all my fellow Geeks out there. All right. Hi, this is our time science fiction author and futurist David Brin. I thank Icarus Interstellar for allowing me to attend the 2019 Starship Congress and I say to them Ad Astra. Time to close out yet another episode of planetary radio as we always do with Bruce Betts the chief scientist of the planetary Society also the program manager for lightsail to still going strong up there.

How are you you going strong? Yeah. Yes. Yes. I'm going strong now. That's more like it. That's the right stuff. Just speaking with you has made my life stronger. I'd only takes moments, doesn't it? [00:58:00] It really does. What's up, strong stuff? But in the evening Sky Jupiter, it's dropping lower. It's been hanging with us for months, but it's still there.

Right a star-like object in the southwest after Sunset to its upper left is yellowish Saturn which will be around longer. It is hanging out above the set but above Sagittarius and the teapot of Sagittarius. So check all those out we move on to this week in space history. Was five years ago 2014 that both Maven and the Mars Orbiter Mission went into orbit around Mars.

Just adding to the fleet of Mars orbiters. Time is going much too quickly. It really is. I there's some type of age-dependent relativistic effect. I'm going to write a paper on it at some point. Yeah, please do I don't think that'll help us though. That would be what the the biological theory of relativity or so [00:59:00] exactly perfect.

You can be a co-author. Thank you. I've always wanted to be on co author on a paper we move on to. That's not the like the Indy 500 really doesn't work when your engines voice cracks. All right, so I thought it was okay. Ah, thank you. Thank you Matt. See that's why you make my life stronger.

There are at least 50 for satellite galaxies tied to the Milky Way gravitationally hanging out with the Milky Way There are a whole bunch of them hanging out with the Andromeda galaxy as well. Yeah, that's right. That's right. You heard what I said and they're probably a lot more because that whole Milky Way thing gets in the way of seeing stuff on the other side.

So most of these are dwarf galaxies. Well, we'll come back to that but it's just a little something to note that we got a bunch of stuff hanging around with [01:00:00] us had no idea. I mean I knew about the the greater and lesser magellanic clouds. I thought that was it but 54. Well, they're they're big and fun and visible and Dark Skies from the southern hemisphere with the just your eyes, but you were as most of the others aren't being smaller farther away.

All right, we move on to the trivia contest and I asked you. Name the last three Venus orbiters. Here's the answer from our Poet Laureate day. Fairchild Venus doesn't get the love that other planets do Akatsuki was the last orbit. That is true. If you research through the list, I'm rather prone to guests the one before that Lander we have called Venus Express Magellan made insertion during 1990s scene and last behind Magellan was Venera flight 16.

So he gave you for bonus points. Yeah. Thank you. Dave nicely done. By the [01:01:00] way. It was so Paul swan in Texas who pointed out that those four most recent Venus orbiters. They all came from different agencies for different space agencies over all those years nice observation. Yeah, but you're waiting for the winner.

It was Adam Adam. Ladakh or lay dock in Toronto. Great City. When a wonderful town, he came up with the three that we were looking for. I could Sookie Venus Express and Magellan and he said I could Sookie great example that Success is Not final and failure is not fatal. I'm not sure who he's quoting there.

But he says always loved the podcast. I guess that's because I could Sookie it had its problems reaching Venus. It did failed to enter orbit its first time around and they came up with the clever solution and wait a few years is things lined up again, but then they were able to get into orbit. So it is a nice example [01:02:00] of tenacity persistence and fixing things in space when they go wrong.

So here's a question from Sean Young in South Africa that you being the solar sail guy, but you can answer he asks is Icarus an Orbiter because we know Icarus was headed out with Akatsuki right in the general direction of Venus, right? It grows being the first successful solar sail Mission flown by the Japanese space agency with a piggyback Tanaka Sookie then split off.

No, I mean. It is in as much as any of us are orbiting the Sun but it's an it. Did it had no capability to go into orbit around Venus. So it's in a heliocentric orbit by there you go Shan this came from Mark little our regular listener in Northern Ireland. He said all of these missions have done fabulous science.

But failed to uncover the secret base of the meek on to Humanity's Peril. [01:03:00] I had to look it up had you ever heard of this Dan dare pilot of the future which really should be done with a British accent because apparently a dander was a British comic book and sure enough there is this bad guy with a big green head called the mic on I if I've got it right damn dude damn beer.

That's better. Finally from Marcel John Craig Sherman in the Netherlands. He looks to the Future India planning the next Orbiter in 2023 that they're thinking of sending a balloon along with it something that has been talked about for years, right? Yes. It is actually done by the Soviets in the 80s with the Vega balloons.

I forgot about that. Of course. Yes, there have been many talks of doing more elaborate and longer live balloons, but they. If they did balloons Venus is so friendly to blooms because it's got that thick atmosphere long as you [01:04:00] dip down too far and I'll remind everybody that you can learn more about Venus in the current issue of the planetary reporters.

We discussed with Emily locked awawa editor of the magazine just not very many minutes ago Adam our winner. He's getting a planetary radio. From a Chop Shop you go to chop shop, by the way and see the entire planetary Society store their fantastic designs a 200-point i telescope dotnet astronomy account and a signed copy of a certain book super cool space facts of fun fly here.

That's good. A fun fact filled space book for kids. By some guy named Bruce Betts. We're ready for the next one satellite galaxies of the Milky Way is the topic. I want you to name your three favorite. Milky Way's satellite galaxies. There's no right answer other than in your heart as long as they're considered [01:05:00] satellite galaxies of the Milky Way go to planetary dot org slash radio contest so they have to be real satellite galaxies really can't people maybe want to make one up go ahead but it's not going to help you win the contest.

Yeah. I need to be the fourth one. The the you need three that are real. You've got until the 25th at it be September 25. At 8 a.m. Pacific time to get us this answer and we'll send you a planetary radio t-shirt and maybe a 200 point. I telescope dotnet astronomy account as well. All right, we done.

Yeah. Okay, everybody go out there. Look up the night sky and think about if you lived in a dwarf Galaxy, what would you call galaxies like the Milky Way? Thank you and good night. I'm just still thinking of names for the dwarf galaxies like sleepy and Sneezy and. Grumpy, or is he crouching? I forget anyway, he's Bruce bet.

He's none of those. Well, sometimes I he's the chief scientist of the planetary system Eddie who [01:06:00] joins us every week here for what's up planetary radio is produced by the planetary Society in Pasadena, California is made possible by its Star-Crossed. You can join our star and Planet Trek at planetary dot org slash membership Mark Hilverda is our associate producer Josh Doyle composed our theme which was arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser.

I'm a Mat Kaplan. Ad Astra.