Planetary Radio • Sep 14, 2022

It’s Not Just NASA: Space Agency Leaders at the Artemis 1 Launch Attempt

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On This Episode

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

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

Special guests include:

  • Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency
  • Anna Christmann, Coordinator of space for Germany
  • Walther Pelzer, Director General of the German Space Agency
  • Giorgio Saccoccia, President of the Italian Space Agency
  • David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration

More than 100,000 came to the Kennedy Space Center hoping to see Artemis 1 head for the Moon on August 29. Among them were leaders of the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). They sat down with Mat Kaplan for conversations about the international collaboration behind the Artemis program, along with some of the other brilliant successes they have achieved. We also celebrate the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s speech that set the United States on course for the Moon. There’s a JWST T-shirt waiting for the winner of the new What’s Up space trivia contest.

We choose to go to the Moon
We choose to go to the Moon President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous Rice University speech committing the United States to landing humans on the moon exactly 60 years ago. Vice President Lyndon Johnson sits behind him with other dignitaries.Image: NASA
Artemis Accords nations
Artemis Accords nations 21 nations have so far signed the non-binding, bilateral Artemis Accords for collaboration on missions to the Moon and beyond.Image: NASA
Mat Kaplan interviews David Parker
Mat Kaplan interviews David Parker Mat Kaplan interviews ESA Director of human and robotic exploration David Parker at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on the day before the first attempt to launch the Artemis 1 mission.Image: Casey Dreier / The Planetary Society

Related Links

Trivia Contest

This Week’s Question:

How long from its launch will it take South Korea’s Danuri mission to reach the Moon?

This Week’s Prize:

The newly-designed and stunning JWST T-shirt from our friends at

JWST t-shirt
JWST t-shirt Designed by Chop Shop and featuring JWST.Image: Chop Shop

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, September 21 at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What are the names of the dog and sheep that will fly in the Artemis 1 Orion capsule? (Hint: They’re not real animals.)


The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the August 31, 2022 space trivia contest:

How many JPL directors have there been since the Voyagers launched? Include acting directors.


Depending on whether you count “interim” directors, there have been either seven or eight JPL directors since the Voyager spacecraft launched, beginning with Planetary Society co-founder Bruce Murray, and ending with current director Laurie Leshin.

August 22, 2022 Bonus Challenge

As part of our A Venus Phosphine Scoop! The Return of Jane Greaves episode, Jane Greaves and Mat invited your artists’ concepts of what flying, phosphine-belching Venusian penguins might look like. Below is a selection of some of the illustrations our listeners sent to us.

Venusian Penguin Force illustration
Venusian Penguin Force illustration Planetary Radio listener Agent Moeller submitted what looks like a recruitment poster in our contest to depict the entirely fictional penguins that DO NOT live in the atmosphere of Venus.Image: Agent Moeller
Illustration of imaginary Venusian penguins
Illustration of imaginary Venusian penguins With an AI-generated assist, Planetary Radio listener Daniel Husserl created this eerily beautiful illustration of our imaginary Venusian penguins enjoying life above the broiling surface of that world.Image: Daniel Husserl/Midjourney AI
Imaginary Venusian penguin drawing
Imaginary Venusian penguin drawing Here is 8-year-old Julianna Duckwall's lovely concept for an imaginary penguin living among the clouds above Venus.Image: Julianna Duckwall
Imaginary Venusian penguins
Imaginary Venusian penguins Not just imaginary phosphine-emitting Venusian penguins, but technologically-sophisticated imaginary penguins in this submission by Planetary Radio listener Robert Johannessen.Image: Robert Johannessen


Mat Kaplan (00:00):

The leaders of ESA and other space agencies, this week on Planetary Radio.

John Kennedy (00:14):

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others too.

Mat Kaplan (00:42):

Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society, with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. And that was U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on a blazingly hot Houston, Texas afternoon at Rice University. The date was September 12th, 1962. Exactly 60 years later, an international coalition is attempting to send more humans to the moon. In this special episode, we’ll talk with a series of international leaders who came to the Kennedy Space Center, hoping to see the launch of Artemis 1, the first big step into space that will realize this new goal.


First, though, a bit more history, hardly anyone alive has listened to the entirety of Kennedy's speech that day. It's a remarkable statement delivered by a young president who seemed to barely notice the heat, even as dignitaries behind him mop their brows. We now know that Kennedy had expressed serious doubts about setting the United States on course for the moon, but you'd never know it from his remarks. Here are the last four minutes of that stirring address delivered six decades ago.

John Kennedy (01:59):

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year¹s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year, a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority, even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.


But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun, almost as hot as it is here today, and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out, then we must be bold.


I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute. However, I think we're going to do it. And I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don't think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. This will be done in a decade of the ‘60s. It may be done while some of you are still here at school, at this college and university. It will be done during the terms of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done, and it will be done before the end of this decade. And I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States of America.


Many years ago, the great British Explorer, George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest was asked, why did he want to climb it? He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there and we're going to climb it. And the moon and the planets are there. And new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. Therefore, as we set sail, we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous, and dangerous, and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked. Thank you.

Mat Kaplan (05:48):

John F. Kennedy at Rice University on the 12th of September, 1962. NASA was back at Rice on the 60th anniversary of the speech with Administrator, Bill Nelson, leading the celebration. And what of Artemis 1? Repair of the liquid hydrogen leak continues. As I speak, the next launch opportunity is moved from September 23rd to the 27th, with another window opening on October 2nd. You'll find other lunar news in the September 9 edition of The Downlink, The Planetary Society's free weekly newsletter, including word that Danuri, South Korea's Lunar Orbiter, is healthy and on its way to the moon after using a solar slingshot to help it get there. Arrival is expected on December 16.


You'll always find awe-inspiring images at, which this time include another stunner from the JWST, and a shot of the sun surface taken by the now operational, in a way, Solar Telescope in Hawaii, the most powerful instrument of its kind by far. We also learned that a study of astronaut blood samples found higher rates of mutation in stem cells. Demonstrating again that keeping humans healthy in space is full of challenges. You'll also see a shot, I'm pretty proud of, it's the big KSC Countdown Clock that I photographed against a gorgeous Florida sunrise. August 28th was the day before I caught that sunrise. You may have heard some of the conversations my colleagues and I had with special NASA guests on last week's show.


I promised we'd be back with more. And we'll start with the director general of the European Space Agency. Scientist turned administrator, Josef Aschbacher, sat down with me in the noisy dining room at the Kennedy Space Center where interviews were underway all around us.


Josef, thank you very much. We are very honored to be able to speak with you as the leader of ESA.

Josef Aschbacher (07:56):

No, thank you. The honor and the pleasure is all mine. I really am so excited to be here and looking forward to what's happening tomorrow.

Mat Kaplan (08:04):

A lot of it, I think, needs to focus on the international collaboration that this represents, the Artemis Accords, but separately, the very close collaboration that ESA enjoys with NASA, and has for so many years.

Josef Aschbacher (08:21):

Yeah. No, it's true. We have an incredibly good and strong corporation with NASA for many decades. And this really spans many domains. Human exploration, of course, is one of them. And through Artemis, today, tomorrow, and the next couple of weeks, we will focus on that part. But also, we have excellent corporations on space science, but also earth observation. We have a very good corporation in Earth Observation, for example, the contributions which the U.S. is also making to the Copernicus program, Sentinel-6, for example. I happened to be the director of Earth Observation at that time ESA before the current job. And because of the strong U.S. contribution to that particular mission, it's the first time that we have named a satellite after an American space expert, Michael Freilich, who used to be the Director of Earth Science in in NASA because he was, not only a fantastic space expert, he was a personal friend of mine.


When, of course, we heard about his personal illness, really, very unfortunately, he passed away just recently, I decided to name one of our flagship satellites after him. And we have named or renamed our Sentinel-6 satellite, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich in his honor, but also to underline the strong corporation which we have with NASA on many domains, in Earth Observation in this particular case, but also in many other domains. So yes, the partnership is excellent, is very strong. I would like to say, through Artemis, it is lifted one more level up, which was also said by administrator Nelson when he recently came to speak to my member states in June, this year in the Netherlands, where I invited him to speak to the ESA Council, which brings together all the 22 member states of European Space Agency.


And he gave an incredibly strong speech, very powerful, but also very eloquent to underline the good cooperation, the partnership we have. And he, himself, said, “We are lifting now this partnership to the next level through the activities which we do.” And I'm very humbled about this words of the NASA administrator. I’m also very humbled by the trust NASA puts into ESA, in the participation of us in Artemis mission in a very crucial element at the European Service Module. But also, I'm also proud. I'm also proud to be proud of it and have ESA the logo on the SLS rocket. I think that's beautiful. I have to say, personally, it really is nice to see that

Mat Kaplan (11:01):

I think that service module is certainly the most obvious representation within this mission and within the Artemis program of Europe's participation of ESA’s participation. The development of that service module, no small task.

Josef Aschbacher (11:17):

No small task, believe me. And like many things in space, it's a rather complex mission. You know that we are struggling, have been struggling for many years with a particular valve, which has created some hiccups and also some headaches on our side, but it's really the complexity. There are 20,000 individual pieces in the European Service Module coming 10mfrom different countries and from their industries, and you can imagine what it means to bring all this together and make sure it works flawlessly and it all fits together as one piece that is providing all the functions that are required. So, yes, it was quite a development work, which we undertook. But I think it is fair to say that we are on a very good path. Bill Nelson and his key people have been in the facilities in Bremen just this summer.


And have been looking at the Airbus facilities producing the European Service Module. And he really has been satisfied with the results, the way the work is done, and also the progress which we are making. In fact, to the point that he was asking us whether we would be capable of delivering one European Service Module per year for future Artemis missions. And that's something which we are working right now to have a cadence, almost serial production of these ESMs for all the Artemis missions to come. So yes, it has been a major challenge, a major effort. Very glad that we went through all this very positively. And now we are at the stage where we can say we are very confident to have this powering the Orion Spacecraft Capsule, and bringing it back to earth safely. And that's the job of European. So, I’m very happy to be part of that.

Mat Kaplan (13:08):

Turning from the collaboration between NASA and ESA, maybe focusing more internally on ESA, are you familiar with the phrase herding cats? 22 different nations making up ESA, that has to present some substantial challenges, keeping everybody working toward a particular goal, and even identifying those goals.

Josef Aschbacher (13:32):

That is my daily job. As you say, this is herding the cat. Actually, I quote again, Bill Nelson, who was saying that… In fact, during his visit, when he was in Europe, he was saying, “Look, Josef, for me, you are Merlin. You are a magician. What you need to do is every single day, make sure that these 22 member states, plus a few other partners, are going in one direction and not running away in all different directions.” And that is no small task quoting his words there. But let me say, yes, this is a challenge, but I'm really having fun in doing it. It's a huge challenge. It's not always easy to get Germany, and France, and Italy, and the UK, and Switzerland, and Norway, and Austria, and Poland, and many other countries in one direction.


But that's my job, and I see it really as a challenge to do that. So, how do we do that? Of course, what we always do, and this is the, I would say the success of ESA, we are defining the space programs four different ways, sometimes driven by inputs from scientists, where scientists tell us, space scientists, “We need to explore whether there's life out there on one of the Jupiter or Satan moons.” And then we scratch our head and we think what can be done, what needs to be done in order to see whether there can be life out there or not. And we, of course, eventually define a mission. And you can imagine if you define something of that scale, this is huge. It's huge in terms of timescale, but also funding that is required.


So, my job will be to, apart from developing the first program proposal, the proposal for a project, to then see whether this flies with the member states and whether they are having the willingness and the appetite to invest in it and make it happen. And that's exactly, I would say, my daily job, to define these programs, test with the member states whether this is in their interest. And there are many facets that give the answer to that. One is industrial, whether the country has an industrial interest in order to engage, but it's also societal, it's political, it's strategic. There are many dimensions that are involved in this decision in one country, and of course, you have to then put all 22 countries together.


And then, what we do in ESA and European Space Agency is we define these programs, we do it every three years at so-called ESA Ministerial Conferences. We put them on the table and then we invite member states to sign up to them and to fund them. The challenging thing is that we are not funded by the member states just because they are a member, we have only 20% of our budget that is contributed to the European Space Agency’s budget because of membership, according to the size of the country. But the 80% of money, we are getting through what we call optional programs. That means we define these programs, and then we allow countries to either participate or not, participate large or small in a certain project. And it's really up to them to define their participation, which means that we may have a project where we have 10 countries participating or 22 countries participating.


So, this is completely variable, and they can only choose out on their own. Of course, this adds pressure on my side because I need to have attractive programs. Otherwise, they wouldn't sign up to it and we will not be able to get them off the ground. So yes, it's a lot of work we need to do to make sure that those programs we put on the table at the end get full funding in order to fully develop a satellite and fully fly to space. Not only 80% or 50% of it, we need to the whole money in order to achieve that. So yes, it's complicated, I think it's true, but it's also fun doing the job

Mat Kaplan (17:18):

When you were focused mostly on doing science of your own, did you envision that one day you would need to basically be a salesman?

Josef Aschbacher (17:26):

You are well informed that I am a scientist. Yes, actually, I did enjoy a lot my science day. As you know, I come from a geoscience domain. I was studying mythology and geophysics. And I did enjoy analyzing satellite data and deriving information from radar images, from optical images for agriculture, for forestry, for disaster management, for security, for climate change, many parameters we have been deriving from the satellite data. Yeah, I enjoyed it. But of course, if you go in your responsibility, you see also that you can also influence activities by taking on responsibilities in a management position. That's what I'm having now. I'm having now a management position and, of course, my science is out the window. I'm not doing science anymore actively, but I need my science background to make good judgment, good decisions, to assess quickly whether this is a good idea or a bad idea.


And yes, this experience and background, I think, is essential also in leadership, management leadership positions to have good judgment, and therefore decide whether a project makes sense or doesn't make sense. So, of course, there are many opinions that flow into it, but your own gut feeling is quite often a very important aspect of this as well.

Mat Kaplan (18:46):

The Planetary Society, we do our best to celebrate the accomplishments of space agencies around the world. NASA obviously, often is very prominent at the top of that list, but ESA has so much to be proud of, and I wonder if you'd like to talk about some of those successes. I mean, an immediate one that comes to mind for me is already back a few years, Rosetta.

Josef Aschbacher (19:12):

Yeah. We have actually a lot to talk about, and sometimes my own people tell me, “Look, Josef, it is not fair that when you talk space, even in Europe, everyone talks NASA and nobody talks ESA.” I feel also bad myself because that's my job. I know that my people are doing an incredibly good work in engineering, in science every single day. Yes, some of the achievements, you mentioned Rosetta, Rosetta was amazing. I mean, landing on a comet with a lander, the first time ever. I mean, this is yeah, has not happened before and has really created also major headlines, but also other achievements which we have. Gaia, for example, Gaia is another space science missions. Today, the maturity of all scientific publications in space science are based on Gaia data, which is incredible.


We have just released another dataset, release of the dataset. Again, we have many Nobel Peace Prize winners doing their work based on our data. Of course, many times we do work with international partners, or with NASA, with JAXA, with other international partners. And that also makes us, I think, strong that we have these good network with other international space agencies. But also, in Earth Observation, Copernicus is a program which is, if I may say, the gold standard today in Earth Observation. It's providing an operational service, operational data to people around the world for free because this was one of the points I was really insisting that these data are free of charge for everyone at any place in the world. And we provide data that you need for agriculture, forestry, ship routeing, weather forecasting for disaster management from this fleet of Copernicus Sentinel satellites.


So yes, Galileo is another example where we do something very similar to GPS and navigation system, which is top standard, same quality as the GPS system and routinely used by actually, in an iPhone or any other mobile phone, you would have the receivers for both of them. And they are both in there. So yes, there are many examples of achievements, discoveries which sometimes you don't hear about, but I'm told by my people, I should make a bigger effort to communicate more, and I hope The Planetary Society helps me doing that.

Mat Kaplan (21:37):

We'll keep doing our best. One last quick one. Are you hopeful that we will still someday see that ExoMars rover, the Rosalind Franklin rover rolling across Mars?

Josef Aschbacher (21:49):

As Director General of the European Space Agency, I have to be hopeful, and I will be hopeful, but I can also tell you that it is a difficult decision and a difficult undertaking. We need fresh investments to make. I'm actually preparing a proposal for my member states in November at the ESA Ministerial Conference, and then we will make the decisions. But yes, the science will still be unique also in a couple of years from today, drilling into the surface two meters analyzing this probe, and seeing whether there might have been life down there. Two meters below the surface of Mars is still top science. Nobody else will have done it by then. So yes, from a science point of view, this is still a very important mission.

Mat Kaplan (22:33):

We wish you the greatest of success with that mission. All of us want to see that drill go deep below the surface and see what it finds down there. But also, just across all of the work that ESA does. And thank you for the few minutes today.

Josef Aschbacher (22:47):

Thank you very much. It was a real pleasure, and I hope I have more opportunities. It's very important for me as well. Thank you.

Mat Kaplan (22:54):

European Space Agency, Director General, Josef Aschbacher. The leaders of individual space agencies were also at the Cape for the next day's launch attempt. The DLR is the German Space Agency.

Anna Christmann (23:08):

Anna Christmann, I'm the Coordinator of Space for the German government.

Walther Pelzer (23:11):

My name is Walther Pelzer. I'm a member of the Executive Board of DLR and Director General of the German Space Agency.

Mat Kaplan (23:19):

It is an honor to be able to talk to the two of you who help guide one of the world's most successful space agencies, the DLR, the German Space Agency. Thank you for taking a couple of minutes with us today.

Anna Christmann (23:31):

Sure. It's a pleasure.

Walther Pelzer (23:32):

Pleasure. Thank you for having us.

Mat Kaplan (23:34):

We are spending a lot of time talking to the international partners, signatories to the Artemis Accords, but also, of course, participants in ESA, the European Space Agency. And I note that maybe, since the most obvious example of that collaboration between ESA and NASA is out there on the pad now, the service module, and I understand the DLR had a very large portion of the responsibility for developing that very complicated system.

Walther Pelzer (24:09):

Yes, that's true, but I wouldn't say DLR. It's a German industry and German science community. So, from this point of view, the German, let's say, share of the value chain is more than 50%. But there are 10 member states, 10 ESA member states participating. And Bremen is assembly lines, assembly point, where everybody from Europe supplies his contribution and we get together and we assemble the European Service Model. We are very proud that this takes place in Bremen. This is a reason why the first service module is called Bremen.

Mat Kaplan (24:49):

Which was something I did not know until just a couple of days ago that it is named for the town in which it is being assembled. We've also talked about what these partnerships represent, and I believe you are more on the policy side, right? What goes into creating a collaboration between nations or among nations, I should say?

Anna Christmann (25:10):

For us, international collaboration in space is very important, and Artemis is a great example for that. I mean, how important is it that we are going to the moon together now after 50 years, again, but now Europe and Germany are part of this mission. And that is something that is very important to us. And we are very happy that there is a very trustful relationship between NASA, and the U.S. side, and the European side. That is something we have learned over the last years in preparing this mission. It was really a close and trustful partnership. And that is something that we definitely want to also have in future.

Mat Kaplan (25:47):

The relationship that ESA has with NASA is on a different level, but then the Artemis Accords, which are the individual relationships, which many nations have signed onto with NASA, that is found by individual nations. We've seen quite a few sign-on recently. France, I think most recently, just in the last few days. Germany, not there yet.

Anna Christmann (26:09):

We think space exploration is something that is relevant for the whole planet. So, it should be a multilateral process to find rules how we do it together. But in this findings of joint rules, we see the Artemis Accords as one important part. That is why we are now in really close debates also with NASA and the U.S. government, and how we can be partner in this, jointly researching for the joint rules for space exploration and how the Artis Accords are part of that. So, we are also in meetings here with NASA around the start of the first Artemis mission. So, that's for us, very important to deepen the relationship from the American and the German side, and we see there Accords as something that we will have to talk about very intensively the next weeks.

Mat Kaplan (27:00):

I also think, independently of the successes that the DLR has achieved for many, many decades in space, and in particular with space exploration since, I mean, we're The Planetary Society, so we tend to look at that side more. So many missions that you can point to, I think, with great pride. Are there standouts in your mind, Walther?

Walther Pelzer (27:25):

As you said, there's a bunch of missions which are extraordinary. And I think our teams did great jobs to put them into practice. But I wouldn't grab one because you have also to keep in mind that, of course, there are some which comes up to do your mind right away. Because especially, when it comes to exploration, it's very tempting to pick up the one which deals with Mars. Nevertheless, also others are very important, because if you look at the performance that the teams put into practice, depend on the budget, depend on the times they had available. So, from this point of view, I'm not able to pinpoint one mission or one project, which is absolutely outstanding.


From my point of view, what's outstanding is the commitment of our teams, the commitment that they are willing to go an extra mile to put it into practice. To, let's say, suffer to make sure that at the end, even, or especially when we work with international teams, that at the end, having all obstacles in mind, the mission will be a success. And this is from my point of view, this sense of working that we are one team, one DLR, this is a statement we have. This is an important topic, and this is what I'm proud of, that I'm allowed to work with these people together.

Anna Christmann (28:59):

Maybe I would add one project, but of course, he's right that we have many successful projects. But one of that is also a collaboration with the U.S. side is a satellite mission called Grace. And it is about gravity measurements, how water is, on the earth’s developing. That is something that is very important for climate effects and one satellite mission that is also named several times in the international climate report. So, I think these kind of missions also show how important space is for us on the planet earth and to save our planet. That is also a very important part for us, like exploration, but also earth's observation, and using it for fighting climate crisis.

Mat Kaplan (29:42):

I am very glad you brought that up because I did want to ask you, as NASA plays an important role in climate and environmental research here in the United States and around the world, what is the DLR's role on behalf of Germany and perhaps more broadly, ESA, when it comes to the tremendous challenges that we face, climate change in particular?

Anna Christmann (30:06):

I maybe start because we have a very high expertise in climate technologies in Germany and also in climate satellites. So far, it's a priority also for the ESA. We have a Ministerial meeting in November this year. Earth observation and green space is definitely one of our top priorities. So, we really want to bring our German and European expertise into the international collaboration, so it's very important for us.

Walther Pelzer (30:33):

We spoke about Grace. Yeah, when it comes to the topic we need to discuss why it's important to do space. Grace is an excellent example. Because on the one hand side with space, we can monitor excellent. But Grace has the capacity actually to avoid conflict in the future. Because for the first time, we are able to see how groundwater is developing. And we can see where people live, how groundwater is developing, and we see where areas might exist, where we are running into a conflict due to the fact of groundwater, for example. From this point of view, if you ask, what is a responsibility, for example, of the German Space Agency? Due to the fact that this kind of mission, the only one globally, not ESA, not Russia, not China, nobody except this cooperation between Germany and U.S. is taking place.


And we have to actually continue this mission. This is, from my point of view, one of the responsibilities, when we are talking about responsibilities of the German Space Agency is that this mission will be continued by 2026. And then we will hand it over to the European Space Agency because actually the next step is already planned. That we have an even bigger mission like Grace together with U.S., using more technology, making it more powerful. This mission will take place in the framework of ESA. Now we have to bridge actually the time until ESA is ready to take over. This is the time where we, as DLR, want to manage with German scientists and German industry, and JPL on U.S. side to bridge the time from 2026 on.

Mat Kaplan (32:30):

It is an amazing mission. Just to think that we have this kind of sophistication in what can be done from orbit. I'm going to bring up one other mission because it's one we paid very close attention to at The Planetary Society, a tremendous success of now a few years ago. I know you don't want to play favorites. I don't blame you. But Rosetta, which DLR made a tremendous contribution to.

Walther Pelzer (32:54):

Yes, Rosetta is also a mission that for quite a time, we thought it’s a failure. We thought that because the landing took not place in the way we actually thought. And well, it's kind of difficult to have pictures from a Blackstone in black circumstances. The pictures are kind of hot and the Science Week actually created over there is now helping us fighting fires because this technology, developed by the Max Planck Institute, actually boil down to a camera which is able to detect fire, forest fires. In Eastern German, we have a lot of these cameras, which actually are done and produced by a small and medium-size company based on this technology. I'm not now talking about this exploration, about this great thing to land on a comet.


Actually, now I'm talking about that, even these things where everybody thinks, “Why are humankind doing it? It does not help at all.” No, actually, we see technology coming right away out of this mission, tackling the issue, fires in our forest, which is now everyday issue. And this technology, this mission, Rosetta, is helping us to fight this issue.

Mat Kaplan (34:15):

That is a wonderful angle on that mission, which stood on its own as a tremendous success, just the pure science that it did, but I had no idea.

Walther Pelzer (34:24):

Just landing on a comet, just the landing itself. Forget everything else. To be able to land a satellite on a comment, this is, from my point of view, a tremendous thing. Yeah, at the end, the first place we thought it was not successful, but it took some time until we found our piece of technology, and then it worked.

Mat Kaplan (34:47):

I was talking to Josef Aschbacher of ESA about the phrase that we use in this country, herding cats, and the 22 members of ESA, and how they are able to come together as a collaboration, just among themselves, to achieve the things that ESA has achieved. We see it in the Service Module out there on that big rocket. An ongoing challenge though, right?

Anna Christmann (35:13):

In Europe, we are really experts in complex collaboration. I think that is very important and is part of our success. And we know very well, we want to be part of a very strong space ecosystem worldwide. And, in Europe, we can achieve this by really working closely together. So, ESA, for U.S., is a very important actor, and we are proud and happy to be a strong partner in that.

Mat Kaplan (35:40):

Thank you very much. Here's hoping that we all get to see that Service Module head for the moon as soon as tomorrow. And I look forward to enjoying it with you.

Anna Christmann (35:50):

Yeah, we are really excited.

Walther Pelzer (35:52):

Yeah. Thank you very much. Thank you for having us and thank you for this well-shaped questions.

Mat Kaplan (35:58):

Joining me next was Giorgio Saccoccia, President of ASI, the Italian Space Agency. You'll hear Giorgio mention his colleague Simone Pirrotta. Simona is Project Manager for LICIACube. The tiny CubeSat that has now been released from DART, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft. We’ll save my conversation with Simone for next week's show when we'll get a preview of DART's September 26th impact on asteroid Dimorphos. It'll come from the mission's coordination lead, Nancy Shabo.


Giorgio, thank you so much for joining us in our coverage of Artemis 1 here today. It has been wonderful to talk to so many of the international representatives of the other space agencies that are involved in this mission.

Giorgio Saccoccia (36:50):

Well, the beauty and reason of Artemis is indeed the part of these network of space agencies working together for big project like the one that we are seeing here tomorrow.

Mat Kaplan (37:05):

We'll talk initially a little bit more about Artemis 1, but there are so many other accomplishments of the Italian Space Agency, which I don't think have gotten the attention that they deserve in the United States. We do our best. Maybe one in particular that we should bring up is the secondary payload that is from an Italian company, ArgoMoon, that little CubeSat which will be accompanying the Orion capsule.

Giorgio Saccoccia (37:31):

Yes, ArgoMoon is the only European secondary payload that will fly on Artemis 1. Of course, we're very proud of that. To me, a part of being a very technological satellite with a lot of innovation on board, etc., we're happy, I think as a symbolic value also because the contribution of Italy to exploration, in general, has been as root that goes very back in time many, many years. And this goes through collaboration directly with NASA and, of course, through the European Space Agency effort. So, in a way, the fact that we have ArgoMoon, I see it really as sort of a symbolic pinpoint of the role that Italy has had so far, and will have in the future on space exploration.

Mat Kaplan (38:27):

Italy is also a signatory on the Artemis Accords, isn't it?

Giorgio Saccoccia (38:32):

Correct. We were among the first one, certainly among the first one in Europe. As a matter of fact, I recall I signed myself with Jim Bridenstine, in a letter of intent already back in September 19, a few months after my start as President in ASI. This was really to show immediately, as soon as possible, the fact that Italy was fully committed to the Artemis program.

Mat Kaplan (38:55):

Are there other ways that you would like to highlight in which the Italian space agency is contributing to what we hope we're going to see tomorrow?

Giorgio Saccoccia (39:03):

How much time you give me?

Mat Kaplan (39:06):

Take your time.

Giorgio Saccoccia (39:07):

Okay. We start tomorrow, of course, as you know, not only with ArgoMoon, but with a major contribution to the European Service Module technologies element among the major subsystem. But the idea is to be really major players in the full Artemis program. We started back in 19 through ESA, subscribing at the Ministerial Conference, so ESA-19, to be the major contributor to the Lunar Gateway away, a European contribution of Lunar Getaway. In fact, Italian Agency is the prime contractor of the I-HAB module, the largest habitable module on Lunar Gateway. And we are also big contributors to the ESPRIT module for refueling and other things. In addition, our industry directly is the provider, together with the American industry, of the HALO logistic model.


A large part of the Lunar Gateway will have Italian contribution. Moving to the surface of the moon, just two months ago in June, I have signed an agreement with Bill Nelson, with the administrator of NASA in Rome. He was visiting us in Rome. And we signed an agreement because we would like to contribute directly to NASA with one or even possibly more than one. I mean, a series of scientific and logistic modules that we are in because they would be based a lot on the experience and then the capacity that Italy developed for the International Space Station. We can actually provide those models relatively soon, already in principle around ‘26, ‘27, 2026 or ‘27. This could be among the first bricks of the surface architecture of Artemis.


We're ready to do it. We have the capability to do it. And of course, it's a collaboration we want to bring. A possible other next step will be, or could be a game with European Space Agency. We will discuss that at the upcoming Ministerial Conference in November of ESA Ministerial Conference. We're talking about a European Lunar Lander, it's a proposal from ESA. Will be discussed, of course, there is a process to get to the approval of such a project, if that will become a reality. We know, and we are sure that Italy again, will be among the major participants of this program. So, as you see, many bricks and part of… With NASA, we keep on working on a regular basis, ASI and NASA, to identify other opportunities for direct contribution.


For example, we are interested a lot in telecommunication navigation infrastructures around the moon. We can do this again, through ESA, but also directly with NASA, if necessary. And of course, science provision of payload, and the astronauts one day that we are preparing for the next big step.

Mat Kaplan (42:16):

Much deeper involvement, in fact, in Artemis 1 than I was aware of. But I also, as I said, want to talk about the other sorts of accomplishments that the Italian Space Agency, ASI, has had, particularly in space exploration. So many times, as I have reported on missions like Cassini, as one example, it appears that your agency has, and Italy in general, had particular success in the contribution of radar and maybe infrared detectors as well, but particularly radar, I think.

Giorgio Saccoccia (42:53):

Yeah, radar is a technology where, for sure, Italy as an important footprint and a great capacity of contributing. We do it for earth, for earth to observation. We success successfully developed and we are developing the continuation of a constellation based on the radar technologies called COSMO-SkyMed. It is a dual-use consolation. But what we learned, through this development, was used also for scientific mission that we have used and we'll use the radar technology on other planets, so Mars, etc. It's really a discipline where we have a strong expertise recognized at international level. You mentioned infrared, or I would say more hyperspectral, which also has the aspect of infrared. We have launched, not long ago, well, okay, already three years have passed, a satellite called Prisma, which is a champion in the area of hyperspectral observation technology.


And of course, the idea now is to develop other satellite space on this technology. It is very interesting because this type of technology allows, not only to observe, but also to understand the composition, for example, of the errors you're observing. And this has an incredible value if you can see application like monitoring of pollution, things like that.

Mat Kaplan (44:26):

There is another mission underway, primarily thought of as an NASA mission, the DART mission. And when I mentioned it to you, because I wanted to bring up a traveling companion of DART, LICIACube.

Giorgio Saccoccia (44:38):


Mat Kaplan (44:39):

LICIACube. You said that you had a colleague here that you wanted to bring out to join us.

Giorgio Saccoccia (44:45):

Yes. Simone, who is here, is the program manager of LICIACube. And the nice thing of LICIACube is that is very well associated also to ArgoMoon, what is flying on SLS, because they are both witness of something that will happen in space. And I'm sure Simone will have a lot to tell you about LICIACube and ArgoMoon as well.

Mat Kaplan (45:04):

You've been very generous with your time. I have just one more question for you. As I note, there are astronauts behind you here talking with each other, and it reminded me that I got to spend a little bit of time a few years ago with Samantha Cristoforetti, and she was a guest on our program. You could not have a better ambassador in space representing Italy.

Giorgio Saccoccia (45:25):

You are exactly using the right word there. She's an ambassador of ASI. I mean, every astronaut has this important role, really being ambassador, not only of space activities, but of a positive approach to science, to stem subject etc. It’s an important role, I mean, reference for young generation. Of course, having the only female European astronaut of Italian nationality is, of course, for us, a next reason to be proud of her. And she's doing really a fantastic job in promoting the space activities and what space can to protect human being.

Mat Kaplan (46:11):

As you know, ESA is the hopefully going have several spots for European astronauts on future Artemis missions. I assume that you would hope that one of those might be represented Italy.

Giorgio Saccoccia (46:24):

Well, for sure, the participation that I described before to the Artemis program that Italy is having and wants to have as a target, also to create opportunities for astronauts of Italian nationality. There will be, as you said, the opportunities around the moon, on the getaway, and on the surface of the moon. We are just at the beginning, but we want to have also Italian astronauts up there, is part of the beautiful game we are playing nowadays,

Mat Kaplan (46:57):

Well said. Thank you, Giorgio. Best of success to you and all of us here with tomorrow's launch. We hope it'll happen tomorrow. And particularly with that that little CubeSat called ArgoMoon.

Giorgio Saccoccia (47:08):

Thank you, and best of success to all of us, to all humanity.

Mat Kaplan (47:13):

We'll wrap up our visits with International Space Agency leadership by welcoming back David Parker. David is the Director of Human and Robotic Exploration for ESA, the European Space Agency. Listen for the great question added by my Space Policy Edition colleague, Planetary Society Chief Advocate, Casey Dreier.


David Parker, it is delightful to talk to you once again. Welcome.

David Parker (47:38):

Thank you, it's fantastic to be here. This is a historic moment and I can't actually believe I'm here.

Mat Kaplan (47:43):

It is certainly very appropriate that you are here as the Director of Human and Robotic exploration for ESA. Long history in doing this kind of stuff. Talk to us about what this represents in terms of international partnership.

David Parker (47:58):

Well, this is super important. ESA has a very, very long-standing relationship with NASA on so many different activities, but this is maybe the summit of it. I'm a child of Apollo. I remember the Apollo moon landings as a very small child. To be able, as Europe, to be part of this dream of returning humans to the moon is quite emotional. It's a summit of all the collaboration we have in James Webb, and the International Space Station, and Mars sample-return, all these different, exciting programs. But sending humans into deep space, returning them to the moon because we plan to go further one day onto Mars, it's fantastic. Isn't it?

Mat Kaplan (48:39):

Of course. I am also one of those who remembers Apollo, though, I don't think I was quite as small as you. My colleague who's sitting with us, Rae Paoletta, she's going to be talking with Thomas Pesquet in a few minutes, and this opportunity that, that represents to, not just have your participating in the mission, but to actually have members of the European community make the trip. That's also exciting.

David Parker (49:03):

Yeah, it's super exciting. We, of course, have built the European Service Modules, initially, as an can exchange for getting our astronauts to fly to the International Space Station. So, Thomas Pesquet, all the other astronauts have already benefited from ESM-1, the ESM 2, which is also here at the Cape. ESM-3, that's in manufacture. But ESMs four and five, and then our contributions to the Lunar Gateway are contributions to Artemis program, not to the Space Station program. And as a consequence, we've agreed with NASA, back in 2019, that we would have three seats on Orion missions, two deep space as, and when we are ready to go. That's also a very big step forward for the European Astronaut Corps. So many experience, we built up the International Space Station, but going to the moon, they become, instead of scientists and workers, real explorers.

Mat Kaplan (50:00):

We missed the opportunity to get a photo of you and Thomas Zurbuchen greeting each other once again. That happened moments before I turned on the recorder. We talked with Thomas, though, about the Artemis Accords, these bilateral agreements. ESA is something outside of that, right? It's not a bilateral thing.

David Parker (50:20):

Well, yeah, the Artemis Accords are government to government agreements. So, certain countries sign up with the U.S. government into the Artemis Accords. But of course, ESA is an agency and it's a governmental organization. So, we could not sign on behalf of our governments. We are ruling powers, as it were, of the national space agencies and space authorities in the different countries. But of course, the Artemis Accords are non-binding expressions of how we would work in space as countries. What we sign with NASA are binding legal agreements, which ESM is an example, what I refer to participation in the gateway, those are solemn binding agreements where we promise to deliver in exchange for certain benefits. So, they're part of the same overall constellation, if you like, it is a strange word, of different agreements that bind the space fairing community together.

Mat Kaplan (51:16):

I don't know that you can actually speak as a representative of the UK, but we should mention that the UK is signed on to the Artemis Accords early.

David Parker (51:24):

One of so many countries, several countries in Europe signed early, and some countries like Australia joined early on. But then you have some of the new space faring countries as well. And they really reflect the implementation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. They don't contain anything fundamentally new. What they reflect is, and therefore we are going to respect these the treaty and this is how we interpret the use of the treaty in the way we go forward. Although they record the Artemis record, they don't just refer to the moon exploration. They're referred to a way that we use space more generally in an era where it's more contested and more crowded, the use of space. I was awoken up last night by another SpaceX launch going off at Starlink. So, there are ever more satellites up there. We have to think about how we're using the space environment. It's not something that we want to mess around with, let's put it that way.

Mat Kaplan (52:21):

Tens of thousands of satellites in lower orbit. Yeah, that's a concern that I guess for another day, but let's turn to the robotics side of your title. You mentioned, in passing, Mars sample-return. I had told you, just before we started, that just a couple of weeks ago, we had Richard Cook, the sample-return program manager at JPL on. As you know, we now have what appears to be a plan for that long awaited, holy grail. And ESA still plays a very important part in this, but no fetch rover.

David Parker (52:55):

Yeah. So, the architecture has evolved. If we cast our minds back to 2018, 2019, the original concept was based on a very large land being built by JPL that would land, not only the Mars Ascent Vehicle sample with transfer arm that we're doing at ESA, but also the sample-fetch rover that would scurry out, as I always used to say, a high speed to recover sample tubes that were maybe left in a cache on the surface of Mars. It was kind of an element of robustness in the architecture because perseverance has always been designed to bring samples back to Mars Ascent Vehicle if necessary. But of course, when the architecture was being developed, we didn't know whether perseverance was going to land. We didn't know how effective it would be. And now we have another few years of experience of, if you like, not only perseverance on the surface, but curiosity, and it's there for a decay now.


So, in a kind of cost benefit analysis, there was a view taken. It was a challenge, if you like, for JPL to be able to build such a big lander to take everything to Mars in one go. They pulled out their slide rules and concluded it would be a little difficult to do that job. It'd be better to do without the sample-fetch rover. But on the other hand, to augment increase the robustness of the architecture by maybe taking one or two helicopters along. And they are, if you like, the robustness element of the architecture. The critical thing really is that our elements are under, and I keep saying this, are under full development. They're not phase A, phase B, or whatever. Our cutting computers will be delivered later this year. Engines are under test for the Earth Return Orbiter.


It's hard to scope how, what an extraordinary spacecraft that is. BepiColombo was a huge challenge for us with 17 kilowatts of electric, solar electric propulsion, the most powerful, deep space electric propulsion we've done. This is 40 kilowatts. It'll be up to one newton of electric propulsion thrust, which is almost like the holy grail to be able to go there. And it's staging. It has chemical propulsion, it stages at Mars. It's got to circle its way down, and down to the low orbit to rendezvous, and find the sample container in orbit. Capture that and bring that back up, circle all the way back up, escape, Mars Orbit Return. I keep saying it's the first [inaudible 0:55:20] cargo ship. It really is. It's a step towards what we need to do in the future.

Mat Kaplan (55:26):

And Richard Cook also talked about the technical, the mechanical complications of that capture step that you mentioned, because it has to, well, it has to find the MAV, the return capsule, first of all, which will be no small task, as you said. But then to encapsulate it, to get it safely back down to the surface here.

David Parker (55:46):

Yeah, exactly. It's a kind of inter explanatory pass the parcel game in which… Oh, the question that some of these people ask, “Why are we doing it?” First of all, why are we doing it is in order, is down to protection, it's in order to ensure that the earth doesn't contaminate any of the samples we're interested in, but also, very much so, Mars does not contaminate earth. So, we take this what our first site may sound like somewhat ambitious approach of having acquired all of these samples in a container, launch them into orbit. We throw it overboard from the Mars Ascent Vehicle in a tiny container, which is not much bigger than a, well, I guess you'd say a football, I would say a rugby ball. And then our spacecrafts have to find it in orbit. So, the cameras and the technology to do that is a super challenge. Just finding them ball and then pulling it in. And as you say, sealing it in such a way that there's no risk of contamination.


All the way forward to the return vehicle hurtling into the atmosphere and landing hard somewhere in Utah, most likely. So, super challenging.

Mat Kaplan (56:54):

I'm almost reluctant to bring it up because there is a certain tragic element to it, but the loss of the ExoMars rover, or indeed, is it a loss? Because I have read that discussions continue.

David Parker (57:06):

It's very poignant. I was saying to somebody in the bus out here this morning, “We would be, also from here, going straight to Baikonur, 20th September, which is the launch date of Rosalind Franklin rover. All the spacecraft hardware is sitting in Turin, the rover inside the set module, all the rest of it. The whole thing is there ready to go. We have basically ran in three months, four months, our industry, ran what normally takes a year, a complete phase A study to come up with a concept for recovering the mission, potential international corporation from NASA to enable that to happen. So, we know how we would do it. It's now a question for our ministers. Some of them are here in this room and would have to make the decision as to whether they want to recover this project.


But I keep saying we want to go to a place on Mars that is just over 4 billion years old, probably a hydrated lake in the early era of planet Mars. It's even older region than where Perseverance is. So, if you're going to go search for life, that's a place you want to go to. We've be waiting 4 billion years. ExoMars has already taken us quite a few years, but we may have been patient to wait a few more for it to unveil its secrets. But I think, technologically, scientifically, it's still totally competitive. You've got to get drilled below the surface to get to regions which have not been affected by radiation, it would destroy any organic chemicals, the things you're looking for. So, that's where we want to go.

Mat Kaplan (58:37):

It's that drill that I was most looking forward to.

David Parker (58:40):

Yeah. I mean, it's a unique piece of technology, European technology, specifically Italian technology, the drill is a marvel of engineering when you see it because it has all these separate units that kind of assemble themselves into this two-meter drill, all autonomously automatically. And, of course, the whole thing, you have to drill a home that is maybe a one-and-a-half-kilowatt drill, if you're drilling through your plaster, this is going to all run-off for a hundred Watts. So, the gearing and the systems to ensure that it can work and does work is a marvel in engineering by itself. The internal mechanics of the analytical laboratory that takes the samples, crushes them, distributes them to all the different instruments is also a joy to behold. And then you realize the whole thing has been built in a class 10 facility. That means ultra, ultra, biologically clean. That's never been done by anybody anywhere else in the world. It's extraordinary.

Mat Kaplan (59:38):

Let me bring this back to where we are today, preparation for sending these humans from perhaps around the world, back to the moon, and the partnership that are increasingly sophisticated robots, like ExoMars and others, how they may have a partnership with those humans. It's something we asked Thomas about as well.

David Parker (1:00:00):

Yeah, I mean, I totally believe in it. It is this partnership of humans and robots. Robots are the, if you like, the eyes and the feel of the humans before that we can send the humans. We've done a lot of work. We've demonstrated using the space station robots controlled on the surface of the earth, putting in the time delay and the communications glitches in order to demonstrate the feasibility of using robots in, perhaps on the moon, perhaps on Mars, in the more dangerous places where you wouldn't want to send humans, to start off with. If we really want to go into shadow craters, we want to really search for the most interesting secrets that the moon has to reveal. We may not be able to send the humans in, to start off with, it may just be too dangerous. So, the combination of humans and robots working together. Robots also acting as the fetchers and carriers to support the astronauts. That's absolutely part of my picture of the future of planetary exploration.

Mat Kaplan (1:00:59):

So, there are partnerships of every imaginable kind across all of this work.

David Parker (1:01:04):

Yeah. Partnerships, it's a cliched word, but it's really true. I mean, I see ESA, in our DNA, it's 22 member states. I love working with colleagues again, here, all the different nations of ESA, all the different companies in Europe, their work have contributed to… The 10 nations whose companies have contributed to the European Service Module, that's a partnership within Europe. It's the friendships we have built up working with people like Thomas, but also every level. You say hi to the people arriving here at KSC, it's a very cool thing. I feel I've reached that stage, I remember the moon landings, that if there was a vision of the future, this international partnership is so important for the future of mankind.

Speaker 8 (1:01:49):

How has Artemis as a program and the partnership that ESA has provided, particularly with the service module and the potential opportunity to provide astronauts to the gateway and to the lunar surface, how has that allowed you and others within ESA to secure support from your individual member nations and the European public at large?

David Parker (1:02:14):

That's a really great question. People often ask, why isn't Europe doing more in space more generally? That's the big challenge that we have. People forget, you may have the best Earth Observation System in the world, the most accurate satellite navigation system in the world, all the rest of these things, but the very visible elements are exploration. If you like, the United States has a historical accident, has this huge program because of the cold war, because of the space race. You find many European countries, and I’m often thinking about some of the smaller ones, who very specifically say they like being part of the International Space Station, and now they like being part of Artemis because of this international aspect, because they're contributing to sometime it’s called soft power or kind of form of diplomacy that is, yes, it is about countries working together.


And the United States is a partner. We may be a very small country, but it is possible to contribute on major civil projects with the United States. So yes, it has absolutely contributed to making the case within Europe.

Speaker 8 (1:03:18):

Obviously, we talked about some of the consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but in that context, and also with kind of the, let's say chilling of some of the relations with China and seeing some of the issues with global, maybe a retrenchment of, or maybe a balkanization of exploration or global politics, do you see the symbolic aspect of human space fight resonating more strongly for that purpose? Is that either at the political or the public level? Is it more important that you participate in, not just the practical aspect of space, situational awareness, earth climate, science and navigation, but to pursue these more symbolic aspects as a necessary or valuable… the value of that increases now?

David Parker (1:04:01):

Oh gosh, that's a super interesting question. It's kind of, if I was a politician, I'd be able to answer it. As a lonely civil servant, I have to be careful what I say. As a citizen of the world, I'd like to believe that the pendulum will turn, the clock will turn, and if we're going to do exploration of Mars, that's such a huge challenge. We need all of the brains of the world working on it. There's so much of the moon to explore, so much of the universe to explore. I hope that it will be in partnership in different ways. We've always worked very well with our Russian partners. The corporation on ExoMars was, at working level, was totally professional and very… We learned a lot from working with them. They learned a lot from working with us. Let's hope for a better world. That's all I can say.

Mat Kaplan (1:04:49):

Well, let's hope that this particular partnership has much to celebrate by this time tomorrow.

David Parker (1:04:53):

I'm looking forward to it. I can barely wait.

Mat Kaplan (1:04:57):

Thank you very much, David.

David Parker (1:04:57):

David. It was great talking to you.

Mat Kaplan (1:04:59):

The European Space Agency’s David Parker, closing out our series of conversations with leaders of just a few of the international agencies that are part of the Artemis program. I'm grateful to all of them for spending time with us at the Kennedy Space Center.

Bill Nye (1:05:14):

Greetings, Bill Nye here, CEO of The Planetary Society. We need your help as we launch a new and exciting project. It's a new subscription style program for kids. We call it The Planetary Academy. And it's getting underway with a Kickstarter campaign. The Planetary Academy is a special learning and membership opportunity for kids ages five to nine. Young explorers will receive four adventure packs each year that have been developed by our experts. We're creating the first adventure packs right now. Academy members will learn all about our solar system through out of this world activities and surprises, preparing them to blast off to exciting destinations. After this first successful year, we’ll expand the academy to a full three-year program that explorers and their families can renew annually.


Will you help us kickstart The Planetary Academy by backing our project? visit today to learn more and get behind this exciting new opportunity. That's Thanks.

Mat Kaplan (1:06:21):

Time for what's up on Planetary Radio. We are here with the Chief Scientist of the Planetary Society. You know him, it's Bruce Betts. Welcome back.

Bruce Betts (1:06:31):

Hi Mat.

Mat Kaplan (1:06:31):

Why are we whispering?

Bruce Betts (1:06:33):

Because if you want people to listen, whisper.

Mat Kaplan (1:06:37):

I thought it was because your dogs are asleep.

Bruce Betts (1:06:41):

They are, but there doesn't seem to be any correlation with that. Hey, you want to hear about the night sky?

Mat Kaplan (1:06:47):

I do, but first, I want to say something about Venusian atmospheric penguins, because I was reminded by a couple of listeners that we never posted any of the pictures that we got from quite a few of you. Thank you so much, everyone. We're not going to be able to do all of them. If you are listening elsewhere, go to this week's page at, to see some great examples of some of the artwork that we got. Some of the prettiest came from AI machines. So, I don't know if we'll use any of that, although one of them is awfully pretty, but I especially wanna call attention to the one from Juliana, who's a very young person for us. Thank you, Juliana. Nice work.

Bruce Betts (1:07:34):

Well, I just want to point out these aren't our first penguins. We had the Mars microphone penguin on the failed Mars Polar Lander. We also had at least one very humorous entry into a contest we ran for Huygens long ago of a group of green penguins stealing the Huygens probe after it landed.

Mat Kaplan (1:07:56):

I forgot that one. I'm going to have to look that up unless you can steer me to it. That's great.

Bruce Betts (1:08:01):

Yeah, I can help you find that. That was amusing. In the night sky, also very amusing, hilarious, hilarious as Jupiter is rising just after sunset in the east, and then it'll be up in the east looking super bright. And significantly above it is yellowish Saturn. And Mars coming up in the late evening now, and will follow the others across the sky and looking reddish. Mars’s brightening significantly over the next couple months as it gets closer to earth, and/or earth gets closer to Mars, depending on how you look at it. And Jupiter will be at opposition, opposite side of the earth from the sun on September 26th. So, then it'll really be rising at sunset and setting at sunrise.

Mat Kaplan (1:08:47):

One might even say by Jove.

Bruce Betts (1:08:51):

That's ridiculous. No, it's not. It's brilliant. Keep them coming, Mat. Keep them coming.

Mat Kaplan (1:08:57):

I'll do my best.

Bruce Betts (1:08:58):

I know you can't help it. Neither can I. Onto this weekend space history, five years since the Cassini end of mission intentionally crashed into Saturn, after an unbelievably magnificent mission, in 1965, Lost in Space premieres, which I mention every year for Mat's benefit.

Mat Kaplan (1:09:20):

It was a special day for me, at least until Star Trek premiered a year later, and then Lost in Space kind of faded from my pantheon of television sci-fi greats.

Bruce Betts (1:09:31):

Yeah. I wonder what the producer said. Probably something like, “Danger, danger, losing Mat Kaplan, danger.” Okay. On to random space fact.

Mat Kaplan (1:09:45):

RSF Will Robinson.

Bruce Betts (1:09:49):

So, picture, I know you've swum in them, Mat, an Olympic-size pool.

Mat Kaplan (1:09:53):

Many times.

Bruce Betts (1:09:54):

The odd dimensions, at least in the U.S., of typically 25 yards by 50 meters to accommodate swimming of both short course and long course. Well, the reason that's relevant, there's a lot of liquid in an Olympic-size pool, wouldn't you say?

Mat Kaplan (1:10:09):

Yeah, absolutely.

Bruce Betts (1:10:11):

You know what would overflow an Olympic-size pool? Is, if you took all of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the SLS rocket and put them together, which isn't always advisable. That would overflow an Olympic size swimming pool.

Mat Kaplan (1:10:27):

Wow. That's a lot of gas and oxygen. And I suppose, if there were such a pool, you'd want to have a really good wet suit to swim in it.

Bruce Betts (1:10:39):

I'm pretty sure you, at least are going dry suit and possibly something more specialized.

Mat Kaplan (1:10:46):

Sometimes the pool I used to swim in on my YMCA AAU team, it was just about as cold as, maybe not liquid hydrogen, but it was down there near to liquid. I can assure you.

Bruce Betts (1:10:59):

Just blew through liquid nitrogen. That's not good. Let's move on, shall we? Do the trivia contest where I, once again, asked you a question that seems so straightforward and wasn't. I thought it was. How many JPL directors have there been since the Voyagers launched, include acting directors? Do I know how we did that?

Mat Kaplan (1:11:21):

Well, first of all, we got a very big response. Now, it's goods not shaping up to be as big as next week's response…

Bruce Betts (1:11:29):

Oh nice.

Mat Kaplan (1:11:29):

… with your animals on Artemis. But wait till you hear about that one, that is just still coming together. I mean, most people had one particular answer. Here, I'll read this to you. It's from Gene Lewin in Washington. The seven wonders of the world, seven days in the week, seven sisters in the evening skies, according to the Greeks, Voyagers, both one and two, traveling the seven heavens, have seen directors change at JPL. As of now, that count is seven. And that's what you thought we were looking for, right?

Bruce Betts (1:12:02):

That is. And if you go, for example, to the JPL list of directors, that's what you will find since Voyager's launched in 77.

Mat Kaplan (1:12:13):

But there's a guy who's often left out. And it looked like maybe because he had a somewhat different status?

Bruce Betts (1:12:22):

Basically, we'll take seven or eight as the correct answer because there was the Gen. Charles ton Terhune, the JPL acting director in ‘82, who's listed on the JPL site, but for example, not in the list on Wikipedia. And there is Larry James, both of these generals are, in his case, Lieutenant General, retired from the Air Force. He was the interim director during this latest period between directors. So, eight if you count acting and interim directors, seven if you count acting directors, six if you don't count, five, four, three, two, one. So, seven or eight, how'd we do? Who won?

Mat Kaplan (1:13:05):

Well, it happens that selected somebody who came up with the number seven, and that person, get this, Rick Rubio in Nebraska, long time listener. He says he'll be sad when I'm no longer hosting, but he's gonna keep listening. I recommend that very highly, Rick. There'll be plenty of reason to continue. Rick, one time previously, 10 years and one month ago.

Bruce Betts (1:13:36):

Oh my gosh.

Mat Kaplan (1:13:37):

Long time between wins. Congratulations, Rick. You got yourself a nice prize package. It's a copy of that beautiful new book, Voyager: Photograph's From Humanity's Greatest Journey. I'm not going to argue with that statement by Jens Bezemer and Joel Meter, published by teNeues. teNeues? Anyway, it's t-e-N-E-U-E-S because I don't remember how to do it. But we're also throwing in a Planetary Society Voyager Neptune and Counter medallion. Good on you, Rick. Congratulations.

Bruce Betts (1:14:15):

Yes. And let's not wait another decade for this.

Mat Kaplan (1:14:20):

I got more. Just a few, Christopher Mills in Virginia, “Where would we be without JPL?” Doing much less mighty things probably. Laura Dodd in California, “So many memories from the early days of the Voyagers. I wish I'd pursued planetary science in grad school, but at least I can still enjoy the discoveries all our amazing planetary missions have made for us.” And finally, from our poet laureate, Day Fairchild in Kansas, “Lucky seven is the number from the JPL. Lots of doctors served as leaders, generals as well. Dr. Murray was in charge when Voyagers took flight. Laurie Leshin at the helm, she'll take us to new heights.

Bruce Betts (1:15:00):


Mat Kaplan (1:15:02):

Guess we're ready for another one.

Bruce Betts (1:15:03):

Approximately, and I underline the word approximately, how long from launch will it take Korea's Danuri’s mission to reach the moon? How long will it take Danuri to reach the moon from when it launched in August of this year? Go to

Mat Kaplan (1:15:24):

Anybody who is paying attention during the opening of this week's show should have a fairly easy time with this one. And you have until the 21st. That would be September 21st at 8:00 AM Pacific Time. It's a Wednesday, by the way. Yeah, you didn't know that. It was a news item in The Downlink. So, I went ahead and mentioned that, but that's okay. We can stick with it.

Bruce Betts (1:15:51):

It's okay. We should give benefit to those who listen to the shows.

Mat Kaplan (1:15:55):


Bruce Betts (1:15:56):

Plus, you probably got it wrong.

Mat Kaplan (1:16:00):

Thanks so much.

Bruce Betts (1:16:00):

No, I'm kidding. I haven't heard it. I have faith in you and The Downlink.

Mat Kaplan (1:16:04):

Yeah. Well, you're going to have faith in The Downlink at least.

Bruce Betts (1:16:07):

That's because I review that. I don't review you.

Mat Kaplan (1:16:10):

Thank goodness.

Bruce Betts (1:16:11):

Thank goodness. All right, everybody, go out there, look up the night sky and think about, what dog or sheep you would fly on a spacecraft if you had the option? Stuff buddy in this case. Go to, because all I'm going to say is thank you, and goodnight.

Mat Kaplan (1:16:32):

I have a little bit more to say. It occurred to me that that range of JPL directors from Bruce Murray to Laurie Leshin, those bookends, you're well connected to both of those, aren't you?

Bruce Betts (1:16:45):

Yeah. Bruce Murray was my PhD thesis advisor, and Laurie Leshin and I were in the same class entering at Cal Tech, doing planetary type stuff.

Mat Kaplan (1:16:56):

Do you need more evidence of why we're glad he's the chief scientist for The Planetary Society, and that he joins us every week here on what's up?

Bruce Betts (1:17:05):

I've had to turn down JPL director so many times.

Mat Kaplan (1:17:08):

Oops, I forgot to mention this week's prize, and it's a great one. Our friends at Chop Shop have a newly designed JWST t-shirt. You can check it out at, where you'll also find The Planetary Society merch store. Planetary radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and is made possible by its members around the world. We want and need you wherever you are on planet earth or beyond. Learn more at Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our associate producers. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. Ad Astra.