Planetary Radio • Jan 05, 2022

Return to the Moon: Spacesuits and preparing for splashdown in the Pacific

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Melissa Jones

NASA Landing and Recovery Director for the Exploration Ground Systems Program

Captain gervy alota

Captain Gervy Alota

Commander of the USS John P. Murtha

Daniel klopp portrait

Daniel Klopp

Director of Marketing and Business Development at Space Systems ILC Dover

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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

NASA’s Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. We visit Naval Base San Diego to board the USS John P. Murtha, the ship that may recover the uncrewed Artemis 1 Orion capsule when it returns from the Moon this year. Next, Daniel Kopp of ILC Dover tells us about work underway to create the next moonsuit. Every Apollo moonwalker wore an ILC Dover spacesuit, as do most of the astronauts who go outside the International Space Station. What’s Up? That’s the question chief scientist Bruce Betts answers each week.

Artemis generation spacesuit
Artemis generation spacesuit Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wearing a ground prototype of NASA’s new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), is seen during a demonstration of the suit.Image: NASA/Joel Kowsky
USS John P. Murtha with Orion test article
USS John P. Murtha with Orion test article The Orion test article on the well deck of the USS John P. Murtha.Image: Mat Kaplan / The Planetary Society
Orion test article
Orion test article Melissa Jones and Captain Gervy Alota with the Orion spacecraft Structural Test Article on the USS John P. Murtha.Image: Mat Kaplan / The Planetary Society
Mat Kaplan and Captain Alota with Orion test article
Mat Kaplan and Captain Alota with Orion test article Mat Kaplan and USS John P. Murtha Captain Gervy Alota with the Orion test article.Image: Mat Kaplan / The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan: Recovering Orion and a snazzy new suit for moon-walkers this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. It's not likely to happen in 2024, but it looks like humans will return to the moon before too much longer. The first woman and next man are likely to travel there in an Orion spaceship or a capsule. And when they return to earth, they'll splash down not far from my hometown of San Diego, California. We'll take a trip to Naval Base, San Diego and climb onboard the ship that might recover the uncrewed Artemis 1 Orion capsule this year. In November, the USS John P. Murtha successfully completed the final recovery exercise in preparation for that event. We'll meet its captain and the woman in charge of landing and recovery for NASA. Then we'll sit down with Daniel Klopp of ILC Dover, the company that made the suits for every astronaut that walked on the moon half a century ago and that is deeply involved in creation of the next much improved moon suit.

Mat Kaplan: Bruce Betts will help us close out this first episode of the new year when he takes us across the night sky and introduces a new space trivia contest. We learned with great relief just hours before we made this week's show available that the James Webb Space Telescope had successfully extended and tensioned all five of its sun shield layers. This is a very big deal. Most of the critical steps have now been completed. By the time you hear this, both the primary and secondary mirrors may have been locked into place. Anyway, we dearly hope so. Go JWST! Did you hear about the big boom over Pittsburgh on New Year's Day? Tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of people heard it. NASA believes that a meteor traveling at about 45,000 miles per hour or 72,000 KPM exploded over a suburbs of the Pennsylvania City.

Mat Kaplan: It probably generated a tremendous flash of light, but the overcast sky kept it from being seen. Here's the kicker. The space rock may have only been about a yard or a meter across. Think about what a 10 meter wide meteor might have done. And then think about why planetary defense deserves to be a priority. You'll find more space news and wonders in the December 31st edition of the Downlink, our free online newsletter. For example, there's the farm on the International Space Station tended by a couple of astronauts. And did you know that as of the end of 2021, we found over 4,500 planets orbiting other stars? is the place to find these and other stories.

Mat Kaplan: It was back in 2017 that I first visited Naval Base, San Diego to learn how the US Navy would support recovery of the Orion capsules that will carry humans to the moon and back. We've got a link to that first tour on this week's show page at, along with lots of other great links and images. They include pictures I took when I returned on November 9th, 2021. The USS John P. Murtha had just returned from practicing how the Artemis 1 Orion will be scooped up from the Pacific. I climbed up a ramp into the cavernous well at the stern of the Murtha where a full-size model of Orion was secured. Standing next to it was Melissa Jones. We'd first met during that 2017 visit. Melissa was and is director of NASA's landing and recovery operations. And she had good reason to be proud.

Mat Kaplan: Melissa, it is delightful to see you once again. It has been almost four years since I stood in a gigantic bay like this, in front of an Orion test article like that. It's a blast to be back.

Melissa Jones: Thank you. It's great to see you again. Yes, it's been four years, but we're back and we just did our last test.

Mat Kaplan: Well, what do you mean, last test? A recovery test?

Melissa Jones: Correct. So last year or four years ago, when we saw you before, we were just getting started with trying to develop procedures and hardware, and we've had those four years to refine all that we've been working on. And this was our mission certification run. We are ready to recover Orion.

Mat Kaplan: Which is not far off, finally. The whole team must be pretty excited.

Melissa Jones: Yes, we are very excited. At early next year, we should have a splash down off the coast of San Diego, and it really feels so real. We have flight hardware at Kennedy Space Center. We've got a giant stacked rocket and everybody's in the final phases of getting ready for flight.

Mat Kaplan: This ship that we're standing in right now, you told me a moment ago, the hope is this may actually be the ship that recovers Artemis 1.

Melissa Jones: That's correct. I believe this is the current ship assigned for Artemis 1. That's why we're doing the certification with them. Great ship. Great crew, leadership team is on point. We had a great week with them last week so we're really hoping that the launch stays where it's at and doesn't slip outside of their support availability.

Mat Kaplan: What has happened in the last four years as Orion has continued to develop, and you've been waiting on that big rocket, the Space Launch System?

Melissa Jones: There's been a lot happening. So we've been developing systems at KSC for the pre-launch, we've been training the launch team, stacking boosters. Once we got the flight harbor room, we stacked the boosters, stacked the core stage. We just put Orion on top a couple weeks ago, and we're doing our power up testing. But for the recovery team, we had a lot to figure out after our last mission. EFT-1 was in 2014 and we learned a lot and needed to change some things about how we did recovery operations. So we did a proof of concept with a couple of different pieces of hardware. That was early on.

Melissa Jones: Last time we talked, we had just finished that proof of concept and we had chosen a recovery method. Since then, we went through verification and validation, which basically means that we did testing that allowed us to get all of the evidence that we needed to prove that we could meet our requirements. And then March, 2020, right as COVID was hitting, we were on out here on the same ship with a different crew. And we did some refinement of our operations and our procedures, then schedules that we knew when and how we wanted to do the operations now that we knew that our hardware was good, and this was our final training run. [inaudible 00:06:49]

Mat Kaplan: Something you got to expect now and then when you're standing on-

Melissa Jones: Absolutely. And this was our final test. It was our certification run where we did our final fine-tuning of our schedules, procedures, trained a couple of our folks who needed to get additional certifications. And it went amazingly well.

Mat Kaplan: That's great to hear. How much is this going to look like what we have seen over the history of the space program with spacecraft being recovered at sea, Apollo, and even now with the Crew Dragon from SpaceX?

Melissa Jones: Right. So well, as you know, we have a long history with the Navy recovering capsules. This will look a little different because we're using a well deck instead of a crane.

Mat Kaplan: Which is what we're standing in right now, the well deck.

Melissa Jones: Correct. Yes. So that will look different, but it's the same proficient team of operators. SpaceX is a little different. They come back from station, they have a little bit more flexibility with their landing site and their capsule is a little smaller. So when we commit to come back from the moon, there's not that much we can do to change where we land and fine-tune that and so we have to have medical capabilities on board and the ability to go farther out than a company like SpaceX does.

Mat Kaplan: Tell me about this test article that we're standing in front of, which to the untrained eye looks like it could be ready to go into space.

Melissa Jones: Yes, it is just a test article or a mock capsule. It was used early on in development for drop test into water, like water impact testing. And when they were finished with that and they verified that the design of the capsule was good enough for those types of impacts, they didn't need it anymore. And we did. We needed to have something to test with. And so we partnered with the owners, Lockheed Martin to accept responsibility for it. And we've been maintaining it and keeping it up to date ever since then. It looks like a capsule, but it's full of metal and iron. There's no interior. There's no hatch that works. There's no windows, there's no docking mechanism on the top. It basically is just available for us to use and bang up and use for a test article.

Mat Kaplan: In spite of it not being a real capsule, they're going to be museums fighting over this someday.

Melissa Jones: That's very true. It's very true. So when we're done with it, we would definitely turn it over to somebody who could get some historic value out of it, but we still need it for a little while longer.

Mat Kaplan: There is a big assembly on top, which I actually asked you, is that a real docking assembly? And you said, "No, no, that wouldn't be needed for it," but what are we looking at?

Melissa Jones: So that's just a tunnel. Helps it to be a representative piece of hardware. On top of that, we attach GPS antennas, cameras, things that'll allow us to gather data as we go forward, a strobe so we can see the capsule at night, but it's just a fake tunnel. That's just a part of the anatomy of the fake capsule.

Mat Kaplan: Just a couple of other questions. You mentioned the pandemic. We have talked across so many projects with so many teams at NASA about what dealing with that has done to the development of spacecraft like this and all the others. How did it affect development of Orion? Did it delay things much?

Melissa Jones: So I think there's definite some delays, but fortunately for us, we were able to continue doing the critical operations at the Space Center. We were very careful. We brought only folks in that were required to do those operations and everybody else worked from home. Masks, social distancing. We have a real stringent cleaning process, an organization that comes in. And if somebody had ended up with COVID, an alert was sent to our medical team. The medical team did contact tracing, came in, and sterilized the area. So we got very good at trying to process as safely as possible, knowing that we really couldn't stop. We really needed to continue and my management at the Space Center's been very, very strategic and careful with how we've allowed operations to continue during COVID.

Mat Kaplan: There are no astronauts here with us today, but I'm sure that astronauts have played a big part in the development of the capsule, particularly the things that the astronauts are going to have to deal with directly. Can you talk about that?

Melissa Jones: Sure. So we typically have a flight crew member with us underway. We did have representation from the crew office, but just not an astronaut, but they are definitely a part of all of our meetings, our con-up, developments. Obviously we're going to be recovering them and they're very invested in that. The timing of this test with a lot of stuff going on with crew, missions for commercial crew, and some other things happening in the agency right now made it difficult for us to get somebody on board, but they're involved in all of the decisions that we make. And once we fly the uncrewed mission on Artemis 1, and we continue these tests for crewed missions, you'll see their participation and the participation of our health and medical tech authority will pick up. They'll be on the ship more, and we'll be working those operations.

Mat Kaplan: You have been on this for a long time, leading this vital part of the operation. Pretty rewarding?

Melissa Jones: It is very rewarding. I started in August of 2015 and have developed the team, added things, seen what's worked. And so it's been an evolution over time. I just have an amazing team and so it's so gratifying to see those guys come out here and execute these operations successfully. It's just been a great week for us.

Mat Kaplan: Where will you be when Artemis 1 takes to the sky? And for that matter, Artemis 2 and Artemis 3?

Melissa Jones: Currently, I'll be at the Kennedy Space Center for the launch. And then well, I'll be out here for the recovery when we come back.

Mat Kaplan: That's pretty thrilling. I hope we get to talk again when that Orion capsule makes its way right back here to the Naval Base in San Diego.

Melissa Jones: That would be great. It would be good to see you again.

Mat Kaplan: Thanks, Melissa.

Melissa Jones: Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: A few feet from Melissa Jones stood the commanding officer of the USS John P. Murtha. Fans of college football may remember him from his days as a star player and captain of the Naval Academy team.

Gervy Alota: Yeah. My name is Gervy Alota. I'm from San Diego, California. I am the son of a Chief Petty Officer, HTC. I'm a local boy from San Diego and I'm the commanding officer of the USS John P. Murtha.

Mat Kaplan: It is a pleasure to meet you, skipper. And we are almost neighbors. I'm a local as well. I just came down the hill from Chula Vista.

Gervy Alota: Awesome.

Mat Kaplan: And it is such an honor to be here on this great vessel.

Gervy Alota: Well, thank you. We pride ourselves in having the sexiest ship on the water front, and how we look and how we operate, the way that people walk around here with smiles on their faces, we truly have a special group on board this ship. And I went to Morse High School, just down the road for Paradise Hills so to have the opportunity to lead these young sailors here in my hometown is just a dream come.

Mat Kaplan: And how about the opportunity to play the role that your ship may be playing from what I'm told from some of the NASA folks when Artemis 1, that Orion capsule drops down into the Pacific ocean, not too many miles off shore?

Gervy Alota: Yeah, it's just a huge honor to have the opportunity to do something as historic as recovering the capsule. We do a lot of missions on this ship. We're tasked to bring marines ashore. We're tasked to defend ourselves. We're tasked to do humanitarian operations, but there's nothing more sexy and cooler than being able to recover a capsule that just entered space.

Mat Kaplan: Tell me about this huge space where we're standing right now. It's radio. I mean, we'll share some photos with people, but they're not going to have the fun of standing where I am.

Gervy Alota: Yeah. It's huge. It's called the well deck and it's designed to take on water and we call it the captain's pool because when we don't have craft in here, we actually balance down to eight feet. So imagine a 8-foot deep pool. And when we have fun, the crew just goes up to the catwalk and jumps in and we have a little swim call. And that's one thing that you do in the Navy, where everyone just appreciates it. And it's one of those positive sea stories that they could take back to their kids one day.

Mat Kaplan: Wait a minute. They do it right here in the well? This fills to about the eight foot level?

Gervy Alota: Absolutely.

Mat Kaplan: And you join in?

Gervy Alota: I'm the first one in, last one out, every single time. Every underway we've had, with the exception of this mission, we've had a swim call, whether it was inside the well or outside the ship. And that's one of the traditions in the Navy. If you've been in the Navy for so long, and you've never experienced a swim call, shame on the CO, shame on the captain for not giving them the opportunity.

Mat Kaplan: And it's an indoor pool in your case.

Gervy Alota: Exactly. So you don't have to deal with sharks. You don't have to deal with seas. It's a nice controlled environment. The only thing to be aware of, when they jump that high, people get a little bit gnarly and they try to do back flips and dive headfirst, so we have to be able to monitor that.

Mat Kaplan: I've got to say, I don't know if you've read any of the Master and Commander books, but there are scenes in that where the captain of the ship, the main character across all these books, he loves to jump overboard and go swimming.

Gervy Alota: One of the things unique about this ship and probably the first time in history, we actually did a video for an abandoned ship drill, where we actually launched a life raft over the side and we jumped from the boat valley.

Mat Kaplan: Wow.

Gervy Alota: And I had to be the first one in, show to everyone that it's not that high. It's about 60 feet. So it's relatively high. But if I can do it, this old man, then anybody can do it.

Mat Kaplan: You don't look that old. And so tell me, how does that capability fit into the job that you may do when you recover something that's going to look a lot like this fake capsule right behind us?

Gervy Alota: Yeah. So it's right in our wheelhouse. Everything that we do, the things that we have to do to prepare ourselves, to have the capsule enter our well deck, it's all amphibious. So we're launching boats, we're launching aircraft, we're sinking the ship, and bringing something in our well, and that's all amphibious. This is what we do. And this is our bread and butter. So to be able to bring something in our well deck, whether it's marines, whether it's the capsule, this is something that we are trained and bred to do. We are the ideal platform to be able to make this happen.

Mat Kaplan: I am told that things went really well during that last recovery test that just completed recently.

Gervy Alota: Yeah. First of all, this crew is special. We don't lose, we take tasks head on. We work super hard, but we party like pirates. So they understand that it all starts with winning. And this crew is special. We've been worked really hard this summer. We just came from Saipan, Peru, and then we're tasked with this mission. So this is not easy work. Think about six to seven foot swells, launching seven meters, 11 meters in heavy ocean, heavy seas, and then having to recover them again, having to get within a hundred feet of this capsule in the middle of the night, it's hard work and these sailors are working 12 plus hour days, gritty, just getting sweaty and bloody. You talked about the amount of work that it takes to recover something like this in our well, we don't like to lose so we ensured that we made sure we were ready to ensure that this mission was a success.

Mat Kaplan: I'll just congratulate you and your crew on all of this work and on your mission. Thank you for your service. I hope I get a chance to see a little bit more of your great vessel.

Gervy Alota: Awesome, sir. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my amazing crew. They're truly special and none of this would've happened if it wasn't for them.

Mat Kaplan: Thanks, captain.

Gervy Alota: Awesome. Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: Captain Gervy Alota of the USS John P. Murtha. We are grateful to NASA, the US Navy, and the crew of the Murtha for welcoming us. When we return in moments, we'll learn about the work underway to create the spacesuit astronauts will wear when they visit the moon.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: There's so much going on in the world of space science and exploration, and we are here to share it with you. Hi, I'm Sarah, digital community manager for The Planetary Society. Are you looking for a place to get more space? Catch the latest space exploration news, pretty planetary pictures, and Planetary Society publications on our social media channels. You can find The Planetary Society on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Make sure you like and subscribe so you never miss the next exciting update from the world of planetary science.

Mat Kaplan: Welcome back. Some of you may remember my praise for a book called Spacesuit. You'll hear about it again in moments when I talk with Daniel Klopp. Dan is the director of Space Systems, marketing and business development for ILC Dover, the company that has designed and manufactured every EVA or Extravehicular Activity Spacesuit for NASA from the Apollo suits through the EMUs, or Extravehicular Mobility Units used on the International Space Station. Now the company is deeply involved in development of not one, but two new and improved suits that astronauts may someday wear on the moon and possibly Mars. Dan Klopp, thank you for coming in to talk about the next moon suit. We're glad to have you on Planetary Radio.

Daniel Klopp: Well, thank you for inviting me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Mat Kaplan: I'm going to start with this headline, this heading at the top of your spacesuit webpage, "Anyone can try to make a spacesuit. Only ours have been to of the moon." You guys aren't proud or anything, are you?

Daniel Klopp: Well, we're quite proud of our legacy. We've developed every EVA spacesuit for NASA for the past 50 plus years.

Mat Kaplan: Not just EVA suits, right? This is really a legacy that goes way back, and it is very well documented in a book that I know you are also very aware of, that we talked about on this show a couple of years ago. We'll put a link up to the book Spacesuit, Fashioning Apollo on this week's episode page. I highly recommend listening to that interview with Nicholas de Monchaux and even more highly reading that book, which is about in part, because it's about much more, but it's in part about the development of the suit that worked so well for the Apollo astronauts 50 years ago now for the last of them.

Daniel Klopp: Right.

Mat Kaplan: It's an amazing story and a very dramatic story, which ILC played such a huge role in.

Daniel Klopp: Yes, we're quite proud of that legacy. And one of the amazing things I think about our development efforts and the continuing work is a long-term partnership we've had with the company that today is known as Collins Aerospace, but back in the day, it was known as Hamilton Standard. And they've gone through multiple name changes since the Apollo era. Completely independent companies, but we've maintained a partnership with them. The Collins' people do the life support system for the suit, and we do the suit itself. To me, it's an amazing testimony to that partnership that we've maintained, even though we're completely independent companies, have actually gone through multiple rounds of different ownerships of the companies in the course of those 50 plus years that we've been partnered with them, we maintain that partnership straight today. We're working with them on the next generation lunar landing suits.

Mat Kaplan: And I think we'll come back to that partnership later on because there are so many other companies also involved in the development of this new moon suit. Just to give a little bit more of the history of ILC, I would guess that the company, or at least where the company started, is far better known maybe to hundreds of millions of people, especially women as a company called Playtex.

Daniel Klopp: Yes. We have the same historical route as the company that is known today as Playtex. The division between the two, the split between the consumer products piece of International Latex Corporation, which is where our ILC comes from, and the government contracting bit, which we are currently a legacy of, happened quite some number of years ago, but it makes for a good story, even though it's not quite true. Because of the timing of the split, there was a running joke, as I understand back in the Apollo era, that the same company that made bras and girdles made the lunar landing suits.

Mat Kaplan: But isn't it true? I mean, this is what Nicholas de Monchaux talks about, that some of the best seamstresses who were developing, making bras were brought over to work on stitching together the Apollo moon suits. [crosstalk 00:23:52]

Daniel Klopp: Absolutely.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, they had to be very precise for a good reason.

Daniel Klopp: Exactly. Fortunately when the company split, we got the best of the best of the seamstresses. So maybe a bit of a shame for the consumer products piece, but frankly, the precision required on that side isn't quite the precision required in terms of stitching spacesuits.

Mat Kaplan: We really want to talk about what's going on with the development of this new suit. I guess we have to give some mention to the EMU, or Extravehicular Mobility Unit, which is the suit that at least all American astronauts and many of the others who visit the International Space Station are going to wear if they need to go outside for some extravehicular activity. And that is also a suit that you guys are responsible for, as you said.

Daniel Klopp: That's correct. We developed that suit back in the early eighties, and it has had numerous upgrades over the years. You will see some references that are inaccurate that say they're still using the same suit that we used back in 1980. Not quite true because of advances in material science, we're constantly upgrading the various components of that suit. But yes, we have been in continual development of the EMU, the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, which was used in the Shuttle era and is currently being used on the International Space Station.

Mat Kaplan: There is another suit, of course, that is also used when people go outside the ISS and that's the Russian suit, the so-called Orlon suit, which from the sound of it has an even longer history than the EMU.

Daniel Klopp: Yes, I believe that's correct. I don't have all the history details in mind, but I have spoken with several astronauts, both NASA and ESA astronauts who have done some space walks in both suits. So several NASA astronauts have actually gone out there in the Russian Orlan suit for a space walk and several ESA astronauts, typically who go out in the EMU that we developed, sometimes they do go out in the Russian-built Orlan suit. And it's always interesting for me as a marketing and business development person to sort of keep tabs on my competition, so to speak, and learn more about what the Russian suit does well and what our suit does well, and sort of compare and contrast.

Mat Kaplan: That's fascinating. I did not know that there was that mix and match now and then at least among spacesuits in the ISS.

Daniel Klopp: So I've spoken with three astronauts who have done space walks in both the Russian Orlan suit and the EMU that we've developed and manufactured.

Mat Kaplan: Let's turn much more specifically to this new suit, the xEMU, or Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit. A lot of what I was able to learn about it, I mean, from your website, from NASA, but also from a report that we'll maybe bring up again in a few minutes from the NASA Inspector General, which conducted an audit, as you know about development of this new suit, the xEMU, which came out in August of 2021. It's one of the appendices in that report is a chart that compares the current suit, the EMU used on the ISS and this new suit. It's very impressive to look at the improvements, the advantages in the basic design of the suit that men and women are going to wear on the surface of the moon. Can you talk about some of these priorities and advantages?

Daniel Klopp: Interesting what's going on now in the spacesuit development world, because there are multiple competing designs going on right now for the Artemis missions, and it's yet to be decided which one or what combination of those will be actually used. At ILC Dover, we are contributing to two different design paths in this competition for the next generation suit. The xEMU is based on a design that we delivered to NASA a few years ago, which at the time was called the Z-2. And it was specifically designed as an evolution of the EMU to provide extra mobility in the lower torso because one of the differences between the Apollo suits, the A7L suit that we developed over 50 years ago and today's EMU is the mobility in the lower torso. Specifically the EMU was never designed to be a planetary exploration suit. That was only designed for use in earth orbit or in a nearest zero-G microgravity environment. So it has very little mobility in the lower torso, intentionally so.

Mat Kaplan: This is because even though we call them spacewalks, nobody really needs to walk much in an EMU.

Daniel Klopp: That's correct. All of the movement around the International Space Station, to use that as an example, is done with their hands and arms. They translate using those gold anodized aluminum rails that are bolted to the outside of the International Space Station. And so they do all their movement by using their hands and arms, and their legs just sort of dangle. So it's an interesting terminology that we do call it a spacewalk when it might be more appropriately termed a space-float.

Mat Kaplan: Yes. You'd mentioned the Z-2, I also read about another suit that is currently in development at ILC. Is that the Astro? And is that related to this?

Daniel Klopp: So the Astro suit is our own commercially developed suit that we're developing. Again, we're in partnership with Collins Aerospace to do the life support system for that suit, but that's actually on a different development path than the xEMU. And so this is part of this competition that is being set up. It's not that dissimilar to what is going on with taking astronauts back and forth to International Space Station, where today we have the SpaceX Crew Dragon, but in the near future, we'll have the Boeing Starliner and then followed not too far behind that by the Sierra Space...

Mat Kaplan: The Dream Chaser.

Daniel Klopp: The Dream Chaser. Yes. Thank you. And so there will be multiple competing, and maybe competing isn't the right word, multiple ways to carry humans to space. We see the same sort of evolution in terms of the way NASA is moving. The space industry and commercial space is heading to have multiple ways of taking an EVA.

Mat Kaplan: This is something, of course, that we've talked about many times on this show, especially during our space policy edition with Casey Dreier, this move toward commercial development for space where NASA is more of a customer, a client than actually in charge of the development, as it is, for example, with the Space Launch System, that big rocket that hopefully is going to take these astronauts back to the moon someday. It's a very interesting parallel. Because in the IG's report, I counted more than 25 different vendors and contractors who are involved with the development of the EMU suit, but are some of those companies working on different designs?

Daniel Klopp: We are aware of on the commercial side, since there's much more secrecy in terms of the development on the commercial side than there is on the government finance development side. It's a little bit more difficult to find competitive intelligence in my marketing perspective of the world. And we're uniquely positioned in ILC Dover in that we are contributing to the NASA in-house development, which is the xEMU. And we're pursuing independent of that, which is a little tricky from an intellectual property sort of maintenance standpoint. We're pursuing independent of the xEMU, what we call Astro. There are advantages and disadvantages to each side. I mean, everything in the engineering world involves trade offs. We're pursuing a different path with the Astro development than the contribution that we're making to the xEMU.

Mat Kaplan: It's complex more so than I thought, just from the research that I had done prior to our conversation. I'm going to go back to that comparison though, between what NASA is targeting to achieve with the xEMU as compared to the EMU, or for that matter to the old Apollo suits. When you look at this chart in the Inspector General's report, the advantages just look tremendous. Can you talk about that?

Daniel Klopp: Some of the differences between different types of EVA spacesuits involve the entry system. That's one of the key differences that differentiates. So if we go back to our own legacy in ILC Dover, the Apollo era, the A7L suits, were a rear-entry design. So you got into that suit from a zipper that was in the back of the suit, and you sort of opened up the back and climbed in to the suit. Each of those suits, except for the gloves and the helmet, were pretty monolithic and they were each custom-tailored for each individual astronaut. So back in the Apollo era, the astronauts used to visit our facility in Central Delaware and come to be measured and then for a suit fit check.

Mat Kaplan: A fitting, yeah.

Daniel Klopp: And that's no longer the case. So we don't do that for the current EMU suit. And the xEMU is an evolution of that, where it's a modular design that has common joint connections, but to use the current EMU as an example, we have different length arms that we make for that. We have many different size gloves. We have different size lower torsos that all clip onto three different sizes of upper torso that we make for that suit. So if you have somebody who's got fairly small shoulders, but say unusually long arms, we can assemble a suit from components using, say a medium upper torso, but the longer arms and longer lower torso. Or conversely, if you have an astronaut that has really broad shoulders, but is maybe shorter in stature, they might require a large upper torso, but shorter arms and a shorter lower torso to clip together.

Mat Kaplan: That's my suit by the way.

Daniel Klopp: Well, I'm a combination of the worst of both worlds. I'm all shoulders and I'm very tall so actually I'm a little too tall to have qualified for the original NASA programs years ago. My age might disqualify me at this point, but beyond that, we are accommodating people of my size in future generations of development of suits. So anyway, the entry. So the current EMU is a waist-entry suit. The Apollo suit was a rear-entry suit. The xEMU, NASA wanted to go back to a rear-entry design. And one of the reasons for that is they want to accommodate, and it's not clear that this will actually happen, but they want to accommodate what's called a suit port design. Because if you go all the way back to the Apollo era, one of the problems that the lunar regolith creates is it has very sharp edges at a microscopic level.

Mat Kaplan: That horrible dust, that killer dust.

Daniel Klopp: And it's next to everything. And there was quite a bit of problem back in the Apollo era of bringing that back after they did an EVA walking around on the moon, bringing that back into the lunar lander. Well, one of the concepts with a rear-entry suit is to have the suit go out during the first walk, but then stay out forever more and use the suit itself as an airlock.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Daniel Klopp: After your first walk out on the moon, you would back up to the lunar lander and clip on and would form a seal around where the life support backpack, the PLSS, connects and you could then swing the PLSS out of the way and climb out of the back of the suit into the lunar rover, but leave the suit itself outside the vehicle.

Mat Kaplan: There are some great videos that NASA has done with a show, suits of this design being used on earth, of course, but in testing. It's exactly like you said, you back up to the crawler or the spacecraft and somebody on the inside once they have a good seal, they open a hatch and you climb out the back of the suit.

Daniel Klopp: Right. That's part of that design. Interestingly enough, our commercial design, our Astro suit, we've designed that to be manufactured either as a rear-entry or a waist-entry.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, interesting.

Daniel Klopp: So it could be configured either way. And one of the reasons we're doing that is we envision that could be a replacement for, or an addition to, maybe is a better terminology, for the current EMU. So we could put on a much less mobile, but lower mass, lower torso to use that upper torso design, the rest of the suit design, on a commercial space station for an EVA, for example, where you don't require that highly mobile lower torso or alternatively, we could do a different configuration of that Astro design to be a rear-entry with a highly mobile lower torso that could accommodate the suit port design.

Mat Kaplan: You mentioned gloves, which if you talk to any astronauts and I've talked to quite a few who have done EVAs, that is the thing you hear about because hands have to be pretty mobile, but they've also got to be protected. It's apparently quite a strain with the current suits. It always has been, to work with these gloves. Have there been advances, are we looking forward to advances that are going to make things easier for astronauts to go to the moon and beyond?

Daniel Klopp: Very good question. Today's gloves are considerably different than the gloves when we started back with the EMU program back in the early eighties. Part of that difference is the mobility and dexterity of the glove itself. And that is today the most highly customized piece of the spacesuit. So I mentioned that we have three different size upper torsos and multiple size lower torsos and arms and so forth. We are up to, at last count, I think 64 different sizes of gloves.

Mat Kaplan: Wow.

Daniel Klopp: Up until about two or three months ago, we were at 63 different sizes, but there's a new astronaut that came into the program. She has unusually long skinny fingers and she tried several of the sizes of gloves that we already make in our repertoire and couldn't find one that she felt was a really good fit. So we've made a new set, a custom set for her. Now, of course, that set kind of goes into our repertoire now. And if another astronaut comes along and has those same long skinny fingers, they would fit that. The short answer to your question is, yes, we are continually improving the gloves. We actually have a glove now that's much better in terms of dexterity than the gloves that have been used in the past. And we plan on carrying that forward into the Astro design. And hopefully that'll be part of the xEMU design as well.

Mat Kaplan: Man, that is the opposite of one size fits all, 64 different sizes of glove. And this is important of course, because one of the priorities, right? I mean, we always hear NASA administrators and others saying the first woman and the next man to walk on the moon. Back in the Apollo days, sadly, no one expected a woman to walk on the moon as part of Apollo. But now it's very much part of the plan.

Daniel Klopp: Exactly. We're planning for a much, much bigger range of human dimensions in our next generation designs. Again, that's sort of a parallel between the work that we're contributing on the xEMU side with NASA and the work that we're doing independent of that with Astro. With Astro, for example, we're targeting what they call the 99th percentile, just two different size upper torsos, but some clever resizing components, we plan to accommodate from roughly a five foot tall, roughly 100 pound or slightly less person, up to about a 6' 4", 250 pound person.

Mat Kaplan: That would seem to cover most of humanity I would hope.

Daniel Klopp: Yeah. From looking at anthropomorphic data from the population that tells us that's about the 99th percentile. So we'll miss a half a percent on the low side and a half a percent on the high side.

Mat Kaplan: Not bad. How long is NASA hoping that an astronaut will be able to spend in these suits as they get around, do work on the moon?

Daniel Klopp: Well, the current EMU accommodates up to an eight hour long space walk. We're planning on continuing that. Now what we may do on the commercial side, depending on what the commercial needs evolve to, is different suits that would accommodate different length EVAs, because as I mentioned earlier in this, there's always this engineering trade off and one of them is the total mass of the suit versus the length of life support. A little known fact about today's EMU is although it can accommodate roughly an eight hour long with a safety factor EVA, it's mass here on earth, or it's weight here on earth is 350 pounds.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. You wouldn't want to wear it in one G.

Daniel Klopp: Yeah. In one G, you don't want to wear it. In one-sixth G, it's actually still on the heavy side to be lugging that much around. So we may do versions and a lot of this is still in development and we're still sort of tweaking the details of what's the proper trade off between length of EVA and total mass of the suit. So we may end up doing say a four hour long version, which is much, much less massive, which would open up again the possibilities to a smaller, less muscular type person to do a spacewalk or to do a lunar excursion that might otherwise not be able to.

Mat Kaplan: That might be the tourist model of the suit that-

Daniel Klopp: Exactly.

Mat Kaplan: Someday somebody's going to be wearing. I opened the show talking about how we always have to remember that when somebody puts on a spacesuit and go outside, they become a spacecraft and have to be protected from vacuum and radiation, but also micro-meteoroids, which are pelting the moon all the time. And I'm guessing that you must also be following the developments regarding debris in earth orbit, especially after that Russian anti-satellite test of a couple of months ago.

Daniel Klopp: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: That still is a high priority, right? Both the natural and the artificial things that might go bump in the night?

Daniel Klopp: That is correct. The out layer of a spacesuit, and this is true actually of all the suits we've done going all the way back to the Apollo era, you can think of it as like a full bulletproof vest, a layer to protect against micro-meteoroid impacts. And unlike a vest that a law enforcement officer might wear, this is the entire part of the suit, because one of these pieces of high velocity space dust, to give another name to micro-meteoroids, could hit in the thigh region and the upper arm region. You'd never know where these tiny pieces of high velocity space debris, whether they're artificial or natural, might be coming from and might impact the whole outer layer of a spacesuit. Frankly, that's one of the things that leads to sort of the bulk design or look of the spacesuit. When people ask me about these designs that you see in sci-fi movies of these very form fitting, almost like a wetsuit style design-

Mat Kaplan: Yes.

Daniel Klopp: That you see in a sci-fi movie.

Mat Kaplan: Just saw the latest episode of the Expanse and Star Trek. I mean, there they are walking around in these bodysuits that, I guess, are those types that just the suit itself is providing the protection from vacuum rather than being more pressurized suits.

Daniel Klopp: Right. It's called the mechanical counter-pressure suits.

Mat Kaplan: Yes. Thank you.

Daniel Klopp: There's an impractical element of their design in that if you look at the physics of the impact of one of these pieces of space dusts, you have to give it some time to decelerate. Otherwise, even if it doesn't penetrate the suit, it will pass that energy right through the suit to the wearer and cause quite a bruise to the wearer. So one of the things that the current suit, although it doesn't look as sleek and cool as these mechanical counter-pressure suits, it does provide that protection by having that layer of cushioning that gives some time for that piece of that particle of space debris or space dust to decelerate and not pass that energy then along through the suit to the wearer.

Mat Kaplan: I think of some of the robotic spacecraft that have gone out and gotten in the way of space debris on purpose that have done the same kind of thing with multiple layers to decelerate-

Daniel Klopp: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: A piece of dust that might otherwise be a pretty painful experience or worse. There is one more thing about the suit, the design of the xEMU that I have to ask about, and that is the face-plate. It is, seems to me from the look of it, radically larger than what we have seen in the past. Is that the direction that we're going in? And how does that protect an astronaut from these same kinds of challenges?

Daniel Klopp: We euphemistically call that the Buzz Lightyear design. The interface between the helmet and the helmet ring is tilted at a radical angle now compared to either today's EMU or going all the way back to the Apollo era. And I don't know what we were thinking back then. I'm old, but I'm not that old, back to the Apollo era, but the attachment ring for the helmet back in that era has carried through to the current EMU is more or less level with your sort of shoulders in a standing position. One of the problems with that design is you can't look down at your feet.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, yes.

Daniel Klopp: And so back in the Apollo era, the astronauts adopted that sort of hopping gait that you saw, because that was easier for them to avoid tripping over space rocks because they couldn't see their feet. And it's amazing. I've challenged people to do this. Take a piece of cardboard and stick it under your chin and try to walk on a rocky surface and you will trip for sure, because you need to see your feet where it's coming down. And by tilting that helmet attachment ring at an angle down towards the chest plate, it doesn't matter that it's up around the middle of the back of your head on the back side, because you don't have eyes in the back of your head anyway and we're not owls and we can't turn our head all the way around inside the suit anyway. So rear view is not at all critical, even though if you look at today's EMU or again, back to the Apollo era suits, the A7Ls, they accommodated somebody who might have had eyes in the back of their head.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Klopp: Now it had covers and everything over it on the backside. But if you looked at the raw piece of Lexan polycarbonate plastic that forms the helmet piece, it was clear all the way back down to the attachment ring on the back of your shoulders. Well, by tilting that at an angle, we provided no rear view, but better view down toward your feet. So hopefully make the walk more natural on our return trips to the moon.

Mat Kaplan: Is it the same kind of material, polycarbonate or Lexan being the trade name?

Daniel Klopp: Yeah, the GE trade name is Lexan but generic name for that type of plastic is polycarbonate. And yes, we're planning on using that same material. It's what on earth people might refer to as bulletproof glass. So again, it's an extremely tough polymer that you can wind up and hit it with a hammer, you can't shatter it.

Mat Kaplan: I'm going to go back to the NASA Inspector General's audit that came out in August of 2021, which definitely identified some problems in the development of the xEMU. I'm paraphrasing here. Funding shortfalls, COVID-19, and technical issues, the reports said, will delay its creation till at least April of 2025. Well, we know there are other things that are going to keep us from going back to the moon in 2024, like the development of the Space Launch System. But I'm just wondering if you want to say something about how that suit, and in a sense competition that you've talked about, how is that coming together? How is it meeting these challenges?

Daniel Klopp: Well, that OIG, the Office of Inspector General's report that you just referenced is essentially what led to this parallel commercial path. At ILC Dover, we had already seen the coming of commercial space. I mean, this is no mystery and anybody who reads-

Mat Kaplan: Sure.

Daniel Klopp: The popular press can see that there are multiple companies planning to put independent space stations in orbit. And there's also some plans of people, independent of a government agency like NASA, to put people on the moon and maybe someday on Mars. So we had already started, internal to ILC Dover, our own quote unquote commercial development, which is what we call Astro today. What was a result of the OIG report was that NASA, in parallel to continuing development on the xEMU, they released a request for proposal back in September of 2021 to have a competing commercial solution for a spacesuit.

Daniel Klopp: And that's called the xEVAs because it's actually a suit services contract. Under that contract, NASA would more or less lease suits rather than owning them. So today when we make a spacesuit, we sell it to NASA, and then if you think of a sort of title of ownership, NASA takes title of ownership of the current EMU suits. In this xEVAs contract, the bids were due just a week and a half ago. So our bid is in on that as well. And that's where I say we're actually competing or playing in two different sandboxes, so to speak, on this from an ILC Dover specific standpoint. That was, I think, a good outcome of that OIG report is that it resulted in NASA opening things up to the possibility of a commercial solution as well, which could accelerate the development and make sure that the suit, whichever one NASA ends up taking, is not the rate limiting step to get us back to the moon.

Mat Kaplan: I'm glad that you mentioned Mars a moment ago, and we all know that that is the eventual target for humans that NASA has talked about for decades, that a lot of us have talked about for decades. Do you think that with these developments, are we beginning to see a spacesuit that will enable humans to explore Mars?

Daniel Klopp: Well, I'm glad you asked that question. Earlier I alluded to suits that were maybe less massive, but had less life support length in terms of number of hours of walk. One of the reasons we're heading down that path, in addition to being able to accommodate the space tourist, as you had noted earlier, is to be able to accommodate a one-third G environment as opposed to a one-sixth G environment.

Mat Kaplan: And so we're talking Mars, of course.

Daniel Klopp: Now we're talking Mars at a third G.

Mat Kaplan: Would you be surprised if, I'll be optimistic and say 20 years down the line, we see those live high definition videos coming back from the first humans to stroll around on Mars? Do you think that those suits are going to look something like what we see ILC Dover and others developing now?

Daniel Klopp: I believe they will look very similar to what we're developing now. Again, there are just some fundamental design constraints. One of which we spoke of earlier, of the need to have multiple layers to provide that sort of cushioning deceleration for micro-meteoroids. There are just so many design considerations that with the state of the art in material science today are going to drive the fundamental design of spacesuits in a very similar direction to what we've seen in the past. Now, if there are some massive breakthrough in material science that we're unaware of at this point, that could be a game changer. But looking at our crystal ball, what we see in the future, we think that the spacesuits that take men and women to excursions on the surface of Mars will look pretty similar to what we see today.

Mat Kaplan: Fascinating, Dan. I hope that you and I are both around to see that happen up there on the red planet. This has been an absolutely marvelous conversation, and I wish you the greatest of luck, you and ILC Dover, as you work toward putting those men and women on the moon for the first time. And it's going to be well over 50 years.

Daniel Klopp: Well, Mat, it's been my pleasure to join the show and hope maybe someday we'll get a chance to do this again, maybe with more clarity on exactly which suit and which design iteration will actually be the one that puts the next set of boot prints on the moon.

Mat Kaplan: I'll go beyond that. I want to go there to Dover and talk to you there and actually get to see some of those 64 different sizes of gloves. Maybe you'll let me try on a pair.

Daniel Klopp: We could definitely accommodate a visit for you.

Mat Kaplan: Dan Klopp is the director of marketing and business development for Space Systems at ILC Dover. Time for the first What's Up of 2022 everybody. Here is the chief scientist of The Planetary Society who doesn't look a day older than he did in 2021. Welcome, Bruce Betts.

Bruce Betts: Hey. Hi, Mat. How are you?

Mat Kaplan: That's what I meant.

Bruce Betts: Happy New Year.

Mat Kaplan: Can you still see the sky, old buddy? Oh, hey, wake up, wake up. We have radio to do.

Bruce Betts: Okay. I'm back. Hey, Mat. Happy New Year.

Mat Kaplan: Happy New Year to you as well.

Bruce Betts: Let's talk about the sky, shall we? It's still there in 2022. I'm encouraged by this. In the evening, low in the west, fairly low, there's Jupiter looking really bright and then down to its lower right, tougher to see is yellowish Saturn. Mercury is actually hanging out near Saturn right around now, and Venus has gone away and it's actually going between the earth and the sun. So it will pop from the evening sky to the morning sky in just the next week or two. And we've also got Mars in the pre-dawn. I mean, it looks like kind of a bright reddish star in the east, but it's actually a little dimer than the red star Antares, which is near it, and Scorpius. And seeing the two reddish objects, it's actually the dimmer of the two right now.

Mat Kaplan: My friend Phil, he was looking through a telescope and saw a crescent something near the horizon, but thought that it was too small to be a planet. And I said, "No, it has to be." It had to be either Mercury or Venus. Did I steer him correctly?

Bruce Betts: Almost certainly it was Venus. Yeah, Mercury was hanging out in the same area, but Venus is a lot easier to see the phases. Unless he has a really big telescope, Venus is not going to look very large and it's got quite the phase right now because it is almost between us and the sun. And so it'll be crescent looking. So that's cool.

Mat Kaplan: There you go, Phil.

Bruce Betts: All right. This in space history, 50 years ago, 1972, Richard Nixon announces development of the Space Shuttle program.

Mat Kaplan: Wow. Gosh.

Bruce Betts: All right. We move on to random space fact.

Mat Kaplan: That was a nice way to start 2022.

Bruce Betts: As we are recording this, not very long ago, the JWST, James Webb Space Telescope, sun shade deployed successfully, which is super cool. And did you know, I'm going to compare it to the most important thing out there in space? The sun shade is over nine times the area of LightSail 2's solar sail.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, that's a great one. I already mentioned, at the top of the show, it's usually compared to the size of a tennis court, but that's so much more appropriate for us. That's great. Thank you.

Bruce Betts: It is now. People may ask, "Well, will it be solar sailing?" I mean, yes, technically, but essentially no, because solar sailing, how efficient it is, is the area divided by the mass and the area is nine times LightSail 2 but the mass? Over 1200 times LightSail 2.

Mat Kaplan: So we still have the record for sailing around in an orbit under the power of the sun. So thank you very much JWST for helping us protect that.

Bruce Betts: To the trivia contest! I said the first trans-Neptunian object discovered was Pluto in 1930. And then I asked, not counting the moons of Pluto, when was the next trans-Neptunian object discovered? And what is it now named? How'd we do, Mat?

Mat Kaplan: First, this from Laura Dodd in California, who thanks you for another fine informational rabbit hole, Bruce.

Bruce Betts: I am master of the informational rabbit holes.

Mat Kaplan: We also, from so many of you, got lovely wishes for the New Year. Thank you. Back at you, everybody. Here is an answer that came from someone I don't think I've read anything from before. Not our winner, sorry, Jeffrey Marshall in Hong Kong. He said it was discoverers David Jewitt and Jane Luu who first suggested naming what they discovered at the Mauna Kea Observatory on the 30th of August in 1992. They called this object, well, QB1, but they called it Smiley. But that name turned out was already in use for an asteroid so it ended up being called Albion. Yeah?

Bruce Betts: Yes, indeed. After its provisional designation, which I don't know if you're going to discuss of 1992 QB1.

Mat Kaplan: Albion, a lot of other people pointed out, mythological reference to the land that we now know as jolly old England. Mythological reference to that land of giants. Still lot of giants living there, I think. And thank you very much for helping us with that Jeffrey and all the other people who got it right, but came down to's choice of Brandon Gaskins. Brandon in Maine. Congratulations, Brandon. First time win, long time listener. I believe that he just might be a National Park Service Ranger at the absolutely beautiful, stunning, worth a visit, Acadia National Park there in Maine [crosstalk 01:00:09] that yeah, I visited about three months ago and had a wonderful time.

Mat Kaplan: Brandon, I wish I'd known you were there. Anyway, he got it right. Said it was Albion discovered on August 30th, 1992 or more specifically, 15760 Albion. For that, Brandon, we are going to be sending you a copy of that great book, William Sheehan and Jim Bells' Discovering Mars, a History of Observation and Exploration of the Red Planet that we talked to those two authors about just a couple of weeks ago. Really excellent book. I hope you enjoy it, Brandon and I'll see you in the park. You mentioned that you have an interesting connection to David Jewitt.

Bruce Betts: I don't know how interesting it is, but the office I was in for all those years, getting a PhD at Caltech, there was always a piece of styrofoam kind of in the shape of a gravestone that was stuck above the chalkboard. Yes, we had a chalkboard and it said something to the effect of, "Here lies D. Jewitt, who toiled here for years." And so I assume we shared the same office. I've never actually talked to him about it, but it's definitely his name as emblazoned in my mind, because, of course, we're graduate students, so no one ever cleaned up anything out of the office. So it just was there for years.

Mat Kaplan: We'll go on to our poet Laureate, Dave Fairchild in Kansas. He uses a term here that you're going to need to explain. It looks like cubewanos, C-U-B-E-W-A-N-O-S. But I understand that it has a different pronunciation and an interesting meaning.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, this is one of my favorite terminology things. The terminology in the outer solar system beyond Neptune, one is a mess, but there are a couple really funny things and this is one of them. When it was found, it was given the designation based upon when it was found, of 1992 QB1. It then became the example of a class of orbits that are beyond Neptune, but not in a resonant orbit like Pluto. And they named it after that object, which it was QB1 so they're called cubewanos. Cubewanos, QB1. Quick note, my other favorite is they have three to two resonances or plutinos, two to one resonances, twotinos.

Mat Kaplan: And then, the ones that resonate with the entire solar system, a whole mess of tinos. You don't need to laugh at that. Okay, here's the poem from Dave Fairchild. "Astronomers working at top Mauna Kea discovered a TNO object," Trans-Neptunian object. "It was a classical cold Kuiper body and turned out to be quite project. It had a couple of names, Smiley and Albion, but the one most apropo has come from its coded name, now classified as the bodies we call cubewanos." Just the second stanza from the submission from our other poet, we most frequently hear from, Gene Luin in Washington. "This wee object, a distant spec, though bonnie nonetheless, bears the name of Albion where giants once did rest."

Bruce Betts: Oh.

Mat Kaplan: Well done.

Bruce Betts: Nice. All right. New contest. Who are the main solar absorption lines, basically visible light, solar absorption lines named after? Who are the main solar absorption lines at visible wavelengths named after? Go to and enjoy your rabbit holes.

Mat Kaplan: You've got until the 12th, Wednesday, January 12th at 8:00 AM Pacific Time to get us the answer. And it's still just the beginning of the year. We've got another one of those great ISS, International Space Station wall calendars for whoever gets chosen by this one and has the right answers. So good luck out there and don't fall too far down the rabbit hole.

Bruce Betts: All right, everybody go out there, look up the night sky and ponder the following. If an object is in a resonant orbit with the earth, should we call it terratino, Tarantino? Thank you. And goodnight.

Mat Kaplan: Sorry, Quentin. That's Bruce Betts. He's the chief scientist of The Planetary Society and he joins us every week here for What's Up. Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its always appropriately attired members. Come on in, the water's fine at Mark Hilverda and Jason Davis are our associate producers. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. Ad astra.