Planetary Radio • Feb 14, 2024

The Space Race: Honoring the first African-American space explorers

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On This Episode

Lisa cortes portrait

Lisa Cortés

Co-director of National Geographic’s The Space Race

Diego hurtado de mendoza portrait

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza

Co-director of National Geographic’s The Space Race

Ed dwight portrait

Ed Dwight

Space Pioneer

Leland melvin with dogs

Leland Melvin


Casey dreier tps mars

Casey Dreier

Chief of Space Policy for The Planetary Society

Jack kiraly portrait 2023

Jack Kiraly

Director of Government Relations for The Planetary Society

Moohoodles portrait


Space science communicator on Twitch

Bruce betts portrait hq library

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

Sarah al ahmed headshot

Sarah Al-Ahmed

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

This week on Planetary Radio, we take a peek behind the scenes at National Geographic's new documentary, “The Space Race,” which celebrates the triumphs and struggles of the first African-American space pioneers and astronauts. Co-directors Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Lisa Cortés, space pioneer Ed Dwight, and astronaut Leland Melvin join us to discuss the film. But first, Casey Dreier, The Planetary Society's chief of space policy, and Jack Kiraly, our director of government relations, give an update on the U.S. budget gridlock that caused the recent layoff of hundreds of people at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Twitch streamer Moohoodles joins the show later to talk about her upcoming stream with Planetary Radio, and we close out with What's Up with Bruce Betts and a new random space fact.

The Space Race poster
The Space Race poster National Geographic’s documentary, “The Space Race,” released on Feb. 12, 2024. The film celebrates the bravery and perseverance of the first African-American astronauts.Image: National Geographic

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Co-Directors of “The Space Race”
Co-Directors of “The Space Race” The co-directors of National Geographic’s “The Space Race,” Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, left, and Lisa Cortés, took this behind-the-scenes photo while filming in Denver.Image: National Geographic / Ryan Dearth
Ed Dwight filming for “The Space Race”
Ed Dwight filming for “The Space Race” Space pioneer Ed Dwight was offered the opportunity to become the first African-American astronaut during the Apollo era, but was denied the chance following the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Ed Dwight tells his story in National Geographic’s documentary “The Space Race.”Image: National Geographic / Ryan Dearth
Leland Melvin with his dogs
Leland Melvin with his dogs NASA astronaut portrait of Leland D. Melvin with his two rescue dogs, Jake and Scout.


Sarah Al-Ahmed: We are meeting the team behind National Geographic's new documentary, The Space Race, this week on Planetary Radio. I'm Sarah Al-Ahmed of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. Space is for everyone, but for much of our short time as a space-faring species, that has not been the case. Today we'll get a peek behind the scenes at National Geographic's new documentary called The Space Race. It celebrates the triumphs and struggles of the first African American space pioneers and astronauts and the long road it took to get to where we are today. We'll be joined by the co-directors, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, and Lisa Cortes, Space Pioneer Ed Dwight, and astronaut Leland Melvin. But first, Casey Dreier of The Planetary Society's Chief of Space Policy. And Jack Kiraly, our director of government relations, will give us an update on the budget gridlock that's caused the recent layoffs of hundreds of people at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This could impact other NASA facilities and space agencies around the world. And on Friday, February 23rd, Planetary Radio is teaming up for a stream with our friend Moohoodles on Twitch. She'll pop in to share a little bit about the growing group of science communicators on live-streaming platforms and let you know how you can watch our stream together. We'll close out our show with What's Up? with Bruce Betts and a new Random Space Fact. In honor of Leland Melvin's passion for rescue animals, Bruce and I will share a little bit about our rescue pets. And happy Lunar New Year to everyone around the world that celebrates it. If you love Planetary Radio and want to stay informed about the latest space discoveries, make sure you hit that subscribe button on your favorite podcasting platform. By subscribing, you'll never miss an episode filled with new and awe-inspiring ways to know the cosmos and our place within it. The space community in the United States was rocked last week when NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, just a little ways away from our headquarters, announced that they had to make a heart-wrenching decision, a massive round of layoffs. Casey Dreier, The Planetary Society's chief of Space Policy, and Jack Kiraly, our director of government relations, are here to explain. Hi, Jack and Casey. I wish I had you both here for happier reasons, but we all found out a few days ago on February 6th that NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, which is right by our headquarters in Pasadena, California, laid off over 500 people. That's 8% of their workforce. And this comes just a month after they laid off a hundred contractors. So Casey, how did we get here?

Casey Dreier: Yeah, this is at the end of the day due to an unresolved dispute between the two chambers of Congress in the United States over the future of the Mars sample-return mission. So last year the Senate released a draft NASA budget for 2024, the year we're in now, that would slash over half a billion dollars from Mars sample-return down to 300 million saying that NASA had lost control of the project, that they need to reformulate it to cost a lot less. And if they couldn't do that, they don't even get the 300 million and they're canceled. The House, which did not respond publicly until later to this budget with their own budget, went complete opposite track and provided 949 million, the exact request. So you have a disparity of over 600 million between these two potential pathways from our sample-return in 2024. The problem is, is that no other action has been taken in terms of Congress resolving this dispute or even passing any kind of budget for any agency in the fiscal year we're currently in. What that means is that NASA and the Office of Management and Budget, which controls this, the White House's accounting arm, they look at the variety of potential outcomes and they see that there's a really low potential budget from the Senate. They don't know which one is going to pass into law. And so what they've done is throttle back spending to meet the lowest potential possible budget. So they basically throttled funding to JPL, which is the prime agency that's doing Mars sample-return to meet those lowest potential outcome. And they've been throttling it down and another contractors and other NASA centers, notably Goddard. So this is a completely self-imposed situation due to the fact that Congress cannot resolve this uncertainty of its budget for Mars sample-return this year.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Jack, is there any end in sight to this? Should we expect that they're going to pass the budget at some point?

Jack Kiraly: Well, the coming fiscal deadlines, and I said deadlines because Congress has instituted a stepped continuing resolution, part of the government is set to shut down if they don't pass a budget by March 1st. And another part of the government, which includes NASA, is set to shut down if they don't reach a budget deal by March 8th. Now, we've gotten to this point because it's been now three continuing resolutions, kicking the can down the road on this debate. But there is an end in sight. House Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican and Senate Majority leader, Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, have come together and agreed on a top line spending number that aligns closely to the Fiscal Responsibility Act levels that were set in June of last year. If you've tuned into the budget process before, you know that the next step are what we call our lovely 302(b)s. Those are not yet public, but what we're hearing in DC is that there is an agreement in process on those appropriations which will then trickle down to the individual agencies and then the committees, the appropriations committees, and the House and the Senate will be able to work on a compromise for what to fund NASA at. It is unclear right now whether the Senate proposal from last year, the House proposal are on the table or if they're starting from square one when it comes to NASA and Mars sample-return. As we know, the independent review board that released their report last year, which unabashedly endorsed the science of MSR, but identified some key problems in the management and application of the program, NASA's in the process of reformulating MSR all while this debate is happening over the federal budget. So it's really anyone's game right now as to whether MSR is going to be funded, maybe at that low 300 million or at that high watermark with 949, which is where you, the listener, come in.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I've been really impressed since this news came out. The speed with which you both got on this began writing articles and then put a form up on our action center to allow people to make their voices heard on this subject was instantaneous and the response has been really heartening for me. Jack, you've been giving us some little updates on this in our member community. How many people have actually written to their representatives through our forum in the last couple days?

Jack Kiraly: So over 4,000 messages. And Sarah, your face says it all, like this is an amazing response. 4,000 messages have been sent to members of Congress representing all 50 states. And over half, almost 2/3 of the House of Representatives, which has 435 members, 432 with some vacancies, but 435 seats. That is a phenomenal turnout. And you're right, this is breaking news and we responded very quickly to this emerging situation and our members and supporters delivered. And so please, if you have not sent your letter yet, now is the time we are asking Congress when they pass a budget. And it's urgent that they pass a budget because like Casey said, this isn't just affecting the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. This is affecting NASA centers and partners and our international partners all over the globe. This uncertainty is unsustainable for our nation space program. And so we need you to send a letter. If you're in the US, if you're a resident of the United States, send a letter to your representatives in Washington. It is absolutely urgent that you do so. And we are asking them to pass a budget that supports a robust and balanced science program across the entire portfolio, not just sample-return, not just any individual mission, but let's have a rising tide that lifts all boats, all spacecraft to help us continue the amazing progress we've made in exploring the universe.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's a great point because while outwardly this looks like a moment that's just affecting JPL, this is going to have knock-on effects not just for other NASA facilities, but for all of our international partners that take a part in missions like Mars sample-return and all of the rest. It's a beautiful time in space because we're all so interconnected, but that also means that this is going to impact people and space exploration all around our planet.

Jack Kiraly: Yep, absolutely.

Casey Dreier: It really does. And I think there's something just to emphasize there, which is being good partners to our international contributors, but also being good partners to the people who work literally every day to make the spacecraft into reality. I don't want to gloss over JPL's losses either. I feel for the uncertainty and the suffering that people are going to go through having suddenly lost their jobs. It's really no fault of their own, right? This is not some strategic realignment. This is panic mode because the money basically disappeared. This is... I don't know how to say. This is not smart, man. I mean it is not JPL's fault, but this is a stupid situation that we find ourselves in, right? This is a pointless self-inflicted wound. And we are seeing in reports of other particularly contractors, it's harder to lay off civil servant staff, which is distinct from JPL. There's a reason we haven't seen it, but a lot of other NASA centers are struggling right now and contractors. We've spent the last 10 years really ramping up our space efforts, as Jack said, all of these incredible missions being in the pipeline, going through COVID, enduring and still managing to launch incredible new missions. And then what? To just get rid of them at the first sign of trouble? It's absurd. And we really can do better than this. We've seen and we're used to in action, we're used to frustration. Democracy can be a messy process, but what we're seeing with these JPL layoffs is that these are real consequences for this to real people's lives and to real people's livelihoods who we want working for these incredible things and it's a hard thing to see. So I think we're getting that emphasis that these are real people with real consequences because of real political inaction.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: And unfortunately, people that work at NASA can't advocate to their representatives on this subject. This is a moment where we really have to be their voices because they can't advocate for themselves. So we have our action center ready for people to go, but we also have an in-person opportunity to go to Congress and speak to the representatives directly with our upcoming day of action. How does this impact what we're going to be doing in Washington DC in April?

Jack Kiraly: It's the ball game, right? This is setting the stage for we are still debating the fiscal year 2024 budget. We're about to start debating the fiscal year 2025 budget. Can't believe that's already here. And our day of action, our in-person day of action that returned phenomenally last year with over a hundred people coming to DC to advocate for space science, we're doing it all again on April 29th, 2024. We're going to be on the ground at such a pivotal moment in the budget process and clearly a pivotal moment for the jobs at stake at the Jet Propulsion Lab, at the Goddard Space Flight Center, at centers and partnerships, partner organizations all over the country and the world. And joining the Day of Action is the best way that you can make a direct impact on how our legislators are thinking about the impacts of their decisions. And so please go to Read about it, read some testimonials. It is such an uplifting and empowering experience to be with dozens, if not a hundred, other members of The Planetary Society advocating for this thing that we hold so dear and actually making a difference. I hear it every day. I was just on the Hill two days ago and had a staffer tell me the impact that our members have, that that conversation had now four or five months ago. That impact is significant. So please If you can make it, we'd love to see you here April 29th.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: And if you can't make it in person, you can absolutely join our efforts through our advocacy action center at And just anecdotally. Speaking to my friends that have worked at JPL, do work or just got laid off from JPL, it means the world to them that people are speaking up for them. We can't bring those jobs back necessarily, but we can help shape the future of space exploration and make sure that their jobs are secure. So this is a moment where I'm really looking forward to us all coming together and hopefully making a difference for these people and for all space exploration. Thanks, Jack and Casey.

Jack Kiraly: Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: One thing is for sure, we can accomplish amazing things when we work together. Sometimes all it takes is a letter writing campaign and some patience. But in other cases, it takes decades and centuries of hard work and hope. That's especially true of our next guests, the team behind National Geographic's new documentary, The Space Race. It debuted on National Geographic on February 12th before it began streaming on Disney Plus and Hulu on February 13th. This documentary is a testament to the resilience and the courage of the first Black astronauts and the racial inequality that they had to overcome to touch space. This film takes us on a journey through time from the first African American man to be offered a role as an astronaut during the Civil Rights Movement to the first virtual conference of the astronauts in 2020. It weaves the stories of so many inspiring people together, including Guy Bluford, the first Black astronaut, Charlie Bolden, who became the first Black NASA administrator, and Victor Glover, an astronaut poised to become the first Black person to go beyond low earth orbit to the moon and back. The Space Race's award-winning co-directors Lisa Cortés and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza feel passionately that these are stories that are worth telling and celebrating. Lisa Cortés works to give voice to the unheard through her art. She's helped launch the careers of many musical artists, including Run DMC and The Beastie Boys, and she was the executive producer for the Academy Award-winning film, Precious. Her form of explosive art and storytelling paired perfectly with Diego Hurtado de Mendoza's style. His work focuses on sharing historical moments in a contemporary style. And what they created together was a beautiful film. It shines a light on the bigotry that shaped human's journey to space, but also the bright future that we hope to create when we work together to make sure that space is for everyone. Hi, Lisa and Diego, it's wonderful to meet you.

Lisa Cortés: Hi, Sarah.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: Hi, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I wanted to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you for this documentary. I feel like this was a story that really needed to be told, and there was so much history that I only learned because of this film. And several months ago, the CEO of our organization, Bill Nye, the science guy, got a chance to go see a prescreening of this movie. And when he came back, he told the entire staff about it because it's so deeply emotionally impacted him. So I'm sure many people will have a similar reaction among our listeners. Diego, how did this documentary come to be?

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: It was fascinating. We're telling the story of African Americans in the space program and of all places it started in Cuba when we discovered that the first Latino and actually the first person of color to fly in his space was Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the Cuban cosmonaut. He flew with the Soviet Union. And with that, the Soviet Union claimed a moral victory over the US because they flew the first person of color and they didn't have Black population. And so, we immediately were drawn to the comparison of what was going on in the United States to lose that so-called race against the Soviet Union. So we started digging into all these incredible hidden stories, these hidden figures that we didn't quite know about, and that's just how the film came together. And Lisa and I fell in love with them, and that's the film you see.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That moment in particular in the film really surprised me. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised by it honestly, but that was a part of the history that I was so unaware of. And it is so tragic that the United States robbed itself of the opportunity to be this trailblazer for diversity in space. But thankfully, we're at a much better place now in our history. I wanted to ask you, Lisa, because every moment in history is unique, but we are right on the cusp of the Artemis generation going to the moon. So why is right now a particularly poignant moment for us to be seeing this film?

Lisa Cortés: Well, we're very excited to have the participation of Victor Glover, who is a part of the Artemis team. And actually, when we recently screened at the Johnson Space Center, the whole Artemis team came to the screening to support Victor and to bear witness to the storytelling. I always think about the incredible Charlie Bolden and what he says in our film, that African American history is American history. And to forget that, we do so at our peril. I think as we look at space exploration and the commercialization of space, we all need to understand that there is a place for everyone to participate and to be a part of the advancement of science and progress. I think our film is a great illustration of this long tale of history that has brought us to this moment and I think the excitement in particular that we hold about the Artemis mission.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm so excited to see more people represented in space. We're going to see the first women, the first people of color, and the first non-Americans go back to the moon. So this is a moment for everyone to be really excited, and particularly this newer generation of people that did not know the bigotry of the earlier ages in the Apollo era. I think it's a really beautiful point. Diego, as you've gone through the history of African American astronauts, how has that impacted the way you think about space exploration or maybe your hopes for the future of humanity?

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: One thing that NASA astronauts talk about all the time is that when they're in space doing the most difficult things that human can do, they're doing the most advanced science and advancing humankind's knowledge or surrounding cosmos, they do it as a team and they say, they always talk about mission first, which is they all learn how to work together and they live in space and work and do science as a team that works flawlessly. And I always thought, "Isn't that incredible that while they're doing all of that and there's people of all kinds of races and creeds and religions and they look out of the window and they see the earth as a rock where we all live together, where there is no borders and they're doing what we hope we should be doing here on earth. They're working together, they're doing the most difficult thing. So if they can do it up there, that should be a model. That's the most inspiring thing that we should take from them. I mean, if they can do it, we should figure out a way to apply all that way of working here on earth." And so the inspiration you get from them, I think it will touch everyone.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I think it's really interesting that space exploration and just space fans in general have played such a role in this story of pushing forward diversity, even though some of the astronauts who I'll be talking with in a little bit had to struggle so hard to get into space. We saw the reaction that people had to Star Trek, Lieutenant Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols, a Black woman on the bridge of a Starship. Even before it was real, it was a dream that the space community has pushed forward. And I wanted to ask you, Lisa, what has been the reaction that people have had to watching this film? Has it made them feel vindicated or perhaps very frustrated?

Lisa Cortés: We've had an incredible journey with the film appearing at film festivals all over, of which we have won several, Audience, Best of Awards. And what always touches me are the people who come up afterwards who are not African American and thank Diego and I for making the film and how it is reminding them that there's so much history of the contributors to great advances in our country that they knew nothing about and how this film is actually encouraging them to go back and learn more about what has not been included in the narrative of who has been the pioneers advancing us, particularly in science. And so that the hidden histories are encouraging people to go and learn more is something that really makes my heart sing.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I think what's really cool about this is that it's not just empowering for African Americans in the United States to learn more about this history, but every triumph for any underrepresented group uplifts all of us. So hearing this story, honestly, I hope it makes everyone feel like space is accessible to them because we're still in the midst of the struggle for civil rights, but things are so much better than they used to be. And if we all work together, we really can shape this future and space together that we're all craving. I'm sure you both have had a lot of adventures in creating this film. Diego, what was it like to meet so many of these African American astronauts? And I'm sure this was really electrifying experience because I met Mae Jemison once and almost lost my mind.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: You're absolutely right. Look, for me, it's been one of the highlights of my life. And it's not because you meet icons that are on a pedestal. It's because you meet human beings just like you, who are extremely hardworking, who are brilliant, who are excellent, who are multi hyphenates. Each one of them inspires you to want to do better at every level in your life because that's how they behave, that's how they carry themselves. And so it is just incredible. They're smart, they're compassionate, they're loving. Some of our last screenings, the whole panel with Ed Dwight, Leland Melvin, Victor Glover, they all start talking about how they feel this love and you feel it and the audience feels it. That's incredible. For someone to be a scientist, a jet fighter pilot, do all these wonderful things and yet understand compassion and love and make that their priority, the way they behave with their families, the way they behave with each other, with us, with the audiences, with kids that approach them, it's unbelievable. I mean, astronauts really are the best of us. And so I think people will love the film because of them.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's hard not to love them after all they've accomplished. And the trails that they've blazed for each of us, despite not meeting them, I feel very connected and very grateful. And there are so many stories you could tell with a documentary like this. Lisa, was there anything that you guys recorded that you really wish you could have kept in the film but just didn't have time?

Lisa Cortés: Well, we certainly would love to tell more about the incredible journey of Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez that is so rich and there's a lot of incredible material that we have. So that is a big goal is to get his story out there also.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Perhaps another documentary because that story in and of itself would blow people's minds.

Lisa Cortés: Absolutely.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: You heard it here first.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: What were some of your favorite moments in creating this documentary?

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: Wow, there's so many incredible moments. I mean, the time I spent with Arnaldo in Cuba was absolutely stunning. He was born into poverty in the poorest part of the country. And then we got to travel with him, which was unbelievable. And then in the US, I love particularly the way we managed to get to know these astronauts as individuals. You often hear about them as sort of a box, like African American astronauts as if they were one thing. And the reality is, as far as they can be from being anything monolithic, they're all individuals with very different life experiences. And so getting to spend time with them I think is the highlight for me, it's the most incredible thing. It's sharing the same air with these incredible individuals.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: How about you, Lisa?

Lisa Cortés: Well, I feel like a mad scientist. Diego and I had this dream and the dream grew in ways that we did not expect. We had partners with Nat Geo and the Kennedy Marshall Company to support us in that. And most importantly, we had the buy-in from a community. And Leland Melvin as our guide to this community is all the ingredients that a mad scientist needs. And in this case, I guess mad documentary filmmakers to craft something that is unique, that is centered in the voices of our participants and that is moving and inspirational and equal parts. That is this wonderful moment that all of these things align and that we could have this elevated story come about as a result is the joy of making this.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I honestly feel like you could have made an entire documentary series with this material. There was so much there in the middle that you got a chance to share but not fully in depth explore. And I really hope that you and other documentary filmmakers tell more of this story because I feel like so much of it has been lost to time or perhaps just not taught. I think about all the time I spent in school learning about space exploration and never once were any of these figures mentioned to me, and that is just such a shame. It's so wild. It's a little ways out and we did hear recently that the Artemis 2 and 3 mission are a little bit delayed. But on that day when the first African American astronauts set their boots into the lunar regolith, what do you think you're both going to be doing to celebrate that day?

Lisa Cortés: I'm going to thank the ancestors for watching over us and really supporting us and supporting that astronaut on their journey.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I love that answer. What about you?

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: I think I'll be realizing that maybe life is a little closer to the way it's supposed to be, where we get everyone participating in pushing the frontier of our knowledge forward. And that has to include everyone because NASA says it all the time. The great thing about diversity, which sometimes we hear about and it's this sort of ethereal thing that no one quite understand, is very practical. I mean, if you have a diverse group of people with different experiences, they're going to come up with different solutions to really difficult problems. So when we go out in space and want to go to the moon and other planets, we need everyone. We need the smartest people we have on this planet. And so that's what I'll be thinking, that we're applying the most incredible brains to the most difficult problems, and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, I know that both of you, and I'm sure most of humanity is going to be cheering on that day, and I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to it and also how happy I am that people are going to get to watch this documentary because I think it'll really contextualize that moment for them in history and make it all the more special. So thank you for everything you've both done.

Lisa Cortés: Thank you, Sarah.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza: Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We'll be right back after this short break.

Mat Kaplan: Hi, it's your old friend Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society. A total solar eclipse is coming to North America on April 8th. More than 600 million of you will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. And over 40 million people live in the path of totality. If you want to be ready to experience this rare cosmic event to the fullest, take The Planetary Society's online course all about solar and lunar eclipses. It's only available to Planetary society members in our wonderful member community so join us today at That's

Sarah Al-Ahmed: One of the stories that this documentary tells really effectively is the tale of Captain Ed Dwight. We'll be hearing from him and astronaut Leland Melvin in a moment. In the early days of the space program, Ed Dwight was offered the chance to become the first African American astronaut. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, the political will to send the first person of color to the moon fell apart and Ed never got his chance to go to space. NASA now recognizes him as a space pioneer, but it still underscores the painful reality that so many people were denied the opportunity to add their expertise to our space adventure. Humanity had to wait until the 1980s before the first Black person got to go to space. Our other guest, Leland Melvin, got his chance to go to orbit for the first time in 2008. He was a mission specialist on the STS-122 Space Shuttle Mission aboard Atlantis. He's a great friend of The Planetary Society and a lover of rescue dogs. His astronaut portrait with his two dogs will forever be one of the most heartwarming astronaut photos of all time. Leland went on to become NASA's associate administrator for education and he continues to share space with people to this day, including in his role as executive producer of this film. From Ed Dwight to Leland Melvin and all of the other African American astronauts, every person who succeeds helps lay the groundwork for the next generation of space explorers. Thank you both for joining me and for literally everything you've done for humanity. I know. That seems like a-

Leland Melvin: [inaudible 00:31:18]. How's that?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Gladly. Leland, this is a little embarrassing to say, but you have always been one of my favorite astronauts. And now that I've learned more about the history of African Americans going to space, Ed, I'm always going to think of you as one of my favorite honorary astronauts and space pioneers.

Ed Dwight: Very good. I'll take that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We say it a lot here at The Planetary Society, that space is for everyone, but that has not always been the case. And we are still to this day in the midst of trying to fight that fight. Space exploration has not always been open and accessible to everyone, but we are finally on the cusp of sending women and people of color to the moon. So this is a really special point in history, I think. I feel like as an Arab American woman that grew up in the age of 9/11, I've faced my own share of bigotry, but nothing compared to anything that the two of you have been through. And Ed, I feel like it must've been such a complicated thing to be offered this position to be potentially the first African American astronaut in space, only to have that taken from you. What has it been like being able to share the story with a broader audience?

Ed Dwight: Well, you got to consider my role in time, the status where America was, what was the situation racially and all of that. At the time, I never considered this whole thing being earth shaking. This whole thing about becoming a Black astronaut didn't have the same kind of... I didn't imagine myself as saving the race. My mother put this idea in my head about that if you do this, you're going to help the racial situation and world make the world better by your going into space and being an astronaut. I mean, I had to do it one step at a time. When I was offered the thing, I didn't want to have anything to do with it, but I was talked into it. But once I got a feel for it, I got a feel for what I was doing and feeling my way, it all began to work out and I came to the conclusion that the background that I had, I could do it and I could make it successful. But at the time, it was more personal than anything else. I never projected about failure, about what it was going to do if I failed. That didn't come to my... For some reason, it didn't enter my mind. And I guess that has to do with self-confidence, I suppose. But my role in the whole process, again philosophically, was somebody had to start the conversation about Blacks in space, okay? I wish that there were several more than me that were involved in this thing. And to have it laid all on my shoulders as one guy, I thought that part of it was very unfair, but I didn't think about it being unfair until after the fact because at the time I was just going with it. But as time pressed on and I was introduced to all kind of racial dignity and everything you could possibly imagine, but I fought it. And in essence, I won the game. This movie does an incredible job of taking that whole idea, this whole Ed Dwight idea and making it half sense because they put it in the context of our time and put it all through the movie that there's a timeline and they put my involvement in this thing as time went on. And it made my involvement a little bit more important than I ever thought it would be, because you don't think... Sometimes you bury your head in the sand and you're just full speed ahead, not knowing what the result and the ramifications are, what you doing. And then it came out later, "Oh my God, I did that."

Sarah Al-Ahmed: You did.

Ed Dwight: I'm responsible for that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I can't help but think of the lost opportunity there. It is so unfair to put the burden of representing an entire demographic on someone's shoulders. But at that moment in history, it would've meant so much to so many people to see a Black astronaut in space. Leland, how do you think it would've changed your life to see someone that early on in the age of astronauts that you felt represented by?

Leland Melvin: Well, when I think of '69, Sarah, and me holding the rabbit ears on a Black and white Sylvania television set, never seen the transmission, but knowing that there was no one that looked like me on that other side of the television, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would want to be an astronaut. I wanted to be Arthur Ashe, the tennis player and just kind of meander to that when I started working at NASA Langley. But if Ed Dwight had been on that television, it could have changed everything. Who knows what would've happened? I mean, it still happened for me, but I think for so many other kids, the possibility of what could happen. And now when you look at, I go into schools and have my blue flight suit, and some kids think I'm the Jiffy Lube repairman because when they see a guy in a blue flight suit in American flag, it's not an astronaut, it's a Jiffy Lube person or someone in a... So that now I'm helping educate people see, "Hey, this flight suit, he's got his patches. They designed these patches to go on Atlantis to the space station, deliver Columbus Laboratory and do spare parts." And so I think it's an evolutionary process, but Ed started it. And we are so thankful for Ed what you've done, brother. I mean, it is... And when we were watching the DC Docs film festival and Ed got with Bill Nye and they started talking about the Negro baseball leagues, you should have seen their faces there. They were lighting up. And so Black culture, space, Planetary Society, all these things were mixed into that one screening that we all celebrated right there with Nikki Giovanni who had just done a movie about Mars. And we're in that room celebrating all of this legacy and beauty and future of all people going to Mars one day, and to which y'all do there as Planetary Society, just helping people believe in what mission possible is.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, it's going to take a lot of work, all of us working together to try to make space a place where everyone feels represented, where we can all make that a part of our dreams. And I'm so looking forward to this next generation of astronauts because I feel like it was that presence of humans on the moon that just set everyone's imagination on fire. But it's been like 50 years since that happened. To see the next generation of astronauts, can you imagine what that's going to do to impact the next generation of children? It's going to be beautiful.

Leland Melvin: Right.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I think something in the film, I mean this was the moment that really made me ugly cry, was the moment when Victor Glover was talking about putting that picture of George Floyd and the Cupola at the ISS and reaching out to all of the Black astronauts to have this phone call, this call that he called the group of Afronauts. And you were actually on that call, Leland. What was that like?

Leland Melvin: It was incredible, Sarah. It was like this collective of Black excellence coming around to help Victor get through this moment in our history where Derek Chauvin could have potentially been exonerated for the killing of George Floyd and just what would've happened, the riots potentially in Houston. He's got four daughters and he's got a wife that are in Houston, and so how do we protect him? How do we protect his family if those kinds of things are going on? And I'm sure it would've been a powder cake if that had happened, but it didn't. So it was okay, but he knew that we had his back in that moment if he needed us to rise up to help in that situation. And I think it also, since then, we've been emailing everyone emails back and forth and the Afronaut email chain, and it's a beautiful thing. It's a much needed but beautiful thing, but it's sad that it had to come around that time of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin's trial, but it's galvanized us now.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Sometimes it takes those moments of pain for us to really ask for help and to lean on each other. And it makes me really happy to know that something that beautiful came out of this moment of sadness because what's more beautiful than people lifting each other up, especially in that context. Imagine sitting out in space, staring down at the earth below while all of these people who've walked the same path that you have share that pain, that burden with you. It's beautiful.

Leland Melvin: You feel lifted up. You feel shore up, yeah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. I felt a very similar thing, Ed, when I was looking at your monument that you built in Texas that was described in the film as this journey from slave to astronaut. What a beautiful piece of artwork and what a profound thing to depict. I loved that.

Ed Dwight: Well, thank you very much. That was perfectly natural for me because it fit into the early history that I had done about Texas. And I ended up finding [inaudible 00:40:34] back in the 1500s who was exploring Texas, did the Tejanos territory, and here we got an astronaut from Houston, Texas. What a connection. So it was laid out ahead of me, what the hell happened in between? [inaudible 00:40:56] And the time that he went up? And I said, this is natural for me. So I did it. I went through all the history. I did more history on that one than I did on any of my other. But I went back in time to 1500s to 1600s, researching history about everything that happened in the Tejanos territory. And Mexican American war, I studied. That's on the back of the memorial. I didn't leave anything out on that memorial. That's one of my more complete and better executions.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I would love to go see it in person, I mean, honestly. And what a beautiful way to use art to tell this story. I love that you've been over the years continuing on with your art and sharing these parts of the culture just to make them more visible to people. It's so meaningful. There was also this moment, and I believe it was right at the end of the film where you were on a call with Jessica Watkins and Victor Glover, and you said, "Thanks for remembering me." And I truly hope that people remember you because I think that your place in history, and yours too, Leland, should be remembered for years to come. I hope that we build a monument on Mars someday because you are both a part of this legacy and you deserve to be represented there. So I won't live to see it probably. We probably won't all live to see it, but I hope people in the future continue to honor both of your legacies.

Leland Melvin: Well, thank you, Sarah. You're very kind.

Ed Dwight: Thank you.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: And I know Leland, you've been a great friend of The Planetary Society, but I want to extend the invitation to both of you. If you ever want to come by our headquarters and come see everything, we would love to have you. You have my word that The Planetary Society is going to do everything we can to continue to build this coalition of people around the world, to be this voice for diversity and equality and inclusion in space because we are better when we go together. It is hard to do it alone, and both of you have accomplished amazing things with not enough support. And if we can be that support, if we can help, that would be the ultimate honor.

Leland Melvin: Thank you.

Ed Dwight: Thank you so much.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I cannot recommend this documentary enough. It's always difficult and heartbreaking to reflect on the ways that bigotry has impacted our human journey. But if we work together, we can shape a future where everyone is always welcome in our space community and on planet earth. Again, if you'd like to watch The Space Race, it debut on National Geographic on February 12th and began streaming on Disney Plus and Hulu on February 13th. We can't change the world all at once, but we can each do our part to make sure that we share the inspiration and awe of space science and exploration with as many people as we can. Our next guest, Mohoodles, has been doing her part to share space with as many people as possible on Twitch, an interactive live-streaming platform. We'll be doing a stream together on Friday, February 23rd. Here's her story. Hey, Mohoodles.

Moohoodles: Hello.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm so happy to have you on the show and really excited that we're going to be collaborating on this Twitch livestream.

Moohoodles: I am so excited to stream with you and I'm so happy to be here. Thank you.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We've been talking on the show about the fact that space should be for everyone and that we need to advocate to make that a real thing. But there's an interesting tie in here and that in order to make people feel like space is for them, we need to be communicating science in places where everyone is. And you are part of the first generation of science communicators on Twitch, which is a live-streaming platform. How long have you been streaming on Twitch?

Moohoodles: So I've been streaming for almost a decade. In a few months, it'll be 10 years on Twitch, which is kind of surreal.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's amazing. Are you going to get yourself a little statue or something?

Moohoodles: Maybe I should. That's a good idea.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah, I know on YouTube people do that thing where they celebrate a certain number of subscribers with a plaque or something. You should get yourself a plaque.

Moohoodles: I love that idea actually. I love it.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Presented on stream.

Moohoodles: To show it off as celebration.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Exactly. How did you get started?

Moohoodles: I actually kind of started streaming because I thought I was funny and had good reactions to things, which it would be a totally different answer nowadays. But I ended up bringing that science communication in just because I really loved space and I just always wanted to talk about it. So when I was playing video games, I just was talking about cool astrobiology topics. I was actually the president of my astronomy club at college, so I kind of brought things from those lectures into my Twitch streams and would just talk about it.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's such a fun way to do that, and we'll get into this overlap between the science community and gaming in a little bit, but I have always felt like it would be so fun to just share space with people while playing space games. And I'm really glad that there are people like you and a growing community that are actually really into that these days.

Moohoodles: Aw, thank you. It's so fun.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: What was the science community like on Twitch when you first started versus now? Because it's been a decade.

Moohoodles: Yeah, it wasn't really a thing back then. We had to use other parts of the platform, like I said, gaming categories just to talk about things. Or later on, we could use the one category that was for non-gaming content. But because of me and other content creators, Twitch was actually able to see an emerging trend of people that wanted to watch these science communication streams. And so they made the science and technology category back in 2018. So now we have this regular interactive learning site on the internet where people can tune in from all over the world and learn from science communicators and actual scientists. We have paleontologists, geologists, volcanologists, everything in STEM. And yeah, there's just content on Twitch for everyone. It's so awesome.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's a great point because there's always been this really robust science communication community on places like YouTube and other platforms, social media sites, but there's something really powerful about the interactivity that you get on live-streaming platforms like Twitch. It really allows you to communicate with people directly. How has that interactivity allowed you to share space with people in a different way?

Moohoodles: So I would say interacting live is everything for me. It makes learning a lot more engaging, and you're able to be part of the conversation and community. You're not just a viewer. You're a participant if you want to be. And it is just so fun because I get to work with the energy and the interaction of chat, and there's so many brilliant people that hang out in my community. Viewers are coming in from so many different scientific aspects around the world. We've actually had scientists publish papers, software engineers working on space stuff, or even people that watch Bill Nye as a kid and just want to keep learning because science rules. And these chatters can contribute so much to the discussions. They make us laugh. They enable us to find new aspects and avenues to explore that we maybe wouldn't have thought about otherwise, or maybe it wasn't touched on in the source that we were reading about. And it leads us to just learn so much more and have a connected and deeper understanding while promoting scientific literacy and getting people excited about space and space advocacy.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I thought that I knew a lot about space. I went and got my degree in astrophysics. I thought I knew what I was talking about, but it wasn't until I was interacting with people working at an observatory every day answering people's questions that I realized how much I hadn't learned and all the things that people really found interesting. And that interactivity really changed the way that I not only communicated science, but thought about the field in general. So it's cool that you get to do that literally all the time.

Moohoodles: Oh, thank you. And I love that. Yeah, getting the feedback from people and seeing what questions they have or how they interpret different things I think is just so invaluable. It really helps you know a topic and also be able to let other people learn it better too.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Platforms like Twitch and TikTok tend to attract a younger audience because of that interactivity and that kind of authenticity that comes with it, right? You can't curate who you are when you're literally just talking to people live on the internet. What is your audience and what are they most interested in learning about?

Moohoodles: So you might be surprised that a lot of my community has actually shared that they've seen Halley's Comet or even the Moon landing. It's been so exciting and fascinating to hear them share about their experiences and passions in space. So naturally, we really love seeing all the beautiful new photos and discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as anything with cameras or microphones on another body in space such as the OSIRIS-REx, touching down to take a sample of the asteroid venue, or even the perseverance rover listening to the Sound of Mars for the first time. We get really, really excited about future missions like the Europa Clipper and what discoveries are waiting to be known. I think my excitement is usually reflected onto others as well, which might sound kind of weird. But if I get hyped up on an astrobiology topic, everyone else gets really excited and they're like, "Oh, wait, what is this going to be?" Yeah, so I think just everything about space overall is so captivating and sparks curiosity, and so we get really excited about everything, I suppose.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But that's the beauty of sharing what you love, and for lack of a better way to put it, advocating for space because people don't always feel like this is something that's accessible to them. And classically, there have been a lot of people that have been left out of this discussion or meant to feel like space isn't for them, right?

Moohoodles: Yeah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But as soon as you get to share what you love with people, make them feel welcome in it, allow them to ask their own questions, that's when the real change happens. It's magic.

Moohoodles: Yeah. No one should feel shunned from being able to participate in anything about space. Like set aside all of the amazing citizen science projects out there that you can help out with, I really strive to make my community so welcoming and so accepting to everyone. You don't have to know anything about space. Or you could literally be working at NASA, and it's the place for you to feel accepted and welcome.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Space is for everyone. That's what we try to do here at The Planetary Society.

Moohoodles: True.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But I think that's a sentiment that's reflected across so many people that are in the science community. This is something that's for all of us, and we all love it passionately. And we want everyone else to understand how cool this stuff is, because, come on, it's so cool.

Moohoodles: It is.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Twitch is a really kind of game-centric platform. Classically, when people think about Twitch, they think about people playing video games. And if we're any indication, the two of us are big gamers. So there's a lot of overlap between the space community and the gaming community. Every once in a while you do game streams. So how have you been using gaming to help people understand space science?

Moohoodles: There is definitely such a huge overlap between gamers and space lovers. I often play space focus games on my stream. So when people come into the stream for the first time for the game and then they realize that I also do science communication, they get really, really excited because they're actually able to learn about these cool topics or see what things in the game are relevant to real life space stuff. So for example, when I play games like Starfield, I was so excited that there was a Xenobiologists class in that. So I decided essentially to role play that and bring all of my astrobiology education into every single gameplay stream. And so people got to learn so much about astrobiology. And the majority of people who came in for Starfield didn't even know astrobiology was a thing so I really got to nerd out. And it also helps to be able to visualize some of the wonders in space. And video games just make a really good talking point with that added educational tool. Sometimes we'll play a game called SpaceEngine, which is like a 3D visualization of things in space, and that's a really, really great educational tool. But I also, as you know, play Star Citizen, and I think that's just a gorgeous game that gets people excited about space because it's so pretty, but then they can learn something too.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Right. I'm sure we're going to be talking about Star Citizen on the stream because I've been a big fan of this game for a long time. Once I start going about the physics of that game and what they're accomplishing, I won't shut up, so it's great. It's a fantastic tool.

Moohoodles: I would love to hear you talk all about that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We so will. What is a typical Moohodles' stream like?

Moohoodles: So we always start talking about current news and doing a lot of science communication about just everything happening in outer space and astrobiology. Essentially, we nerd out for hours while learning in this interactive and engaging environment, and then we can play games later on and nerd out in those too. Recently, we've been doing some just full streams of only science communication because it's been super fun. And that's pretty much what a typical stream is like.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: And I've watched some of them. It's a real good time. I feel like there are so many beautiful moments happening in space right now. I can't even share all of them on the show because there are just so many space agencies around the world and a lot of commercial entities that are getting tied up in space, and there are so many topics that we can't cover. It's beautiful thing that you can just sit there and answer people's questions and go through the space news for hours on end, because that's a really fun and accessible way to do that. And you can really get to all the topics that maybe we can't deep dive into every single week. I'm really looking forward to our stream together, and that's going to be on Friday, February 23rd. You're going to start the stream a little early at 6:00 PM Pacific Time. But in the meantime, how can people find your channel on Twitch, and what time do you stream?

Moohoodles: Sarah, I am so excited to stream with you. We are going to have so much fun. I am live every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM Mountain Time, which is 6:00 PM Pacific Time. And you can find me at, moohoodles.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Moohoodles. Well, thanks for joining me, and I'm looking forward to this.

Moohoodles: Thank you.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's going to be a lot of fun. If you can make it, we'd love for you to join us in the chat during the live stream. Now, let's check in with Bruce Betts, the chief scientist of The Planetary Society for What's up? Hey, Bruce.

Bruce Betts: Hey, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We are celebrating Valentine's Day here in the United States today. So happy Valentine's Day.

Bruce Betts: Happy Valentine's Day. You know, there's a random space fact video for Valentine's Day.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Really?

Bruce Betts: We should post a link to it, talking all about the asteroid arrows and co-starring from our board of directors, Bob Riccardo, Star Trek actor, et cetera. You can see him just really, really abuse me. It's funny. Verbally. Verbally.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Verbally. No. I'll share that on the episode page for this episode of Planetary Radio because I don't think I've seen that one yet.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, don't worry. [inaudible 00:55:37] graphics, there's a Cupid, there's an asteroid, there's a Star Trek actor. There's me getting embarrassed. It's quite fabulous. And there's even facts about the asteroid, strangely enough. Enough about that. Happy Valentine's Day.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Everything that people love. Happy Valentine's Day. But I got this chance to talk to so many people that I respect a lot, but I got to talk to Leland Melvin, who's one of my favorite astronauts, and that was a moment for me.

Bruce Betts: That's really cool.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Have you ever gotten to talk to him before?

Bruce Betts: No, I have not.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, well maybe hopefully we can make that happen. I invited him and Ed Dwight to come visit our headquarters. Fingers crossed that'll happen, but I think it would be really cool to all be there and hang out with those people, because wow.

Bruce Betts: Pretty cool.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: No, but I don't know if you've had this experience meeting other astronauts, but every time I always have this kind of starstruck feeling. And then I meet them and they're just such kind, down to earth, but very good, hardworking people. And it always makes me feel both like I could do that and also like I'm not worthy.

Bruce Betts: Yes. I've had that experience often. So I've met a lot of astronauts. And yes, they're partly selected for their sociability and how well they play with others, and so they tend to be nice. Middle known fact maybe, I was interviewed for the astronaut program many moons ago and I was impressed by how kind and nice everyone was with sharing and talking and such. And the person who got selected out of my group went on to do great things and was a wonderful person, is a wonderful person.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Imagine somewhere in the multiverse you were an astronaut.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. Weird.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Weird.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. Instead, I was just a guy who had problem with one ear adjusting to pressure changes, because you know, that's enough.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: They're relatable.

Bruce Betts: Anyway. Yeah, no, astronauts are cool. And I have certainly been starstruck by the ones from when I was younger and they were the astronauts. So I'm less starstruck now, but still they're impressive.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah, it's really interesting getting to have these conversations about how many people would've made amazing astronauts, but were denied that opportunity either because of their race or because they were women or insert reason here. There are so many amazing people that haven't had that chance yet, and I'm really looking forward to a future where we have even more human missions to space and even more accessibility and diversity among our crews. It's going to be such a cool moment in the future to look back at this time and see how far we've come and how much things have changed.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. That's true. That part is great. I will throw in the caveat for all astronauts that there aren't going to be a lot of missions for a long time, so it's still going to be a very specialized group.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. Especially after the ISS comes down, we're going to have to wait for that Lunar Gateway to be fully built so that we can have even more permanent human presence in space because China already has their space station, so thankfully we're still going to have humans in space, but it's going to be a little bit of a wait to get that kind of ISS feel back.

Bruce Betts: The ISS feel. Hello, dog. Sorry, my dog's in my lap again.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Speaking of dogs though, I know that people have told me that part of why they love Leland Melvin so much in our member community is because of his astronaut photo with his rescue dogs. Are your dogs rescue dogs?

Bruce Betts: My dogs are rescue dogs, including Gracie, who's trying to talk, panting to the microphone. Now she's licking the microphone in my face. She is full-blown rescue dog, street dog, now happily snuggles into the warm spaces when it's raining outside and just in general. So yeah. And then Giant Max, that's our small dog, the 85 pounder, and then giant 200 pound Max is just a magnificent. Gentle giant, rescue dog. Lots of dogs, all rescue dogs throughout my life, and they're awesome. Adopt. Don't shop. Spay and neuter.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Spay and neuter. Take care of our animal friends. One of these days, I can't wait to be on a spacecraft with a cat or a dog with me just adventuring through space together. That'd be so cool.

Bruce Betts: I somehow think it would just freak the heck out of my dogs. Zero G is not something they're really going. Yeah, I get that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: All right, so what's this week's Random Space Fact?

Speaker X: Random Space Fact.

Bruce Betts: All right. The total fuel carried by Charles Lindbergh on the Spirit of St. Louis on his transatlantic solos record setting flight was equivalent to 1/10th, 1/10th of the amount that the Saturn V would burn every second. And you may think, "How did these two weird things come together?" Not random. Oddly enough, Charles Lindbergh and his wife visited the Apollo 8 crew the night before they headed off to go around the moon, and he had talked about using a piece of string to measure distance on a globe and then calculating the fuel needed and then talk to the crew and watch the launch the next day. All went well and fuel was burned and it was good. But those big rockets, it doesn't matter which one you pick, there's a stunning amount of fuel burned every second, every moment.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: There really is. That's why I'm so glad that a lot of companies are trying to find new alternatives that are more friendly for the environment.

Bruce Betts: I like stomp rockets.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: If everyone on earth-

Bruce Betts: It's a whole lot of people.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... jumps on this thing at once. But on a more serious note, before we close out today-

Bruce Betts: Oh, no.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... I just wanted to say how cool it is to work at an organization that really cares about making sure that space is for everyone. And I think coming on board and learning that that was so much of what we were trying to do right now, rethinking the way that our organization works to make sure that everyone feels welcome in space, made me feel really welcome. And thanks for being a kind of mentor to me, Bruce.

Bruce Betts: You're awesome, Sarah, and we're glad to have you. And yes indeed, space is for everyone. Yes, Gracie, you too if you want. I mean, I don't know that you want. Okay, okay. Stop licking me. Okay. All right, everybody. Go out there. Look up for the night sky and think about dogs licking your face. Thank you, and good night.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We've reached the end of this week's episode of Planetary Radio, but we'll be back next week for an update on OSIRIS-APEX. OSIRIS-REx may have completed its sample-return from Bennu, one of the most dangerous asteroids we've found to date, but now the spacecraft is kicking it up a notch and headed toward asteroid Apophis. In 2029, that asteroid is coming closer to earth than our geostationary satellites. So getting a close look at it is probably for the best. You can help others discover the passion, beauty, and joy of space, science and exploration by leaving a review and a rating on platforms like Apple Podcasts. Your feedback not only brightens our day, but also helps other curious minds find their place in space through Planetary Radio. You can also send us your space lots questions and poetry at our email at [email protected]. Or if you're a Planetary Society member, leave a comment in the Planetary Radio space in our member community app. Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and is made possible by our members around the world who believe that space is for everyone. No matter who you are or where you're from, you're welcome to join us at Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our associate producers. Andrew Lucas is our audio editor, Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. And until next week, ad astra.