As we wait for the launch of Artemis 1, we explore the Artemis Accords: a shared set of principles for exploring space, signed now by more than 20 nations. The accords outline a set of peaceful behaviors and shared values, including the open sharing of scientific data, safe disposal of orbital debris, commitments to mutual aid, and practices for using space resources and preservation. Mike Gold, former associate administrator of Space Policy and Partnerships at NASA, helped draft these accords and joins the show to share why they're important, how they came together, and the immense practical benefit of having global norms in space. Casey and Mat also discuss the context and meaning of the Artemis 1 mission following their visit to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Related Reading and References:
- Why we have the SLS
- The Artemis Accords
- After years of setbacks, NASA’s SLS moon rocket is ready to fly
- The Road to Artemis Panel Discussion courtesy of Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management Initiative for Space Leadership, Policy and Business
Mat Kaplan: Welcome to the September, 2022 Space Policy Edition of Planetary Radio. I'm Mat Kaplan, the host of Planetary Radio, the weekly show. Happy to once again, join the chief advocate of The Planetary Society, also, the senior space policy advisor, Casey Dreier. Welcome, Casey. We tried, we almost made it, didn't we?
Casey Dreier: You did. It's funny that we're recording this remotely, but we were just in person down at Florida, attempting to see the first launch of the SLS. Both of us could not stay for the second launch, and actually this will be released ... is being released before the second attempt, but yes, it was a good old college try, we gave it there, Mat.
Mat Kaplan: We had some of our colleagues with us. We even had a terrific gathering of planetary society members and friends of the society who gathered at a bar last Sunday night, and we had a great time. It was really fun and some terrific interviews that will ... if everything comes together, I will feature in next week's Planetary Radio. That'd be the September 7 episode, but in addition, an absolutely terrific interview that Casey did, that we're going to share with you in a few minutes.
Casey Dreier: One of the great things about the SLS is that it's so big and so important for NASA, that pretty much everybody in the space community was down in the space coast over the last week. And that gave us a really great opportunity to reach out ... for me, to talk with other policy folks and NASA people and other journalists, and one of them is Mike Gold. Right now, he's the executive vice president for civil space and external affairs at Redwire, a private space company, but previously, he worked at NASA doing their space policy and partnerships, and was instrumental in creating the Artemis Accords, these agreements between the US and other nations to a certain type of behavior and norms in space about exploring the moon. And he was gracious enough to speak with us, impromptu, in the space coast, and this is ... you'll be hearing his conversation later in the show.
Mat Kaplan: Michael is just a delight to listen to. I think you'll agree with that opinion, if you stick around and listen to that complete conversation that Casey had with him, we had just been in an event, a discussion that was equally excellent. What a collection of all stars brought together by ... is the Thunderbird School of Management at Arizona State.
Casey Dreier: Yes, Greg Autry hosted this great panel, which included a number of people, but also Scott Pace, who was the previous executive secretary of the National Space Council. We had Charlie Bolden, of course, the former administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, a former administrator of NASA. Bhavya Lal, who's been on this show a number of times in the past, really to talk about the big kind of policy and motivations behind organizing Artemis, the way it is and Mat, you and I were both there in the audience, in-person. Fortunately, they recorded the event that we will link to in the show notes here, so everyone can follow it. And just a really fascinating discussion. Mike Gold of course, was also on that panel, which is how we ended up having this conversation with him. And again, this is one of the valuable things of ... I kept telling people, for everyone is kind of grousing about the SLS, the range of opinions on it, it does bring people together, and that was the fun part about going down there, was just the opportunity to talk space with so many very thoughtful and intelligent people. I recommend listening to this panel, some really good discussions, and I'll have to say Mat, maybe some very good questions asked by the audience.
Mat Kaplan: Yes. One by somebody participating in the show today. Actually, it was Casey. I'll give it away. Yeah, terrific responses-
Casey Dreier: Chief advocate.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, to your question. We also got a shout out for The Planetary Society from former NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine. So thank you, Jim. The check is not in the mail, but thanks anyway.
Casey Dreier: You don't make money in this business by flattering nonprofits, right? That's not a quick way to success. It was interesting though, Mat, I mean, you and I were both there. I hadn't been to the space coast since before COVID. Launches for me are sacred events, really
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Casey Dreier: There's something truly visceral about being there in person to see a launch. It's so different than watching it on TV or streaming it through your computer or phone. All these experiential differences, it's the feeling of that wet, heavy Florida air. It's the energy that you can feel convulsing through the crowds around you in anticipation of the launch. It's the sound that shakes your body to its core. It's the brightness of the flame coming out of the back of a rocket, that you can't even look at. It's like staring at the sun. All of these things come together in this overwhelming, sometimes, experience of this event. I always kind of want to be down to a ... it's almost like topping off my spiritual tank sometimes to go down and see a launch, because it's a physical manifestation of everything we talk about, particularly for this show, for people listening to it. So much of what we do is abstract and very far off in the future. We're trying to write down in words, we're trying to get this fundamental abstract agreement in policy, in words written down, that will then initiate this strange process, this transmogrification of ideas into metal and plastic and Silicon that then gets placed on these rockets that we're watching. We talk about things that tend to be decades down the line, but to see something launch and to see it happen in front of you is just a really rewarding experience.
Mat Kaplan: There's nothing like it. That shared experience, and everybody being there to watch this monumental project lift off, for deep space, I'm only sorry that we didn't get to do it-
Casey Dreier: And of course, it didn't. After my big romantic description here, of course, it didn't launch. You were around the people, you and I met, we're at the press site, which is just a spectacular location. We were there so early in the morning and there's the colossus of the VAB lit up beautiful against the dark sky.
Mat Kaplan: The Vehicle Assembly Building, almost right next to us, yeah. Then, the rocket is what, about three miles away, I think from the press site, which sounds like a lot, but it's ... there it is. That's a big darn rocket and you cannot miss it. It's sitting there out against the morning sky.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, and beautifully lit. It's a very rockety looking rocket. It's a rocket that a three year old might draw, and I did, kind of looking like that. It just tells me, it's one of those hard to describe experiences, right? They said, something ... over a 100,000 people came to the space coast to watch this rocket, even if it didn't take off. Tons of press were there. I kept thinking this doesn't happen for the latest US Postal Service truck, when that's released. People don't line up and wait to see the new Postal Service truck deployed and run on the street for the first time. There's something ... it goes to the point that there's something profound about this endeavor, that even in our cynical age motivates people to travel literally across the world. One of our ... at our member event, we had a member food flown from Thailand to see this launch. This intrinsic desire to be a part of something and to be part of something grand, that Carl Sagan word, that I'm so in love with, luminosity. Space presents this rare opportunity for this in our culture, in our world these days. Then, you just really feel that, even if it didn't launch and I should say, I got one ... did you see, there was a contingency launch? I did see the Falcon 9 launch the night before.
Mat Kaplan: You told me that. I think I was editing in my hotel room and didn't even think to go outside because I was way down in Melbourne and so are you, and apparently, you got a pretty good show.
Casey Dreier: Beautiful view. It lit up the clouds from beneath, and I saw ... you can make out the rocket lifting off, the whole shape of it. That's just a modest little Falcon 9. So I did see a launch even if I didn't see the SLS go itself. There's a lot of hemming and hauling, and I actually had a lot of fun discussions about this with reporters and other NASA officials about kind of saying, "What's your argument? What's the best argument for why we do this and go into space?" And it's not an easy, quick ... there's clearly not one and there's a whole thing that we won't go into right now, because we've done shows about this. There clearly is something because again, we are looking at the manifestation of whatever that thing is, it's what brings those hundreds of thousands of people to get up. To drag their butts out of bed at two in the morning and sit in these mosquito infested swamps for hours and baking in the Florida sun, in the hopes that this rocket goes up. That tells you something.
Mat Kaplan: Now, what you've just described on the face of it, those characteristics of that event could also describe a NASCAR race. It's loud. It's hot and humid. There are frequently mosquitoes and it's very crowded. I've been in NASCAR races. It was great. I had a wonderful time, but there is something beyond. There is something that connects us to our greatest hopes, and I would even say to our most optimistic view of what humanity can represent. Of course, we talk about that all the time. Carl Sagan talked about it all the time, Bill Nye talks about it all the time. So many of us do. I think it surfaces even if only indirectly in your conversation with Mike Gold. Hasn't it affected you in your own thoughts about the value of Artemis and this rather monstrous investment that has been put into the space launch system and the other components for a lot more than the 10 or 11 years that some people have been reporting.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. I mean, it was certainly ... again, this is such a big event, the first launch of this. We should just acknowledge the context here. This is the first heavy lift rocket designed to carry people launching for the first time since 1967. That's when they first tested, that was the Apollo 4, it was the first test of the Saturn V. This is not a common event. This is a big deal, and even if one doesn't care for the SLS or thinks it's expensive or out of date, all of these are really valid critiques of it, it still is a really important marker. So, being there and also Mat, I have spoken to more journalists in the last month about Artemis and the SLS than I have probably in the last two years put together. It's been really fun to do that because it's made me really sit and think through the motivations and the processes, and the reasons why this program persists and persists so successfully. It's been a wonderful opportunity to really refine my thinking about it and something I really wanted to do with the SLS in particular, because it can be so in the space community of the people who care about this stuff, it can be so divisive. We just had Lori Garver on last month, and we talked about some of these issues, about how it came together, how it was kind of forced on NASA by Congress. How it was this kind of group of big aerospace contractors wanting to preserve their contracts, and you've turned all this reusable shuttle equipment into one use things when everything else has gone to reuse and all these valid critiques. So I really wanted to take an opportunity to really think through, if those are all true, why is it still here? Why do we still have it? I've noticed that there tends to be a somewhat inadvertent but maybe advertent but purposeful, a bit of moralizing on how people talk about this. There's definitely an attitude of something should be one way and this isn't, so therefore I can barely contain my irritation at its existence. There's a bit of a more ... and I wanted to look at the SLS through a non-moralizing somewhat dispassionate view to say, if all these arguments are so strong, why is it still there? What is it doing? So I put this article together that I really enjoyed writing and I think has been well-received broadly, is just looking at this from a perspective of, "Okay, why do we have this then?" And that's on planetary.org, it's called appropriately, Why We Have the SLS? I recommend you read it, but the fundamental argument is, is that you can't just in a public space program, right? Funded by the public, in a democracy and particularly, in a representative democracy where your federal representation comes from these distinct and discrete geographic locations around the country, right? They're tied to small areas of land around the country. Programs like the SLS tend to be an emergent property. They naturally come out of this. There's a lot of incentives that create these. If you flip the perspective a little bit, you could argue ... and I think you could argue reasonably well that the SLS is actually, this democratic system, working as designed to reflect the interests of various constituencies, to give them a voice. And that doesn't mean that aligns with the best possible national space program that you could have from an idealistic perspective. That doesn't mean that you have to like what they do. In a democracy, no one has to like and frequently, I think we spend a lot of our time focusing on what we don't like about other people who have a say in how we organize ourselves. If you want to optimize a space program, the SLS is an optimization along the political access, as opposed to a technological access, for all of the grousing about it, and this is a fun piece of data that I just analyzed for that article. For all of its delays, for all of its cost overruns, for all of the frustrations and poor management, Congress has done nothing but give more money to it than ask for, literally every single year of that program's existence.
Mat Kaplan: I want to make sure people understand what you just said. More money than NASA or the administrations through several administrations have asked for.
Casey Dreier: Exactly. We've gone through the budget process. The White House puts its request. Congress says here's extra money for SLS, every single year. It's not just one person in the Senate. It's both the House and the Senate. So there's this broad coalition of support, that traces back to the ... they're incentivized to represent where the money is being spent. Again, you may not like it, but that's just the structure we have of our democracy, that incentivizes that type of behavior. This process by which this comes together ... and at the end of the day too, if you don't optimize along some kind of political access, then in a political system, you will fail. Your program will fail. We won't have anything. It's the coefficient of friction. It's Mu, for physics-minded individuals. It's just like, if you're spending government money, there's just going to be some friction coefficient that makes it less efficient, but we don't have to say that that's necessarily a bad thing, and I think what's interesting here, and then, being at the space coast and talking with people and kind of seeing this, really, really, really thinking about how Artemis is coming together, for all of our grousing, it is the most likely chance that we've had in half a century to send people back to the moon. We are so much close, we have never gotten to this point since 1972, that we have a moon rocket sitting on a pad that is built, that will launch soon. That's not something to ignore and it's not just the US doing this. We have this broad coalition, all pointing to that same lunar destination, international partners, commercial partners, aerospace contractors, scientific community. I kept saying, and I'll say this again, coalitions within coalitions, all pointing at the moon and you could always do a better technical answer, but we shouldn't dismiss the fact that we have a moon rocket sitting on a pad right now. We shouldn't so easily say that something else ... X could be better because we haven't seen anything else ever succeed. I kept getting this metaphor in my head that I'll ... looking at the SLS, imagine jumping on top of an elephant. This elephant is like careening through the jungle and you're trying the best you can to steer it in one direction or another. The elephant is going to be ... it's big, it's bulky, it's crashing through stuff. You're not going to get ... you're not going to sleek through all these things. You're just going to have to do your best you can, to give an overall direction to where you want to end up, but by doing that, you look behind you and there's this clear path.
Mat Kaplan: I was going to say, you've just built a road apparently.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, and so many more people and things can come behind you, once you've ... and it wasn't the most elegant way to make that. It's going to be a little windy and inefficient, if you had just laid down a road. At the end of the day, you have a path to a destination, and that's what I see here, that the SLS and Orion programs serve as that kind of ... they're the big, bulky inefficient thing, but it's driving this pathway where these commercial partners, international partners, scientific partners have a real means to access the moon that we just wouldn't have without it. It was interesting kind of thinking this all ... the various pieces of this all coming together. I think again, the international component is probably the most underrated but possibly most important aspect of how we conceive of Artemis, particularly compared to Apollo. Mat, you interviewed the director general of the European Space Agency. Who was there for this launch?
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Casey Dreier: Right.
Mat Kaplan: And the head of the ... couple of leaders of the German Space Agency, which is not yet signed on to the Artemis Accords, but might be, sometime soon, the leader of the Italian Space Agency, the head of Human and Robotic Space Flight for the UK and ESA. I'm sorry, I should have just said, ESA, David Parker. All there, all proud of their contributions to Artemis. Boy, if you needed more proof that space can bring people together. Of course, that's also what you're going to talk about with Mike Gold, because he was so responsible for making this partnership happen.
Casey Dreier: Another way that I kind of talk about it with a journalist for a while, was the way that Artemis is constructed, and this is very much based on Scott Pace's theory, that he had been a espousing for at least a decade, I think probably longer, which I think really has proven to have been correct, which is that a US-led program to the moon provides opportunity for like-minded allies to join in at various levels, commensurate to their financial and technological abilities. So going to Mars is really hard for anybody almost impossible for most countries. Then, the other problem with going to Mars is that you only can launch every 26 months. You don't have a huge amount of chances. It's very limited for how other cooperative entities and nations can contribute in a meaningful way, but the moon, you can launch a lot more often. It's much closer. You get that feedback loop. Also, it's technologically, much more achievable. Not that it's easy, but it's much more feasible. The way that Artemis has been really structured as initially proposed by Trump administration now being refined by the Biden administration, it's joining some sort of club or service where you have your bronze, gold and platinum levels of membership, where at the most entry level, you can just sign the Artemis Accords. That's your bronze level of participation in Artemis. When you're raising your hand as a nation, that we agree to these certain norms of behavior in space, these general intent of peacefully exploring the moon. It's basically a way to express interest and support. It requires no financial commitments and you have a lot of countries, I think they were just, the Saudi Arabia signed it, Brazil signed it, Australia signed it, who don't have really strong existing space programs, but they're raising their hand to say that they support these types of behaviors and norms in space. So that's your bronze level, that's your free access tier.
Mat Kaplan: I think you still get a tote bag, anonymous tote bag-
Casey Dreier: A free tote for signing the Accords, and then, your gold level or whatever would be contributing to some of the science programs or providing hardware for the gateway or communication support. Then, your platinum level is what ESA is basically doing and saying here, we're building your service module for Orion. We're going to build those every year going to ... and we're trading that for seats to land on the moon. So you're going to have Europeans landing on the moon, and you're going to have Japanese commitments landing on the moon. So where your country or program is able to participate, there's a range of ways to engage, not just one way that can only be available to other superpowers or highly, highly developed nations. And I think that's really a very conscious approach. And again, this is why it's coalitions upon coalitions. In order to sustain this program to not have an Apollo or you are ... go six times and then, you just spin everything down. You need to have this broader, soft power beneficial coalition that derives benefit to them by participating, in addition to benefiting you. It's a very practical and pragmatic approach that I think really makes Artemis unique. And this is what we'll talk somewhat with Mike Gold about how those were kind of conceived of and why this is so important. And again, I want to emphasize that this is also a transition that we made in our Human Space Flight Program between the Trump administration to the Biden administration, functionally unchanged, something that has not happened since LBJ to Nixon in 1968, '69. That is a rare ... and you could even argue, I think maybe that Nixon wasn't really embracing the whole lunar program. He just kind of took the wins and then spun it down into the shuttle. This is a huge statement too, that we've had ... we've survived the presidential transition that no other lunar program, return program has since Apollo.
Mat Kaplan: I think there are probably even people in the George W. Bush administration who look at what is happening at the Cape right now and say, "Yeah, we had a piece of that. We helped start that with Constellation," even though Constellation was officially killed, but you look at that-
Casey Dreier: Yeah, you can see-
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. Orion has parts of it. Yeah, Orion has parts of it. Ares V is functionally the SLS, you see parts of it, but it wasn't like a smooth transition. That was a backstop succession, right? Through Congress to save certain pieces of it, but the Biden administration embraced it wholeheartedly from another administration that I have to say, let's say ... it's to say gently that they had some disagreements with, and many other policy issues.
Mat Kaplan: Wasn't the happiest of handoffs.
Casey Dreier: Yeah.
Mat Kaplan: I think one of the really great points that comes out of your conversation with Mike Gold, the geopolitical benefits that are also accrued, not just among the Artemis partners, those who've signed the Accords, but with those who are not part of the Accords, including nations like China, who may feel pressure to go in certain directions or behave in certain ways because they see that they are competing with this Accord that is enforcing certain behaviors.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. I mean, I think it's designed to set ... this is the power of normative behavior. So if all these other countries are saying, "These are our values in space," and these are basic things, these aren't like hoorah, hoorah US stuff. And Mike goes out of his way to emphasize that these Accords were developed with significant external input from allies. This is not just a US derived thing. The idea is that this is what soft power is. You influence behaviors through your own behavior. If you have 50 countries saying that they have a certain approach to sharing space and give data away for free, and we're doing it for peaceful purposes that we want to ... and protect the space environment, countries that don't do that are suddenly really acting like outliers. There's like a subtle ... it's like a solar wind or something, or a solar pressure on a light sail, how that small force, but over time, can make huge differences.
Mat Kaplan: Gentle but constant.
Casey Dreier: There you go.
Mat Kaplan: I think we're probably ready to go to that conversation with Mike Gold. And if you thought you were going to get away in this month's show without a pitch to help us continue to do the kind of work that Casey has underway, every day, not just when he joins me for the space policy edition, and enabling us to go and be a part of Artemis coverage and interact with members and others, and bring you this kind of content. Well, it's planetary.org/join, because membership is the way to make sure that all of this not only continues but grows. We have lots of great new stuff going on, that I think you're going to enjoy. If you haven't heard of it, check out our new planetary academy, which is going into a sort of a beta test, but there's a Kickstarter campaign underway right now. A terrific opportunity for young people, for kids, to participate in The Planetary Society and become citizens of the galaxy, while they're at it, planetary.org/join. Anything else you want to say as we begin this conversation that you had with Mike Gold?
Casey Dreier: Let's talk to Mike. Mike Gold. Thank you for joining us today, in the space policy edition. We're here the day before Artemis 1, hopefully launches. Mike, you are working for Redwire now, a private space company. Before, you were at NASA during kind of a pivotal part of this Artemis program, serving as the associate administrator of space policy and partnerships. This is something I want to explore with you. The role of creating Artemis as we conceive it today, take me back to the beginning, when you joined the NASA leadership team in 2019, where you had all the elements of Artemis, but no program. What was the problem facing the agency in its human space flight program at that point?
Mike Gold: Continuity, I think was the greatest problem and challenge that we faced. Unfortunately, when it comes to beyond Low Earth orbit human space flight, failure wasn't just an option with NASA, it was a virtual certainty, that since the Apollo program, the agency and America has failed to sustain a single beyond low earth orbit human space flight initiative. I had been watching failure after failure, seeing America's credibility deteriorate among the international community and many countries starting to look towards China as a country that could actually sustain a vision. So Artemis to me was an inflection point. It was our last best hope for the US to regain the initiative and lead a global coalition forward. That's why I felt it's important to come to NASA. The return to the moon under Space Policy Directive 1 was extremely popular globally. It was a logical next step in space exploration. In order to be sustainable, there really were two things that were necessary. One, bipartisanship, which the prior NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine did a tremendous job with. I remember statements that were being made in favor of Artemis by Speaker of the House Pelosi, which were then later supported by Vice President Pence that deserved a Nobel Peace Prize into itself. Again, that's what's so special about space. The way it can unite people with such diverse views on other issues, bring us all together as a country and a world. So the bipartisanship was extremely important. And Jim did just an amazing job crafting that, but then the international aspect. If you look towards Low Earth orbit, you've seen a great example of how international cooperation can create sustainability. The international space station is the crown jewel of global human space flight, has now been around for over 20 years of crude operations. And I think we almost take it for granted too much that there's this extraordinary facility that was built by international coalition with astronauts and experiments from literally hundreds of countries that is deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize and should receive one. And part of the reason for that sustainability was the international aspect. So it was vital that with Artemis, that we weave into the very foundation of the Artemis program, international cooperation that manifested in the Artemis Accords, which are the vehicle to create the broadest, most diverse human space flight program in history. I'm proud to say that now, there are 21 countries that have joined. I'm sure many more to come in the future and being able to harness that diversity, that innovation will not only allow for new solutions, better ideas, but will create a sustainable program that will carry America and its international partners to the stars.
Casey Dreier: I want to follow up on that aspect, but in a minute, because I'm really interested in this genesis period of the Artemis program, because you have the SLS already, right? The SLS seemed to be politically quite stable, by that point. You had the Orion spacecraft, you had the European contribution of the service module, but you didn't have a grand mission, and you had ... at various times, it was just going to go to an asteroid or maybe meet one around the moon, or maybe go to Mars, but why did the moon and the Artemis formulation, why was that necessary at this point when you were coming in? Why couldn't you just continue that? What organizing ability or advantage did that provide to have that in a sense, philosophical and organizational framework that you helped create?
Mike Gold: It's a great question, and let me begin by taking a little bit of issue with the stability of SLS and Orion. These things look easier, inevitable now, that it's on the pad, but as you may know, there was a great deal of controversy. There was even attempts to terminate the program and the constellation program itself, was stopped. Now, what was then the Ares V, now, the SLS survived, the Orion survived, but as you were pointing out, the vision did not survive. So we had these capabilities, these systems and with every administration, or at least the last few, there were different ideas as to what we would do, what we would not do, and that is anathema to sustain abilities. So we needed to weave a narrative, a program, a mission that could be sustainable, not just during this administration, but during the next administration. That's why Artemis is so singular, no previous mission in my lifetime, and I know you can't see it, just over audio, but I am not that young.
Casey Dreier: That's true.
Mike Gold: There's a lot of gray hair going on here. Yet, I have not lived to see a single beyond LEO human space flight program go from one partisan administration to the other. So the challenge that we had with Artemis is how do you craft something that can do that?
Casey Dreier: Yeah.
Mike Gold: And again, that's where the bipartisanship and the international aspects came on, but particularly in the early days, that's why the moon was so important. Candidly, the international community was not excited or supportive of the asteroid redirect mission. They didn't believe it would be politically sustainable and we should never do a disservice to our international partners. They can be quite sophisticated when it comes to NASA, when it comes to Congress and they knew and were concerned that the foundation for that program was not particularly sustainable. Whereas, the moon was widely accepted as a logical next step for human exploration and was popular among the international community. So we knew we needed to do a number of things to have the sustainable program. The overall mission of returning to the moon and going on to Mars was key to that. Let me also take a moment to bring Mars into the equation, because if you think partisanship is bad, you ain't seen nothing until you've got the moon and the Mars people going at each other. That is almost religious levels of zealotry, and you would encounter arguments that every dollar we spent on the moon is a dollar we're not spending on Mars and vice versa. And that's why a key theme of Artemis was unity. We not only needed to bring Democrats, Republicans together, America and international partners, but also moon and Mars advocate. So we crafted a program that yes, we go back to the moon, but we do so in a manner that creates the infrastructure, the experience and the technologies necessary to go to Mars. So there were all of these fundamental underpinnings, which is reflected in the name itself that Artemis, of course, is the twin sister of Apollo. And we needed to make sure that diversity was a key part of the Artemis program. And the concept of landing, the first woman is, the Biden administrations put forward the first person of color on the moon needed to make this not a Republican program, not a Democratic program, an American program, a global program, one where all of us went to the moon. We knew if we could build that solid foundation, that it had the best chance then of withstanding administration change, which it has and kudos to my colleagues in the Biden administration, Bhavya Lal, who was previously the acting chief of staff and senior White House appointee. Transitions are a very interesting time. And Bhavya did an amazing job defending the Artemis vision, articulating it during the early days of that White House and then onto people like Pam Melroy who even before, as you point out, we named it Artemis, was a defender of human space exploration of going back to the moon. And of course, Senator Nelson, who both was a robust supporter of returning humans to the moon with alacrity, as a Senator and now, as NASA administrator. So it took a diverse and dedicated group of people to get us there, but we tried to build into the DNA of Artemis, all of the elements that would allow that to happen.
Casey Dreier: You're talking about, it's like this savvy, meta awareness of coalition building and not rejecting the idea of politics and how politics allows things to succeed and which ones they don't. Constellation didn't succeed. What did you learn from past failures that helped you structure Artemis with this eye towards as again, success ... and just to point out, you said in your lifetime, you haven't seen the transition. I believe it was '68, the LBJ to Nixon transition. Arguably Nixon didn't really continue that idea either. He kind of took the wins and then ended it. So what did you learn from the past failures that were critical in your mind, to the success of Artemis?
Mike Gold: Yeah, I think we learned that international partnerships are key that you can't go alone. Not only because you miss out on the additional investments, the innovation that a diverse international group brings, but it's simply too easy to walk away from a program, if you don't have substantive and numerous international commitments. There's so many good reasons to make a space program international and to involve the world, but sustainability is absolutely one of the key aspects. Had there been a more robust international outreach for constellation or even the asteroid program, maybe those programs would've survived and the importance of bipartisanship. And I'm sorry to be a broken record on those, but it's just the fact that you need people who are willing and dedicated to embrace the politics of the situation. I remember when Administrator Bridenstine's confirmation hearing was occurring, there were a lot of questions and a lot of skepticism about, can you make a politician administrator? I would almost argue that you should almost only have politicians as administrators because the administrator's job is not to turn the wrench or make sure the screws line up. If you've got the administrator doing that, you've got larger problems than what's happening.
Casey Dreier: We're not walking around the SLS kicking its proverbial tires tomorrow morning, before it goes.
Mike Gold: Exactly. Now, he might have had Administrator Mike Griffin who could actually do that, that guy has got more degrees than I would experience growing up in Montana, North Dakota. Generally, the job of the administrator is to set the vision and get the funding and get congressional support because without Congress, it's not going to happen, and that's not an engineering challenge, that's a political challenge. As I always say, unfortunately, there's no rocket equation for Congress, so getting someone like Jim Bridenstine, who was a member of Congress, understood the congressional process, had good bipartisan relationships, was invaluable and I don't think it's coincidence that he was able to set that foundation. Then, hand it off to another extraordinarily accomplished politician and Senator Nelson, who also was well-known during his time in the Senate, as someone who had strong bipartisan relationships, knew how to build coalitions and had a strong political relationship and has in the case of Senator Nelson with the White House. So again, I don't think it's a coincidence. You see the success that we're having with administrators and top NASA leaders who not only understand, but embrace the politics to ensure that we have a sustainable program.
Casey Dreier: Again, I keep thinking to turn a phrase, a coalitions upon coalitions. And this is an argument that I've been making recently, which feels lonely sometimes because this is happening in a public agency, a political agency. We have representational rights and public oversight involved in this, at every step of the way and democracies aren't designed to be efficient. I always kind of say, if you want efficiency, you go to an autocracy. It's kind of the price we pay in a democracy to have input and benefits to various constituencies involved in this. So I'm hearing from you this idea that Artemis had to have congressional constituencies, international constituencies, but also you mentioned, there's a diversity of bringing in people who were underrepresented in the past, in human space flight. And this was always kind of the critique of Apollo, that it was only these old white guys landing on the moon. What about the rest of the country? Now, we're framing it as, this is an opportunity for everybody to have an ... engage in this. So that really strikes me as an interesting change. Then, of course the commercial coalitions now that exists, that didn't exist before. At the same time, it strikes me as that's the critique of Artemis is that it's optimized for politics, not technology. So how have you ... you were part of this architect group, who architected this political strategy, which again, so far has succeeded. What do you say to people who criticize that you had a political goal and not just ... or optimizing along this technological access?
Mike Gold: I believe that the diversity and coalitions of Artemis is synergistic with not only good technology, but better technology, that if we'd gone in a different direction, if I were to sum up the difference between Apollo and Artemis in a word, it's diversity. It's diversity of people that you saw such a much more homogenous group with Apollo versus our current astronaut core, which I believe is the most diverse ever. It's diversity of nations. That Artemis is not just America. It's the world, returning to the moon and diversity of organizations. As you mentioned with commercial space that the private sector in space simply didn't exist in Apollo like it does today. And I believe because of all of those things, we actually get far better technology than you would with a traditional or homogenous approach, beginning with the people. Diversity is not only the right thing to do. It's mission critical, that if you've got people who are from different backgrounds, different locations, different life experiences, they're always going to be able to tackle a problem more effectively than people who are all from the same place, all from the same point of view. Similarly, when we involve other countries, we're going to get that additional diversity of viewpoint, energy, new thinking. It's going to be, and will be amazing, particularly as we involve nations that haven't been a part of space exploration before. They've got so many new ideas, new ways of thinking that will improve the process and improve technology in ways that we as Americans might not even be thinking about right now. Then, we will all benefit from it and finally, relative to the private sector and we've certainly seen this in the development of what is a second golden age of space, driven by public-private partnerships and driven by commercial space, and the innovation, the efficiency, the affordability that commercial space will bring will allow Artemis to be the tremendous success that I know it will be.
Mat Kaplan: Stay with us as Casey and Michael turn to discussion of the Artemis Accords themselves. That's just about a minute away here on the Space Policy Edition.
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Casey Dreier: I want you to talk a little bit about the Artemis Accords, this complimentary set of bilateral agreements that United States has been making with, as we talked about today, 21 other countries and growing. What were the Genesis of the Artemis Accords? Why did the United States need that beyond the Artemis program itself? What advantage does that give the country and the other partners who are signing onto this?
Mike Gold: Space has always been critical for geopolitics. I believe nothing unites us as a country, as a world like space exploration. Space in many ways you could define is nothingness, but in another viewpoint, it's what connects us all. With the Artemis Accords, not only are we creating the sustainability, that's so important for any space program, particularly among democracies to allow it to flourish and to succeed, but we're creating a global coalition that we'll all be able to enjoy the benefits of space science, of space development, of the technology, and be able to bring us together as a globe in a way that, again, nothing else can. I believe that as humanity moves forward to space, that we can do better than we have here on earth. That we can leave behind many of our petty bigotries and biases and build not just better technology, but a better future. So I think the Accords for the US and the world, represent an opportunity to build a global coalition and global friendship that represents the future of a far more united humanity.
Casey Dreier: How do you design accords like that to be signable? How do you put yourself in the place of the other countries, did you have to work through the state department? That process must have not been a straightforward process, but still wanting to say something at the end of the day, what was the constraining factor on creating the Artemis Accords?
Mike Gold: You couldn't believe how much more hair and how much less gray it was before the Artemis Accords negotiations. It is extraordinarily difficult to gather the consensus foreign agreement like the Artemis Accords, not only with the initial group where we're dealing with eight different space agencies, but we also had eight different foreign ministries that were working with us. As you might imagine, space agencies and their equivalent of Department of State of Foreign Ministry, they might not even together see things in the same fashion. So even though initially, there were eight countries, there were actually 16 different entities that were involved. That's why it's a real tribute to the team that developed Artemis Accords, because we at first needed to make sure that we ourselves were unified and that itself is not easy. If you want to really strike fear into a space policy expert, and the government mentioned the C-175 process, and that's an important process, but one that could be very difficult where you establish consensus within the US government, and that means Department of Defense, the intelligence communities, NASA, Department of State, Department of Commerce, all entities that have very diverse points of view. This is where the space council was so important having an entity that brings all of those government agencies and departments together to look at what's the overall national interest, was so important. I was so grateful to have Scott Pace and his leadership at the Space Council, as well as the robust backing of Jim Bridenstine to bring all of these groups together, the first passion, with Artemis Accords would be for the US. That was just the beginning of a much longer process. Then we had to take the Accords forward to the international partners themselves. While the US may have written the first draft, the Accords were written as much by the international partners as the US, because they were done on essentially a consensus basis, that if there was anything that any partner didn't want in the Accords, it would be struck or if there was something they wanted put in, then that had to be considered by the group. It's a huge tribute to the hunger, the desire for norms of behavior, the desire for a peaceful future in space that we actually got the Accords done, particularly in the amount of time that we did it, because there were no shortcuts that we could take. Again, it's a consensus process. If any of the partners say no, then you're back to square one, or you have to alter the text to accommodate it. I was just joking with some of my friends from JAXA, that the Japanese are better at English than we are. They did an amazing job just even with the text of the Accords and take a country like United Arab Emirates, because the initial eight, we were a group of countries that were selected because they either were participating in the Artemis program or would likely soon become members of the Artemis program. We wanted a diversity of both countries that were traditional space partners to the US such as Italy or Japan and Canada, but we thought it was also extremely important to have new entrants such as the United Arab Emirates, that has done amazing, inspiring things in space in extremely short amount of time. One of the points that Emirates was particularly focused on was ensuring that the Accords were as inclusive as possible that any space faring nation could sign the Accords, and I really appreciated that perspective, that too was woven into the very fabric of the Accords and how we benefited from having a nation like UAE, Australia, Luxembourg, these relatively smaller, in some cases, newer entrants, that that vision is seen throughout the Accords. I have to object when I see so much, well, the America-led Accords or even people arguing that America has somehow twisted arms with Accords. Nothing could be farther from the truth. That was an extraordinary process that by the way, could have gone off the rails at any point, and almost did in many instances. I remember reminding our potential international partners at the time with the Accords, the importance of what we were trying to do, and the ramifications, if we failed that if this group couldn't come together and agree on this set of principles, what would that say for hope for the future? And I think that desire to build a better future drove us, got a diverse group of nations to come together, and we did so with an alacrity that had been unseen previously in space policy circles, and that I'm so grateful for the growth of the Accords to so many more countries that in part has been enabled by that view of inclusivity, reinforcing our international treaty commitments and implementing our obligations under the outer space treaty.
Casey Dreier: It's another coalition opportunity where you can sign ... I always think about it as like, do you have an opportunity for even ... to nations to just raise their hand, even if they're not doing a ton in space yet, just raise their hand and say, "This is the intent that we have to participate in this." I mean, and there's all this great ... I mean, you're elucidating this really wonderful kind of optimistic take of that, but I wonder how much of the momentum behind this that drove consensus is coming from a reactionary global perspective of both the behaviors of I'd say particularly Russia, but also China, did that drive consensus. Is this not just the kind of the feel good thing, but a way to almost ... I worry about this balkanization of exploration happening in the world based on geopolitics. So, I mean, where do you see that coming in on this or do you really see Artemis Accords as an independent optimistic assortment of exploration intent?
Mike Gold: I do see it as an independent and optimistic view towards the future of exploration. I'm a Star Trek fan. I can't help myself. I'm sure that comes out in my discussions and there is nothing I believe in the Accords that China couldn't, and I hope someday even wouldn't sign that again, the Accords, they reinforce international obligations from the outer space treaty, outer space treaty is over 50 years old, it doesn't look a day over 35. It's still the backbone of international space law, the registration convention, the agreement on the rescue of astronauts, all agreements that China has signed and supports. Russia, I'll put in a little bit of a different category, particularly given what's occurred in Ukraine, but I believe there's great common ground in space policy perspective between the Chinese and the US position. And we crafted the Accords due, in no small part, as I mentioned to the desire of many of the member countries who have strong relationships with the Chinese, to ensure that we had as inclusive document as possible. Now, there are aspects of the Accords that in many ways are a reaction to what China has done in space. I don't believe that that reaction is any less positive or less optimistic than anything else in the Accords. For example, the requirement for the full, free, open and timely release of scientific information. That is not something that we've seen happen at least consistently with China. So we thought it was important to include that in the Accords, even though it's not necessarily required by the Outer Space Treaty, but certainly in the spirit of the Outer Space Treaty. Not only to make that an obligation of the Artemis countries, the Artemis Accords family of partners, but also candidly to influence China and Russia and other nations, that the more you make something common practice as a recovering attorney, I will tell you precedent is important. So even if China was not signing the Accords, we could still influence China and Russia by leaning into our values and doing what is right. Additionally, transparency, which is the backbone of the Artemis Accords. Again, something else that China doesn't necessarily do particularly well with its space program. So if we want to influence China, Russia and others, to go in the direction of peace, to go in the direction of international cooperation, we needed to articulate that specifically and commit to it as we implement the Artemis program, and that's what the Accords are.
Casey Dreier: It's interesting. We see a rocket on the pad that for so long has been a PowerPoint presentation. You mentioned this at the very beginning that in our entire lifetimes, we've never seen anything but PowerPoint presentations about the future of human space flight, particularly deep, deep space exploration. Assuming everything goes well with the launch, whether it's tomorrow or in a few weeks, and given kind of this broader discussion about how you've approached and helped craft your role in this and crafting the program, how bullish are you on the future of, not just Artemis, but SLS and Orion's role in it, given the technological competition that it's facing? Do you see this as an ongoing ISS length program or do you see it being reevaluated any time in the short term assuming it succeeds?
Mike Gold: I don't know. As a Red Sox fan, I hate to quote, The New York Yankee, but as Yogi Bear said, "It's difficult to make predictions particularly about the future." I am extraordinarily excited, like you say, to see the SLS stand there. I mean, you can't see me now again, but tear could roll down my eye, just seeing the rocket. A friend from NASA was driving around last night and taking pictures and just looking at those nighttime shots. It's just awe-inspiring to see that physical manifestation of the Artemis and so much work that has gone into it from not only NASA, but the contractors, Boeing and Lockheed and the European Space Agency with Orion and our own company, Redwire with the cameras on Orion. So it's nothing short of extraordinary, but I think it's important that we put SLS and Orion in context of larger Artemis program, which is also fueled by many commercial contributions from the public-private partnership for the human landing system, to the gateway logistics that SpaceX is doing, to the incredible things that Blue Origin is looking at on the moon and again, landing. So what's so exciting again about Artemis is the diversity of solutions and capabilities and knowing the difficulty of space, the challenge, the cauldron of challenges that space is, I believe that these capabilities aren't in competition, they're actually complimentary. That we're going to need all of these things and likely more as humanity moves forward to the moon and Mars.
Casey Dreier: Well, Mike you're a Star Trek fan, but all this discussion about coalitions reminds me of a line from Contact, which is the only thing that makes the emptiness bearable is each other, and that to me, tells me, we should really think about this coalitions, about how we go into space. I want to thank you for spending some time with us today. You've been very busy, we're all going to be exhausted. I'm already are. So thank you for your role in helping to craft this, and I think we're all excited about the future of space here, and I keep telling people, this could be ... it probably will be the most exciting decade in space exploration since Apollo. So thank you for sharing that with us today.
Mike Gold: And I hope that every decade after that is the most exciting decade afterwards. And I want to thank you and Planetary because we're all a part of this team and the work that you've done, the attention to space policy, the attention to Artemis, it's a huge global effort. So I just want to thank you and your colleagues in Planetary Society. Everyone even listening today, everyone who cares about space, for making this moment possible. So go Artemis and living long and prosper.
Casey Dreier: Let's make it happen. Thanks Mike.
Mat Kaplan: Former NASA associate administrator, Mike Gold, now an executive vice president at Redwire, on the commercial side of space development and space exploration, talking with Casey Dreier, the chief advocate, who of course is still here. Really terrific conversation, Casey.
Casey Dreier: Thanks, Mat. I learned all the mic skills from you, watching you use the single mic back and forth, the impromptu interview, the value of being in person for something like this, you just really felt, and I appreciate again, Mike, for completely impromptu opportunity and speaking off the cuff and making time for us. I very much appreciate that.
Mat Kaplan: He really does just about maybe become the new champion of just smooth talkers. I mean that as a compliment, that we'd bring on Planetary Radio, either the space policy edition or the weekly show. I was so pleased to be there with you over those days, Casey. I share that regret with you, but we couldn't stick around. Actually, I would've, if they had stuck with the Friday launch window, September 2nd, the same day that this show will publish, but I just couldn't stretch to Saturday, but boy, it sure was terrific to be there.
Casey Dreier: It was, yeah. A week in the space coast does a long time to be away from one's family and for them to already suffer through that multiple days while we're having ... getting up at two in the morning and talking about rockets all day, but it was a wonderful time just to be there. I have no regrets, even if it didn't launch. It was just a delight. Again, I think one of my favorite things is kind of being in the presence of this, of all the NASA stuff, it's just ... was meeting members of The Planetary Society at our meetup. It was just, so ... I always get such invigoration out of meeting you all, just unrelentingly interesting and passionate individuals. That again, really just inspire me and I can ... Mat, I think it's not too much to speak for you as well, but just meeting them inspires us. So, just to thank them for their support. A lot of them came out from again, a long way. I hope they all had funds still just seeing all the cool NASA stuff. Some of them may still be there, but it was just a real delight, and I can't wait to do something like that again.
Mat Kaplan: Some of them definitely stuck around for these additional launch attempts and of course, by the time you hear this, you may know if one of those has been successful. We certainly hope so. And Casey, I look forward to going back out there with you, whether it's for Artemis 2 or Artemis 3, when we send humans back to the moon for the first time in something over 50 years
Casey Dreier: For Artemis 2, I think I'm just going to rent like a house for three months around the launch date and move my whole family out. We just camp out there and wait for it, because that one will be an even more ... tight constraints in that launch. We'll be out there again and I think again, as long as this doesn't explode, as long as there's not a catastrophic failure, I think we'll see the SLS continue for a long time. So that's a big if, and that's my qualifier on all of this, but I think we saw this all really coming together. At the end of the day, the SLS has to deliver on its promise. And I think we will hopefully see that soon. Then, if it's not, we will record a follow up episode and discuss it then.
Mat Kaplan: You bet. So, I hope you will join us no matter what the outcome, when we return with the next Space Policy Edition on the first Friday in October, and of course, between now and then, the Weekly Planetary Radio, including that special coverage based on all the material that I was able to gather while we were on the space coast at the Kennedy Space Center, just a few days ago. Thanks for joining us, throwing objectivity to the wind. I will say go Artemis and Casey, thanks again for joining us here for the Space Policy Edition.
Casey Dreier: Always fun, Mat. Will see you next month.