Planetary Radio • Apr 14, 2021

The High Frontier: A New Documentary About Gerard K. O’Neill

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On This Episode

Dylan taylor portrait

Dylan Taylor

Executive Producer of The High Frontier, Chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings

Bruce betts portrait hq library

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

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

Also in this episode:

  • Will Henry, Producer of The High Frontier
  • Ryan Stuit, Director of The High Frontier

Physicist and space pioneer Gerard K. O’Neil gathered a community of followers as he led planning for vast, magnificent human settlements in space. Guests Dylan Taylor, Will Henry and Ryan Stuit have produced an inspiring, feature-length tribute to O’Neill that stars space luminaries including Jeff Bezos, Frank White, Lori Garver, Rick Tumlinson, and many others. Then Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan are joined by a special listener guest on What’s Up.

Gerard O'Neill
Gerard O'Neill Physicist and space pioneer Gerard K. O’Neil led planning for vast, magnificent human settlements in space.Image: O'Neill Estate
1970s artist concept for a space colony based on work by Gerard K. O’Neill and others
1970s artist concept for a space colony based on work by Gerard K. O’Neill and others Image: NASA / Ames Research Center / Rick Guidice
The High Frontier Poster
The High Frontier Poster Theatrical poster for The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O'Neill.

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Mat Kaplan: The High Frontier. A new documentary about Gerard K. O'Neill, this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. Is his name new to you? As a fan of space exploration and development, it shouldn't be. Like Jeff Bezos and many other luminaries, Space Entrepreneur and Investor Dylan Taylor considers himself one of Gerry's kids. Dylan is Executive Producer of The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O'Neill, premiering on April 17th.

Mat Kaplan: I've seen it and I'm thrilled to welcome. Dylan, Producer Will Henry and Director Ryan Stuit to our show. Move over Bruce, The Planetary Society's chief scientist and I will welcome the winning bidder for the chance to join us in this week's WhatsApp Segment. She is a delight, as you'll hear. Oh well, on anomaly cropped up during final prep for Sunday's flight of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, that first hover has now been delayed a few more days. But the little whirlybird is said to be in fine shape.

Mat Kaplan: The April 9 edition of the downlink shared some good news. The Europa Clipper spacecraft has passed its critical design review. This means assembly and testing can move forward with the additional recent announcement that it won't have to be launched by a giant space launch system rocket, the probe could now head for the ocean mood of Jupiter as soon as 2024.

Mat Kaplan: Have you seen the great artwork created for last week's conversation with STS-1 pilot, Bob Crippen? It and a nicely cleaned up transcript of my interview with Bob and a fisheye view of Bob and John Young in Columbia's cockpit are also at And did you know that there are 10 people on the International Space Station as I prepare this week's show? Probably a good thing that it won't stay that crowded for long. Imagine the line for the Kupola or the bathroom.

Speaker 2: He was like Steve Jobs before Steve Jobs. It was just a feeling of the future had arrived and we could be part of it.

Speaker 3: When you create that kind of an image of the future for people, then it's like a blueprint.

Speaker 4: The episode of human life being confined to earth, is coming to an end.

Speaker 5: Industries and colonies in space may sound incredible, but we who are working toward them know that most of the building blocks are already in place.

Speaker 6: You've seen a whole generation inspired by this idea that it is bigger than us.

Speaker 7: It's this generation's job to build that road to space.

Speaker 8: I wish to do it now.

Speaker 9: It's revolution in which we can all throw ourselves with all of our energies, with full hearts.

Mat Kaplan: That's a trailer for The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O'Neill. You're about to hear Dylan Taylor call O'Neill the father of New Space, the new era of commercial space development that is most prominently represented by SpaceX. Though there are many other success stories, Dylan himself represents one of those stories. He is Chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings and has been an early stage investor in many emerging space ventures.

Mat Kaplan: He also writes about this new age and founded Space For Humanity, a nonprofit organization that wants to democratize space exploration and use space to solve problems we face down here. It's no wonder Dylan now considers himself one of Gerry's kids. That's Gerry with a G as in Gerard K. O'Neill. I discovered O'Neill and his brilliant groundbreaking work nearly 45 years ago. He wrote a seminal book, The High Frontier in 1976. In it, he and his associates laid out ambitious plans for a space settlement, a city in space.

Mat Kaplan: Probably at L5. One of Lagrange points where gravity is almost perfectly balanced and spacecraft can remain indefinitely. Decades later O'Neill's work continues to inspire and drive many leaders of space development. It troubled Dylan and other fans that O'Neill isn't better appreciated. So he and several talented filmmakers have created this moving documentary about Gerry.

Mat Kaplan: It premiers April 17th after which it will be available from many sources. I recently connected with Dylan, Producer Will Henry and Director Ryan Stuit for the conversation you're about to hear. Gentlemen thank you so much for joining me on Planetary Radio and thank you for this long overdue and very inspiring film. Welcome to the show. Dylan, Will and Ryan.

Dylan Taylor: Thank you.

Will Henry: Thanks Mat.

Ryan Stuit: Thank you very much.

Dylan Taylor: Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Mat Kaplan: I have been a fan of Gerard K. O'Neill since I bought way back in 1977, a copy of the brilliant NASA study called Space Settlements that built on Gerry's work and that he was part of that he contributed to. That led me to his book, which is what inspired at least the title of your film if not the entire film.

Mat Kaplan: The book was The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space, I've been a fan ever since. But being a fan of Gerry's seems to apply to pretty much everyone else heard in your terrific film. And that's quite a crowd of amazing men and women. Dylan, I'm going to start with you. How did you first learn about Gerry O'Neill?

Dylan Taylor: Oh boy. Thinking back it was probably conversations with some of the luminaries in the industry specifically Frank White, Rick Tumlinson. I also became curious, hearing a little bit of a lower behind a Jeff Bezos valedictorian speech in high school and his journey to Princeton. I think it was probably all of those things circulating in my mind, probably maybe eight or nine years ago when I really started getting deep into Gerry's legacy.

Mat Kaplan: Do you now consider yourself one of Gerry's kids, even if you weren't one of those who was lucky enough to work directly for him?

Dylan Taylor: Yeah I think so. Maybe one of Gerry's grandkids perhaps because I'm not super young, but I am more connected to people who were inspired by Gerry. And of course I never met Gerry. In making the film, I had the honor to get to know the family which has just been a joy. But yeah, I would say second generation Gerry's is probably the best way to describe it.

Mat Kaplan: Will, Ryan, how did you hear first about Gerry O'Neill or was that because of your introduction to Dylan?

Ryan Stuit: Yeah. There's some connective glue with all of us here, it's a really the Rick Tumlinson you had mentioned.

Will Henry: Yeah.

Ryan Stuit: He's kind of the glue in a lot of this community, the voice of the New Space movement, at least in my world. He introduced me to Gerry O'Neill way back when and I read it and I just kind of put it on the shelf and thought it was interesting.

Ryan Stuit: But it never occurred to me that we would be making a documentary years later until I really got involved in the little New Space Movement that was happening on the Mojave Deserts in Texas and seeing what Richard Branson was doing with Scaled Composites and that company. But no one was covering this in the media. I was going to all these little space conferences to find out more. And I hooked up with Rick Tumlinson and I have a little media company.

Ryan Stuit: I was just filming stuff and going around doing interviews and playing with all these kids with rockets out in the desert. That came full circle, I think with Will and Dylan who are looking for a perfect fit to help them along with the final touches on this film that Dylan had already and Will had already really come a long way with. They had shot all the interviews mostly and just needed someone to kind of tie the pieces together.

Mat Kaplan: And I should say, that's Ryan that you just heard. Sounds like your experience Ryan, kind of parallels mine. What about you Will? How did you come to this?

Will Henry: It's funny. I learned about Gerry directly from Dylan when I was hired on this movie. And when I was hired on the movie, I immediately went and bought every book Gerry wrote and read all of them. It's weird though, because I really should have known Gerry for a number of reasons. But most importantly was that I was neighbors with Tasha O'Neill for 17 years in Princeton, about two blocks away and never knew. And actually I have even known the family and everything and I didn't. And then it just came full circle about 20 years later.

Mat Kaplan: That is amazing. And Tasha O'Neill, of course Gerry O'Neill's widow is a major voice heard in this film. Absolutely wonderful contributor to the film. I may come back to her and the role of the rest of the family as well. Dylan, one of the things that struck me, which had not before is that in watching the film I saw so many parallels to co-founder of The Planetary Society Carl Sagan.

Mat Kaplan: Both of them brilliant, both very charismatic, both cared deeply about public understanding of science and they suffered among their peers because of their public outreach efforts. And both of them taken from us far too soon. Do you see all that?

Dylan Taylor: Indeed. No, I see it exactly the way you described it. And maybe just to punctuate that point, a little known fact that we covered in the film is Gerry really should have and probably would have won the Nobel Prize in physics. That's for two instances, one is the heaven forbid moniker of science popularizer, which you're alluding to. And the second of course is you have to be alive to win the Nobel Prize.

Dylan Taylor: But he legitimately would have. He is the inventor, the little known fact an important fact, the inventor of the particle accelerator. Which if you look at all the innovations in physics for the last 40 or 50 years, many of which are high energy physics which are a derivative of particle accelerators.

Dylan Taylor: We have a Freeman Dyson in the film. Thank goodness we were able to get Freeman on the film before he sadly passed. And he insisted by the way, being on camera. Insisted because he loved Gerry. Freeman's one of those gentlemen, he worked with Albert Einstein. He's been around the smartest people on planet earth and his affection for Gerry and his respect for Gerry, I think really comes through in the film. But I think that's a testament to the type of impact Gerry had. But yeah, back to your original point, I do see parallels with Carl Sagan. No question about it.

Mat Kaplan: I am so glad that you brought up Freeman Dyson. I was fortunate enough to get him a couple of times on this show. The second time... the last time, not long before we lost him, I had no idea that I should have, they were both at Princeton that he was a colleague, a friend and an admirer of Gerard K. O'Neill very similar minds in some ways, wouldn't you say?

Dylan Taylor: I would. And they were colleagues of course at Princeton, but Freeman's a very clear thinker. And I think that was one of Gerry's gifts. Gerry was able to see the field, if you will. Would have been a great general or executive of any sort, because he had a very clear mind and he could see things sort of emerging and had the ability to sort of see things as they were, but as they were going to be and that's a rare gift. That's a rare gift [inaudible 00:11:56].

Mat Kaplan: Should we think of Gerry O'Neill as the father of the commercial space era what some people call New Space?

Will Henry: In my mind, Matt. Yes. For a couple of reasons. One is he was the first original New Space entrepreneur pivoting from sort of science fiction, science speculation to forming his own business. Sadly the business didn't turn out the way he expected it to. We cover that in the film as well, had a bit to do with his illness. But he was sort of the original Branson, Bezos, Elon if you will.

Will Henry: But he was also a communicator and inspirer, the highest order. I think if you look at the legacy of the people in the industry today and you say, "How did they get inspired by space?" I think two thirds, if not more will directly trace their inspiration to Gerry or Gerry's disciples. So yeah, I would say he was seminal in this movement, no question.

Mat Kaplan: And such an inventor, the start of satellites and solar power, predicting cars, electric cars and it's so many things that are indirectly linked to our greatest space entrepreneurs today. I think of how and you do a great job of documenting this in the film, how his approach to thinking about humans living in space, settlements by humans in space, cities in space, it encompassed so much more than the science and the engineering.

Mat Kaplan: I mean he considered the cultural and artistic and political and certainly the economic aspects because they were going to have to be self-sustaining in so many ways. I was so impressed with his comprehensive approach to this massive question of figuring out how were we going to make humans not just space faring, but space living species. Dylan.

Dylan Taylor: Again, I think if you look at what he left us, his legacy in terms of the written word and his plans and the Space Studies Institute and things of that nature. It all holds together incredibly well. It's incredibly thoughtful. It's grounded in science, it's grounded in physics. It's ambitious to be sure, but it's not just wild speculation. He actually has a blueprint. And it's back to Bezos again.

Dylan Taylor: So this is where he goes in his high school valedictorian speech. He had just read The High Frontier, the book and basically said, "Look, I've read this book, I'm going to implement it. I'm going to go make a bunch of money in some industry, I'm not sure how and then I'm going to circle back and implement this book." And of course that's pretty much what he is doing or has done.

Dylan Taylor: That's what substantial about Gerry is everything is thoughtful. Everything is grounded in what is possible, but yet it's right at the edge. It's pushing the edge of what is conceivable. Yeah. And I think that's the best kind of leadership in science and technology is it's grounded in what is real, but it's also at the leading edge of what's possible. I think Gerry really threaded that needle well.

Mat Kaplan: We hear people talking about this in the film and his approach. I come back to Rick Tumlinson, who's listed as an associate producer on the film and is heard across the film. There really is kind of Ryan as you said, nobody who is more articulate or passionate regarding the future that we can build for that maybe humanity should build itself in space. And Dylan, I think I said earlier, but didn't this kind of come out of discussions with Rick, this film?

Dylan Taylor: It did, Rick's a good friend. We speak frequently, typically on weekends. I'm typically on a hike or a walk somewhere and we'll talk for a couple of hours. So he was sort of educating me on the early years of the Gerry movement the L5 society and SSI and all that legacy. And this was probably originally, maybe six or seven years ago Mat.

Dylan Taylor: And we were very deep into it. And I was asking a million questions I got off the phone and I reflected to myself [inaudible 00:16:12] I said, "That is such a phenomenal story. It's such a phenomenal human being. How is it me being a lifelong passionate space [inaudible 00:16:22] that I'm just now learning about all these different things?" Elon had just sort of crack the nut on rocket usability.

Dylan Taylor: And was getting a lot of fame and fortune for that as he should. But I was reflecting on; he's standing on the shoulders of other giants and those stories are left untold. And so that was sort of the impetus. I had two things that I wanted to do with the film specific one is to honor Gerry and tell his story. But secondly, really for posterity.

Dylan Taylor: I think a 100 years from now, 200 years from now, people are going to look back at this period of time and say, "This is when commercial space really was born." And I think it'd be a pity if the story starting with Jeff and Elon, I think that's a missed opportunity. So I really, for posterity wanted to make sure that the record at least reflected Gerry's role, which has been very significant.

Mat Kaplan: So Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, both heard in the film, both saluting Gerry O'Neill as the pioneer that he wasn't all of this, SSI... one of you mentioned earlier, a Space Studies Institute still going strong. The L5 society, which now we know as after a merger with the National Space Institute, as the National Space Society. Didn't Gerry have a role also in the creation of the L5 society?

Dylan Taylor: I won't get the history right here, because I know it's a little bit more complicated than when I read in paper. But I know that the early founders of L5 really got their start because they started turning Gerry's personal newsletter, he would send out one by one in the mail. They started sending it out in the L5 as society news and newsletter. And they both immediately carbonated because of that.

Dylan Taylor: I know that he was deeply involved. I don't think he was someone who was a part of founding L5 or I know he really tried to avoid the cult of personality of being a cult of Gerry. He didn't want that he didn't want to succeed for 20 years and then be an icon of some earlier day. He wanted them to do their thing and let them kind of spread the word for him.

Mat Kaplan: We mentioned Gerry's widow, Tasha. Who's heard quite a bit in the film, but the whole family is in there. In fact, you were invited into Tasha's home. What was her and Gerry's home. What was the reaction from the family when you first approached them with this idea of creating a film to honor him and spread his ideas?

Dylan Taylor: Yeah, I'll start with the response on that Mat and really credit to Will for really building a deep relationship with the family. They love Will, they love Ryan, they love the people involved with the film. I don't recall... I think it might've been Frank White that connected me originally with Tasha. One of the most wonderful humans I've had the pleasure to meet. When we told them what our project was and why we were doing it.

Dylan Taylor: She couldn't have been more generous providing unbelievable access to materials. That just by way of example, Gerry had an unpublished autobiography that no one knew existed that Tasha shared with us really just for context on what was going through, Gerry's mind. Family photos, family film, camcorder footage, access to all the family members. Often times we would run ideas by Tasha.

Dylan Taylor: We would run possible interviewees by Tasha to get her reaction. Tasha honored Jeff Bezos at a dinner and was able to sort of prime him on the film. Jeff and Blue Origin later signed off on the footage that we used in the film. So it all really tied together. This film would not have been made without Tasha O'Neill she's a remarkable woman. If you haven't had a chance to get to know her, I highly recommend it. She's a joy. She really is.

Mat Kaplan: Will, you want to add to that?

Will Henry: Yeah. I mean, there's so much to add really. I think and I just have to say again, this movie would not have happened without Tasha O'Neill and her generosity and everything that she helped us through along the way of finding these little nuggets of diamonds that we would find about Gerry's life and these little things that people have never seen before. I think people will be astounded.

Will Henry: I feel like everyone thinks they have all these little bits that people haven't seen about Gerry. But once they see the movie, they'll see that we have had about. And in the way it really kind of played out was that we were initially linked with Tasha obviously, she started sending me some old footage, some old images and that's when I saw her address realized we were neighbors. But I called her that night.

Will Henry: We talked about Princeton I think for six hours, which is where we both were living at the time. But what we followed that up with was reaching out to each family member and saying, "Hey we're doing this movie," and there was a little bit of convincing of like, "Would you also send us some stuff? We'd love to include it in this piece. That will be the legacy piece for Gerry O'Neill."

Will Henry: And it took time. It took years to really gain the trust in everybody. It was not the intention to ultimately bring them all back together. I know at the beginning, that's not something they wanted to do. If it was about my family, I'm not sure I would've either. Over the time of creating the form and building the relationships and realizing how cosmic and perfect the people make the movie to do the story. We're the perfect people to do it. They realized, "Let's do this. Let's all get back together. And talk about Gerry, talk about what it was like growing up with him." It took us a long time to get there, but it was entirely worth it.

Mat Kaplan: I couldn't agree more. I mean, they contribute so much at the personal level to the film, talking about him. I can readily understand why it took years to put this together also because you pull together. Good Lord, what hundreds and hundreds of elements, these little bits of footage and stills and documents, there must have been a mountain of clearances you had to work your way through?

Dylan Taylor: Yeah. The fun part for me was doing all the scanning and the art stuff. The not so fun part was for Will doing the clearances.

Will Henry: Yeah. It took an entire year to clear everything. I think we had, I would say hundreds of clearances we had to do for this. And it was an enormous amount of work. But yeah, it was a team effort. It was a couple of us trying to just knock down every door we could get. And I think of all the stuff we wanted, we thought we wouldn't get half of it and we got everything, but I think one and we didn't get it.

Mat Kaplan: All right. So I have to ask, can you say what that one piece was that you couldn't get?

Dylan Taylor: No, because but I'll tell you after the call.

Mat Kaplan: Okay. That's fair. Sorry, listeners. Let me just assure everybody listening to this it's truly is amazing what you were able to pull together. A quick break and then I'll be back with Dylan Taylor, Will Henry and Ryan Stuit with much more about their new film, The High Frontier.

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Mat Kaplan: As a kid, when I first started to learn about Gerry, Gerard K O'Neill, it was the illustrations. It was the beautiful artwork, the artist concepts of these ideas that he had worked out from an engineering and scientific standpoint. That were made so real by artists like John Davis, who appears in the film. And I was also amazed and awfully pleased to see in your interview with Don Davis, he actually said that he contacted Gerry and said, "How can I help?" I would've thought it would have gone the other way.

Dylan Taylor: Yeah, that's kind of the theme of the whole film really, is that artists and people from all different communities could just come to him and he would just open his arms and let them share their ideas. And wouldn't he be thrilled today with the technology we have now for digital arts and exploring 3D fly throughs of your concepts. Which is one of the reasons why we pushed hard to do the opening sequence in the film building that Gerry O'Neill said on the fly through, he would have loved to have seen that.

Mat Kaplan: This is one of the things that I'm most grateful for in the film, because you took those illustrations that I and so many other people are familiar with and you brought them alive. And you took us inside them. Was that part of the plan, right from the start of making the film?

Dylan Taylor: Definitely, Will and I will, well, all of us. We definitely knew that the art was a big part of Gerry's vision in how he expressed it to everybody. And it still is. You see his work in cartoons from Japan and all over the place and randoms places where maybe they don't even know where it originated from. But it all stems from this group of artists back in the late 60s and 70s that were making these great concepts.

Ryan Stuit: As the finance guy Mat, I might slightly disagree. We suffered from some scope creep over the course of the film, but it was a labor of love and everything that we did in post-production. And there was a lot was in the spirit of how do we honor Gerry and how do we enhance... we knew we had a great film, we wanted it to be a marvelous film.

Ryan Stuit: And so we wanted to put all these other additional items on it to really make it a significant film that people could watch 30 years from today and look at it and say, "Wow, not only is that a well-made film, it honors Gerry." And so we put our effort into it, but yeah, it was a labor of love and it was actually also quite expensive to make. I won't tell you what it cost.

Dylan Taylor: True.

Ryan Stuit: [inaudible 00:26:53].

Mat Kaplan: Thanks for opening the wallet to make it happen.

Dylan Taylor: But we had to inspire the younger generation not just the choir that [inaudible 00:27:02].

Mat Kaplan: You know what they say, the choir needs to be preached to as well. Let's talk about some of the people that appear in the film. Because, it's this amazing panel plea in your cast essentially. One of them Dylan, you already mentioned Frank White, who may be heard as much in the film as anybody except for Gerard K. O'Neill and that historic footage that you use and maybe Tasha O'Neill. He is another hero of mine. Sounds like he is for you too?

Dylan Taylor: He is. Frank is a Prince. He is such a kind and gentle soul. In his legacy I think it's underestimated certainly with coining the term, The Overview Effect. Frank will be the first person to say this. He said this to me many times privately. I think he's also said it publicly is that The Overview Effect would not have been written if it wasn't for Gerry O'Neill. And he specifically ties it to the impact that Gerry had on him. The things that were running through his mind, when that term came to mind.

Dylan Taylor: Frank is terrific. I have the honor of being his publisher now. I would just commend to you Frank's books. He's written several books in addition to The Overview Effect and he really is for those of you who don't know, Rhode scholar, Harvard educated, as smart as they come. But really deeply grounded in almost a spiritual nature to Frank that transcends his humanity. He really is a figure that... I don't know what the right term is, but he's one of those individuals that when you spend time with him, you can't help but be impacted by Frank. And he's a remarkable human, he really is.

Mat Kaplan: A gentle, wonderful soul, as well as all of those things that you said. Will, who else do you think really stands out in the film?

Will Henry: Well I think for me obviously, the family is a major standout for me personally. I wish we could have made the entire movie about Loretta Whitesides because she is just-

Ryan Stuit: I was going to say the same thing.

Will Henry: Yeah she's such an incredible person. And I don't believe she ever got to meet or work with Gerry directly, but her entire life has been influenced by Gerry. And she's got incredible things to say about him. Also John Spencer, he's not in it for the longest period, but he is one of the original designers of the International Space Station. The way that he was influenced by him really hit me like nobody else.

Mat Kaplan: John's going to build that hotel in space someday.

Will Henry: Right.

Mat Kaplan: Just by way of boasting. I'm one of the founders of Yuri's Night, as some listeners have heard, I was a gathering with people like then Loretta Hidalgo, before she became a Loretta Whitesides, George Whitesides and some of the other founders. In classrooms at Caltech when they were all grad students and I would drive over from The Planetary Society because we wanted to throw this party for space. And I got to produce the webcast. And of course we are just past Yuri's Night as people hear this program. So, happy post Yuri's Night to the three of you as well. Anybody else, Ryan, Dylan?

Ryan Stuit: It may not be the interviews that we filmed, but I just really love the duo between Isaac Asimov and Gerry. There's such characters in between the two of them. They're both brilliant in their own ways. It's humorous and it's educational and that you can tell they're such great friends. I love that part of the film.

Mat Kaplan: Dylan, I think of Jeffrey Manber the head of Nano Racks doing great work up there on the International Space Station. Kind of parallel to the work that you do outside of when you're making movies. He also seemed like an ideal person to speak up in this film?

Dylan Taylor: Oh, for sure. Yeah. Jeff is a legend in the industry and I also think he credits a lot of his space career to Gerry. He's a true believer. And of course Jeff's written several books and is a real thought leader in the industry. But also man, I just want to... we give a lot of thought to having a diverse view of the industry as well. That's really important to me and some of the next generation we mentioned Loretta, but we had Rachel Lions in the film Executive Director of Space for Humanity.

Dylan Taylor: We have Leticia [inaudible 00:31:28] is a total rockstar and close friend and very influential in the industry. And so I appreciate the fact that we had those voices in the film as well. And that was intentional. We wanted to show the face of New Space today and how that's evolving and also people doing great work that were inspired by people who were inspired by Gerry. That second generation point that we made earlier. Lori Garver. People think Lori is this hard driving NASA Executive which she is, but she is a true believer. She loves Gerry.

Dylan Taylor: When I reached out to her about being on camera for the film she's like, "I will be there immediately with [inaudible 00:32:05]. You tell me where, when, wouldn't miss it." Peter Diamandis, same thing. Peter... there's no busier person on planet earth than Peter Diamandis. He made this a priority.

Dylan Taylor: We were just honored, everyone we reached out to essentially did backflips to try to be in the film. Again, it wasn't because of the filmmakers. It was because of Gerry and they wanted to honor Gerry. I just want to really underline also the young voices in the film because that was intentional as well. And those really are the next generation superstars.

Mat Kaplan: Peter Diamandis of course, founder of the X Prize Foundation, Singularity University. Lori Garver, former Deputy Administrator NASA. Both have been heard on this show as responsible as anyone for the success of NASA's commercial space efforts. Looking the far end of the generational scale. It looked to me like maybe you got one of the last interviews with the great Ray Bradbury?

Dylan Taylor: It's kind of an interesting story. I had interviewed Ray previous to this film actually being made for an award that he was getting. And he was at the point where he couldn't travel at that time. I was actually brought into his house and we did a good couple hours just talking to him in his house about his literary works and his view on space. What's going on at the time, SpaceX was just coming up into the news then. So yeah, I had this great amount of footage of Ray Bradbury and I thought, "He's speaking the language just perfect for this film. Let's work it in there." That's what happened.

Mat Kaplan: I have the honor of being the keeper of a lock of Ray's hair at The Planetary Society. Because he trusted us many years ago, made us promise that we would someday get that lock of hair to Mars, hasn't happened yet. But there is a tie in here to what happened after we lost Gerard K. O'Neill. You mentioned in the film and I was not aware of this, that he did make it offer or at least his ashes did in some pretty good company, Dylan or Will?

Will Henry: Yeah. Through Celestis Memorial flights, which is run by Charles Chafer, who's also in the film. He went into space I believe it was in the mid 90s, orbited the earth for about 10 years. He was with Timothy Leary and I believe it was Gene Roddenberry. And then I believe one or two others that names are escaping me.

Mat Kaplan: Just a lovely romantic finish, I think for a man who worked so hard to get all of us up there. There's one more thing I should have brought up earlier, which I'm also grateful to you for. And that is the moments in the film that you devote to a rocket ship that was called DC-X, which was way ahead of its time. Dylan, could you talk about it a bit?

Dylan Taylor: I can and actually I'll ask Ryan and Will to chime in as well, but yeah. I think again, in the spirit of trying to trace lineage and trying to show sort of the emergence of the industry today and kind of tracing it back that was a good example. As you know, I won't give too much away for the film because we want people to watch it.

Dylan Taylor: But with this whole notion of the Double Falcon Heavy rocket landing, we were trying to use the symbolism to show how the industry was evolving and how original innovation had manifested itself in today's technology. So that was a bit of the thread we were trying to pick up on. I'll push it over to Ryan.

Ryan Stuit: Well, I found out about the program through Rick Tumlinson. He had a little what's it called New Space productions back in the early 90s. He was covering all of that development. And I had seen footage of that. And of course that ties in with what's happening with Elon, but no one knows that, that goes way back to the 90s.

Ryan Stuit: So I thought that was a really great parallel there. And again, it just was so inspiring to see all these little companies out in the desert doing these things that no one was covering. So it's great to have a medium where we can show them the light of day and bring it to fruition here.

Mat Kaplan: No question, I'm going to bring up Rick Tumlinson one more time here at the end of our conversation he says, during your film that it's our job to make more of Gerry's kids. Dylan, is that at least partly what you hope to do with this film?

Dylan Taylor: Yeah. Without question, Mat. We want to inspire people to not only take the torch, if you will and carry it further down the field, but also to be original thinkers. Put their own mark on the industry. And I think Gerry was one of those unique individuals that approached things from a first principle standpoint.

Dylan Taylor: And that's important to why his legacy is so rich. One of the point I'll just quickly make Mat is we had so much material on Gerry and I mentioned we had [inaudible 00:37:06] biography and pictures and his whole life story about wanting to be an astronaut, which we just scratch the surface off on in the film. That we wrote a companion book to go with the film, Will titled it. I think it's our propose called Humanizing Space, which has of course the double meaning.

Dylan Taylor: But I would commend that book as well, because it really gets deeper into Gerry's personality and kind of what made Gerry tick. It talks more about his upbringing, his family life at home, his first marriage which is a painful topic. But I think it's definitely worth people checking out, if you love Gerry and you really want to understand how he became the man he later became, I think the book fills in a lot of those gaps.

Mat Kaplan: I'm sorry. I wasn't aware of the book. Is it available now Will? And is there anything else you want to say about it?

Will Henry: We will be releasing it within the week of the release of the film as well. So the week of the 18th.

Mat Kaplan: Will, now that we whetted everyone's appetite for the film, if not the book, how can they see it?

Will Henry: Sure. So we will be having a live premiere on, that'll be on April 17th. 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific. We will then be releasing the film online the following day. That will be on Amazon, that will be on Google, Microsoft, iTunes and Voodoo. Yet we will be having a few books that will be coming out around the same time. One is the companion book Dylan just mentioned Humanizing Space. We will also be having a special edition, The High Frontier.

Will Henry: Which is pretty much the movie version of the book. It will have some unique info about the movie on it as well. So we'll have that on our site. We have a website that you can go visit, which is We also have, which is where you can get all this awesome merch like the [inaudible 00:38:58] but you won't see it on the podcast like the one I'm using here.

Mat Kaplan: It's lovely.

Will Henry: Yeah. And then we have a ton of merch on there as well. You can find the book on there as well. And then we have links to all of Gerry's books, audio books as well as the companion book on there as well.

Mat Kaplan: And we will put a link up to a number of these things that Will has just mentioned on this week's episode page Gentlemen, I think we're done talking about the film. But Dylan, just to come back to you for a moment, as I said, you are far more than a filmmaker when it comes to pushing humanity up into space. And making this commercially and otherwise viable up there. This seems to drive so much of your life. The film almost seems like it's a sidelight?

Dylan Taylor: I'm definitely not a traditional filmmaker. The day job is running Voyager, which is really a multinational space exploration company. The way my brain works Mat is I'm a believer in Gerry's vision. So I try to say, "What are my skills? What does the industry need? And what can I do? What part can I play to help accentuate and accelerate Gerry's vision?" I think most of my strengths and experience lie in the commercial business sector. I think that's where I can make the biggest impact.

Dylan Taylor: We probably will make another film or two, it's like remodeling your house a bit. I have a little bit of scar tissue getting this film done. So I think I'll let it subside before we make the next film. But just credit again, to Ryan and Will and Tasha, really those three are seminal and maybe Rick Tumlinson as well. Those four, I think without those four, this film would not exist. I just want to extend my gratitude to those four individuals.

Mat Kaplan: Gentlemen, I want to thank you and them for making this film happen. It is a delight and I highly recommend it. And as you heard, even if you were hearing this after April 17th, many of you in our radio audience. You still have plenty of opportunities to see the film we've been talking about, which is The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O'Neill. Dylan, Will, Ryan thank you very much for being on Planetary Radio.

Dylan Taylor: Thank you so much.

Mat Kaplan: Executive producer Dylan Taylor, Producer Will Henry and Director Ryan Stuit. Bruce and our special WhatsApp guests are seconds away. Time again for WhatsApp on Planetary Radio. We are graced once again by the presence of the Chief Scientist of The Planetary Society that is Bruce Betts and Bruce welcome. I think you have a special guest to welcome as well?

Bruce Betts: I do. We welcome Jewell Crye who supported The Planetary Society through our recent auction and has won the privilege to be on Planetary Radio. And Jewell is an orchestra teacher and we welcome her and thank her. Hi Jewell.

Jewell Crye: Hello, thank you for having me guys. I'm super excited to be here. I'm an orchestra teacher at Andrews High School in El Paso, Texas and it is just such a joy to be able to do this with you guys. I've been listening to the Planetary Radio for at least a year. I started during COVID and to just be here and see you guys and do this is super great.

Bruce Betts: Well, we're excited to have you.

Mat Kaplan: And you're in your orchestra room, when it's what? Lunchtime there?

Jewell Crye: Yes, it is. I'm here in my orchestra room. So this is my classroom where I teach, I have my chocolate milk and chicken sandwich from the cafeteria. I've got it right here. And you may hear the sound of a bell ringing behind me or above me, I suppose. But yeah, this is where I do my recording and I'm fortunate to have good recording equipment because as a music teacher with the pandemic we've had to do everything online.

Mat Kaplan: You sound terrific. And I sure hope that we get one of those bells, because it wouldn't be high school without it.

Jewell Crye: Right.

Bruce Betts: What's your mascot?

Jewell Crye: So we are the Andrews Eagles.

Bruce Betts: All right. Go Eagles.

Jewell Crye: Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: Almost as good as the Narbonne Gauchos.

Bruce Betts: Marauders.

Mat Kaplan: Jewell, you participated in other parts of Planetfest, right? The auction was kind of toward the end, our big spectacular finish for that Planetfest weekend. But did you get to go to some of the sessions?

Jewell Crye: I did. I think I've lost track of all the sessions I've gone to actually. I know there was a couple ice tower. Bruce was talking, I got to see the one with Dr. Katie Knack. That was great. Goodness. There was just so many wonderful things to see and so many great people too, in the chats.

Jewell Crye: I got to talk to some folks reach out to them via I think Hoover. So it was absolutely wonderful. And then from there I heard about the Day of Action through Planetfest and also through your radio show. So I ended up doing Day of Action as well, which was super fun. Casey Dryer put together an absolutely great event with that and that was just a blast.

Mat Kaplan: And now you have made Casey Dreier, a very happy guy once again. Speaking of those chat sessions, the Hoover supported chat sessions in Planetfest. You remember Jill who said that, he started a new romantic relationship because of meeting somebody, Jenny at Planetfest?

Bruce Betts: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: Jenny has now responded. Jenny in Colorado wanted to thank us for reading Jill's comment about Planetfest on air and to provide some follow-up. She says, "Those feelings are reciprocated. I met the person of my dreams at Planetfest '21 as well. Yay, space love."

Jewell Crye: That is so wonderful. I actually... I think I reached out to Jenny about D&D over in one of the chats as well. So congrats, Jenny. That's great.

Bruce Betts: Wait, I may have talked to Jenny about D&D.

Jewell Crye: I have to talk to you about D&D as well Bruce. I hear that you are... actually, you played 4th edition?

Bruce Betts: I did play 4th edition. Now I'm playing 5th edition and I've played second edition. So I've been all over the board. What about you?

Jewell Crye: I'm currently involved in two 5th edition games. I play a Dragonborn cleric in one and a dwarf fighter in another [inaudible 00:45:08].

Bruce Betts: Nice.

Jewell Crye: Absolutely a blast.

Mat Kaplan: Do I have to get into D&D now? [crosstalk 00:45:14].

Jewell Crye: Yes. [crosstalk 00:45:14]

Bruce Betts: Yes.

Jewell Crye: Planetary Society D&D group. Can you imagine how great that would be? That would be fantastic.

Mat Kaplan: It would be. We'll mention that to our community person. And before this becomes a completely different kind of podcast.

Jewell Crye: Yes. Let's get back on track I apologize.

Mat Kaplan: Let's do that. Bruce, what's up?

Bruce Betts: Well, there are planets that are still there. We've got Mars getting lower in the southwest in the early evening looking reddish, also still getting dimmer as it gets farther from us. But forming a nice triangle in the sky with similarly reddish Aldebaran and Taurus and very bright beetle juice in Orion. And on the 16th, so a couple of days after this comes out, the moon will be hanging out with the three of them looking quite lovely. Pre-dawn getting a higher up easier to see in the east.

Bruce Betts: Very bright Jupiter and yellow Saturn to its upper right. Let's move on to this weekend space history. We had Apollo 13 in 1970. Fortunately made it back and landed on earth this week. And two years later, Apollo 16 launched and landed on the moon. And three years ago in 2018, the test spacecraft launch test the exoplanet hunting spacecraft that you just did an interview a couple of weeks ago about.

Mat Kaplan: Indeed. We're ready to move on now to that portion of the show that I think Jewell, if you could maybe get Bruce to deliver for us.

Jewell Crye: Bruce, I would be absolutely pleased to ask you for a random space fact, please.

Mat Kaplan: She even rolls her Rs.

Bruce Betts: Very nice. Okay. I'll even give you one that's sort of personal. All right. It's not that personal. As Ingenuity, the little helicopter attempts the first controlled powered flight on another planet, that is if you don't count Sky Cranes. We recall the little remembered NASA Mars airplane program.

Bruce Betts: In late 1999, NASA administrator mandated effort to fly a Mars airplane for the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight in December, 2003. You all remember the Mars airplane, right? Langley was chosen to lead the effort and the esteemed Dr. Bruce Betts was chosen as the NASA Program Scientist.

Jewell Crye: That's super cool.

Bruce Betts: And then it was canceled after about a year because they never gave it nearly enough funding. But a lot of talented people worked on it. And it resurfaced as a finalist in a Mars scout selection, but obviously it was never selected. So there you go. Mars airplane, weird trivia.

Mat Kaplan: I just saw, I haven't read it yet. An article looking back to the time that NASA thought about sending an airplane to Mars. And I'd forgotten about your connection to it, Bruce. Sorry that didn't happen. Such a cool project.

Jewell Crye: That's wonderful to hear about. And hopefully in the future, we'll be able to get something like that going again. We have the helicopter now. It'd be cool to see what else we can get moving up there.

Bruce Betts: Indeed.

Mat Kaplan: And who knows? By the time some people hear this, maybe that helicopter will have made that first powered rotorcraft flight on another world. Let's go on to the contest.

Bruce Betts: I asked you to name all the people who flew in space while serving in the U.S. Congress. So sitting senators and representatives how'd we do, Mat?

Mat Kaplan: I will let our poet Laureate Day Fairchild in Kansas answer this one for us, "Jake Garn went to space in 1985, flew aboard the shuttle with its booster Hyperdrive," not really. "Next year, Nelson went from Florida with success. Both were listed on the crew as payload specialists. John Glenn also flew in 1998. He became the oldest man to fly in space to date." So three we see have been to space of note, must have made it fun for them when casting senate votes.

Bruce Betts: Nice rhymes.

Jewell Crye: [inaudible 00:49:16].

Bruce Betts: Senator Jake Garn and Senator John Glenn and Representative Bill Nelson currently in consideration for NASA Administrator.

Mat Kaplan: Just nominated by Joe Biden. Here's our winner. My goodness. He first, as far as I can tell entered the contest seven years ago, more than seven years ago. This is his first win. Ian Jackson, congratulations. He's in Germany. Jake Garn, Bill Nelson and of course John Glenn. Ian, we're going to send you a copy of The Backyard Astronomer’s Field Guide: How to Find the Best Objects the Night Sky Has to Offer.

Mat Kaplan: It's by David Dickinson. Fine little book about exploring the night sky. More than one listener suggested we send some current representatives on a one way mission. They shall go unnamed. We got this nice submission from Pavle Komaso in Belarus, a regular. He says, "Maybe it's a good idea to send new presidents, ministers, officials of any country to space for a week or two for a transforming experience.

Mat Kaplan: Speaking of The Overview Effect that we had come up in the interview or just a few minutes ago on the show, I sincerely think that earth can become a much better place due to this. Mr. Musk, what do you think? Ad Astra," says Pavle. Nice suggestion Pavle I think maybe it ought to be a requirement. Finally, from our other regular poet, Jean Lewin in the state of Washington, "Mr. Smith he went to Washington, but on earth he stayed in place. But there were three who while on the job actually went into space.

Mat Kaplan: These astronautical senators were uniquely quite adept to have a seat on a space shuttle. And one up the Capitol steps. John Glenn was from the Buckeye state, Jake Garn from Utah's home of bees and Bill Nelson a native Floridian. The NASA Administrator nominee." Nice work Jean, congratulations to everybody. Thank you for entering. Bruce, I think we're ready for another one.

Bruce Betts: Keeping the theme. What was the first successful flight on another planet? That would be [inaudible 00:51:21] successful flight, here are the necessary caveats. It's going to be obviously an unpowered flight and do not count parachutes or heat shields or other things designed primarily to land on the surface. So first successful flight on another planet, go to

Mat Kaplan: Jewell, you want to take a stab at it?

Jewell Crye: No.

Bruce Betts: Good because you would ruin my contest.

Jewell Crye: I don't want to be wrong on Planetary Radio. It'll be terrible.

Bruce Betts: We do it all the time.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. It's a regular thing for us. Jewell you can enter, if you get that entry to us by April 21st at 8:00 AM Pacific Time. Here is the prize, I can show it to the two of you because you've got video. This is the coolest thing. This is from Professor Henrik Hargitai, he has developed look at that.

Mat Kaplan: What does it look like? It looks like one of those cute travel atlases you can get for some portion of earth. Except it's for Mars. And it is beautifully illustrated. Professor Hargitai has offered these. We're going to offer several of these over the next few weeks.

Mat Kaplan: Now, the reason this is going to come directly from Professor Hargitai is that he will enclose for you if he knows where you live and he will because he's going to mail it to you. Look at this little overlay he gave me with the state of California. It is done to scale so that you could put it over the maps in the book and compare it to the scale of something that you know well.

Mat Kaplan: It is just the coolest little book. And I will note that it was published in cooperation with the European Science Foundation in Strausberg. So that's it, the Mars Pocket Atlas. It could be yours if you win this time around. Bruce, I think we're done other than thanking Jewell for joining us today and for her support.

Bruce Betts: Thank you again, Jewell. And everybody go out there, look up the night sky and think about I don't know. What do you think Jewell?

Jewell Crye: Why don't you guys think about any senators, representatives you'd like to send up to space and back.

Bruce Betts: Thank you and goodnight.

Jewell Crye: Goodnight.

Mat Kaplan: Kind of you to give them a round trip Jewell. And since that was nonpartisan, we'll make sure that is a part of this week's WhatsApp with the Chief Scientist of The Planetary Society, Bruce Betts and Jewell Krie the winner of the auction that allowed her to join us on this week's WhatsApp. Jewell, where were the bells? All I heard was the door slamming.

Jewell Crye: I actually don't know. And I'm wondering if maybe there's testing this afternoon that I didn't know about. And I need to check my schedule to make sure I'm not supposed to be overseeing it like last week. Yeah, that's actually really strange.

Mat Kaplan: Finally. See, I knew there was a reason we had to hang out. That wasn't much of a bell. Do you know what... you're an orchestra teacher. Do you know what note that was?

Jewell Crye: It is a slightly out of tune D flat? I'm not sure if that's how it comes across on your end, but when we're tuning. So orchestra instruments tune to A or 440 Hz A. So when that's on and we're tuning, it sounds horrendous.

Mat Kaplan: Best clothes maybe ever for our WhatsApp Segment. Thank you, Jewell Krie for joining us. And thank you, Bruce.

Jewell Crye: Thank you for having me. This was an absolute blast.

Mat Kaplan: Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its inspired members. Don't settle for anything less than joining them at Mark Hilverda is our Associate Producer, Josh Doyle composed our theme which is arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. Ad Astra.