Prof. Jack Burns, Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder - burst 01

Scientific Sense


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If you have suggestions for topics guests at other ideas please send up to info at scientific sense dot com and i can be reached at gil at eappen dot info mike. Yesterday's a jack boone's who's a professor in the department of ece fisa goal in planetary sciences unto colorado boulder. He is also vice president images for academic affairs in blue sage for disuse system system. Jack while thank you. Joe is good to be with you. Thanks for doing this so you at your team. On deeply involved in the upcoming nasa missions to the moon including The designed to place radiofrequency absolutely on the far side of the moon and be kevin deemed really back there for almost fifty years. Now i know that china s landed. I was actually looking at some photographs that just gained today from From their lander. I israel in india. Almost got there but Fleas land properly. And so so. What's our interest. What's sudden interest in going back to the moon after fifty years. Yeah i don't know that. I would characterize as a sudden interest i think on the part of the science community and really the exploration community interest has been there for a while but what has changed in the last decade is the cost doing missions And the accessibility of the moon in this new era in which we have now. Private companies like spacex and like the blue origin company. Jeff bezos company They've put considerable private resources in developing new rockets of with reusability to lower the launch costs and also technology which was extreme in the nineteen sixties to try to get to the moon. All hannity vetted from scratch now is relatively straightforward at gill as you mentioned Even a small countries like israel Private companies have contracts with nasa to fly payloads. Now it's it's it's realizable to Envision going to the moon at a relatively modest cost certainly in comparison to the sixties and seventies. Yes so that's a. It's a very interesting phenomenon. Now it's it's almost like a business model question. Space is Blue blue horizon blue origin. Laura gin and that is another company. Lakers peterson things. Well lockheed you ally the united launch alliance which is the lockheed and boeing Company as well they all have these new generation of launch vehicles that are capable of going to so nasa in some sense outsourcing Some of the transportation right to so captain made a selection or are they going to do essentially multiple companies. Do it the the plan is to have monk multiple companies just like the commercial crew program To the space station there's boeing and spacex And for the case of the moon for the un crude landers that Landers that are just carrying payloads nasa has identified a out a dozen companies To be able to transport a payloads to the moon and at the same time. They're also undergoing competition right now. They selected three companies to design as part of a public private partnership the next generation of human landers. So that's the same. Mostly the same group that has spacex blue origin and the third one is is dynamic which is a company in huntsville alabama rate. So it's nassar's goal here is They are they going to take contracts from other other countries do send pedal to the moon in these companies. The the way this is working now is nasa is buying services so they're no longer buying rockets or landers which they will then own operate Instead the philosophy is To buy a ride for example a seat On a human land or or by space for a payload so these companies that are responsible for indemnifying Making sure they have a proper insurance for losses They take A bit of the risk and and then proceed along those lots now. What that means is that the companies then they own the intellectual property they owned landers they rockets they own the The other transportation devices. So that means they can sell seats. They can sell payloads to for example a european space agency Or the russian space agency or individual companies. That might want to puts a payload on the moon Investigation in this kind of a lower gravity environment so it's much more entrepreneurial than what we had before and it lowers the cost to the taxpayer for doing all these things by the artist program. Which is the new human programs. The moon the Recently released cost to get the first woman in the next man to the moon by twenty twenty four is a factor of ten less than the apollo program. Yeah it's interesting. I remember jack I was involved a little bit on the economic side of the next generation. Space legal program two thousand two thousand one two thousand two timeframe and this was a program was supposed to replace the shuttle and we did not go forward with it and i guess so. What was the arranged with the russian system to get their astronauts into space station. Yeah the the problem was that you might recall The shuttle accident that occurred in two thousand three And then president. George w bush declared that the shuttle really wasn't safe And that needed to be replaced and it took a while. We're still in the process of of fully replacing it. The last shuttle launch was twenty eleven If i remember correctly so in the meantime in order to get to the space station What we did is contract with the russians to use their soyuz spacecraft to go back and forth the space station so we. What we did is the buy seats. Those seats cost about seventy five or eighty million dollars so they weren't cheap but eventually got us back and forth. He said before we get the details of the Admission stack help philisophical question so way we have technology advancing the about conflict. Television's really taking off machines. Getting lot smarter What does sort of the basis for sending humans Could be not accomplished thing that human could do with machines if that's a good question i'm glad you answered that you ask that question because Excuse me i think what we're looking for now is is Really different mode for doing work on services like the moon or mars. Excuse me in that. We unlike apollo you had a single astronaut. Geologists such as astronaut harrison schmitt on all seventeen doing classic field geology. With a shovel to now advance unit twenty-first-century. We're gonna to do. Is i like to say we're going to bring Silicon valley with us to the moon. So we're going to bring advanced robotics. Be telly operated. That will use a machine. Learning artificial intelligence And will team with the astronauts so that they will these. These rovers advance scouting. They will identify interesting places and then the role of the astronaut is to make critical decisions on what to investigate What the samples. Look like i. i still think it's true. I've been told from my colleagues who are geologists stromer But who are uninsured. Scientists in that the difference for example between. Let's say the The curiosity rover on mars. And what it's been doing and having a human on mars that the work that the curiosity rover has done last seven years could be done in two days by geologists. a that's the difference and to also bring back. You know better selected samples and so forth. So there's no replacing humans and that's not going to happen anytime soon but you you do your point being. You only wanna use humans when you actually have to. Because their time is valuable and they're expensive and also Walking around even on the surface of the moon is dangerous. Because the you know the a space where the asian micrometeorites another possible dangerous but going into this new environment. I think what we're going to be able to do is reduced risk and improved efficiency. The i don't remember the numbers but a human Mission is about ten x the cost of a non human mission. Obviously the the efficiency and like you say what begin out of it different but guess on the cost side. It's about the fact of a magnitude different you know. That's hard to say because robots still are very limited in what they can do. They're just so many things that only humans can do is a little bit of apples and oranges but yet you're probably right that on the ballpark about a factor of ten. Maybe even more. But there's also much more than a factor of ten improvement in efficiency. So you know. Those costs will balance out and obviously the advantage of a human is You know they've been. The unexpected happens in michigan learning in As long as you have heard of data to teach a machine but then the unexpected happens machines. noel exactly. The rover gets stuck. It suffers a mechanical problem. That If you have a human there at least in the vicinity can help fix it. And move orders you know i think about for example servicing of the hubble space telescope and that was done five times by human astronauts and The astronauts such as john grunsfeld did to the servicing missions was very clear that the telescope could not have been repaired in upgraded by anything other than humans because the tab the complexity of the task the ability to be able to get in and To make repairs Make on the spot. Decisions just You know there was no replacing that so hopefully humans have a few more years of Do i think we've got many years to tell you the truth. I think it's going to be you know in reading some of the literature. I think it's going to be a quite a long time if ever that. We have truly Intelligent self aware machines can operate with the same decision making kick be very good at repetitive calculations outstanding job of there but You know making creative innovative entrepreneurial. Decisions were We're nowhere close to that yet So i do that. A multiple missions being planned An international collaboration so he's the first one that is supposed to take off as leave. Yeah artists is the new name for the human missions to the moon Artemis in greek mythology was the sister of apollo The twin sister of apollo. She's the goddess of the moon. So that's very appropriate. Since nasa has already declared bet up for that first landing which nasa has been planning for twenty twenty four would Would have that first woman in the next man on the surface the first expedition by humans to the moon in the twenty first century. So optimistic applaud. Its name the program programming program. Yeah exactly right so so andrade damasio multiple things going on And so do we have sort of a space station like that is going to orbit the out. Yeah in fact. That's honored design. And we'll be under construction in the next few years has called the gateway lunar gateway. And it's it's not like the space station in the sense of being gigantic And being really limited to that single orbit the gateway is really more of a spacecraft is going to have a pulse in system using a new generation of solar electric bad is ion propulsion That will be piloted for potential for optometry use in going to mars. I have just a couple of modules that will be there it will be a place where astronauts coming from the earth on on the orion spacecraft which is a it plus the space launch system is a heavy lift vehicle that will take astronauts the moon they will dock at the gateway and then they will get into a reusable lander go to the surface. Come back in that lander and then the next crew that comes in will do the same thing so you don't throw everything away like we did during hollow in the nineteen sixties again. The reusability idea is Is key to keeping the costs down so so it is more dealer so can't be attached as as alright right. Ds change in the future. Cab edge more against it. We can in fact The japanese space agency jaksa recently committed to fly a module And nasa has invited others such as the russian space agency to think about them attaching A module as well so it definitely is modular. That way you can add habitats you can add laboratories And can can grow over time. But it's also the the idea is that it's going to be long duration spaceflight and it's away way from the earth's magnetic field so you've got the full range environment of what you would have going to mars. So i think nasa all also looks at. This is a prototype of the vehicle that would be sent to mars. Lucchese david some Conversations yet again. Remember that To go to mars you would rather start off. Start off from the moon. Is that still thinking or that. Exchange i don't think that's been decided but there's this potential real advantages of a loon. First of all launching from the moon versus the earth requires much less thrust. What what we call delta the. That's the change in velocity to Get off there. Because there's only one sixth gravity on the moon and secondly if we're successful in mining water from the minute we know now there's considerable amount of water at the polls of the moon That's hydrogen and oxygen. We can convert that potentially into rocket fuel. You wouldn't have to bring that from earth so the costs associated with launching some could be substantially reduced in doing this from the moon versus from your so people are actively working that right now and seeing if that might be the way to go i of think that might end up being How missions to To mars or undertaking so under optimus Are there plans to actually create a habitat a big enough habitat for people to stave or extended period of time. So nasa has designs. And once again i should mention this is. This is all international Insa is involved. The european space agency is involved in providing a module for the service module for the orion. It also will be working on the gateway. The canadian space agency is providing the robotic arm And the same will be true on the surface The idea is that the first few missions will of just get started That first nation in twenty twenty four is planned to go to the south pole of moon. Will we've never been to before and look at the water. Ice situation there but Over time by the end of the decade the expectation is that will have multiple habitats. And we'll have people staying there for long periods of time like the arctic station. It's run by the national science foundation. The mcmurdo station as called in which you have a number of scientists come in and visit for anywhere from a few weeks to staying for year here so salama but when the next generation space program was in progress space. Too big big project. I would imagine spacex Others cab this business plan so what's the clamps time Do that The gay yes. So it'll be somewhere between three and five days to get from the earth and you're right about. The tourism spacex already has a fide a japanese businessman. If i remember correctly who has bought a A ride not the surface of the moon but to orbit the moon on a spacex vehicle. Sometime in a in a few years but the it'll be in a three to five days to get to the gateway and then Another day to get down to the surface. So i fully expect by the end of the decade especially given the accessibility to the moon by the private sector and by isa companies That they will be selling seats to wealthy individuals to spend a A summer holiday on the moon is so if the if the gateway is expandable perhaps Taxpayers can make some money nasa. Well it might be. Yeah but but once again this is. The transportation for the most part is probably not going to be through nasa but by these individual companies who own their own rockets their spacecraft and now they will sell seats to to wealthy tourists. yeah and so You you mentioned the european space agency. You mentioned the canadian space agency of so. Is this like the space station. A larger collaboration or those are the three major ones. Yeah it is and you're right. There are Oh gosh there's probably a dozen or so. Companies countries rather involved in the international space station and nasa envisions this much the same thing And i to. I order all the countries that are involved in. The international space station have been invited to become involved with the gateway And so as i mentioned several have accepted with With enthusiasms others are still keeping that around and take a quick break jack. Benny come back to talk about the radio. Frequency of savitri on the far side of the more that you're designing you bet sounds good. This is a scientific sense. Podcast providing unscripted conversations bit leading academics and researchers on a variety of topics. You like to sponsor this podcast. Please reach out to in full at scientific sense dot com back Jack you're talking about upcoming missions to the moon Some of the manned mission some of some of the technology that you're sending up there there is a gateway bridges like the space station but attested propulsion its zone. Sorta are based entity source. And it's more dealer things could be attached to it. That may be subject is imploding. Creating that a launchpad so to speak to go to mars perhaps habitats that a large announced a mining for water mighty for hydrogen and other things and so he the program is called autonomous. So could be portal light program and underneath optimists. There are various things being planned right. So what are the The primary objectives all of those radius approved betas projects. I should say under under optimus. Yeah we'll go. let me let me start off by just looking at the difference with The apollo program because the apollo program ended fairly abruptly once the political goals were reached and it was never Really a sustainable program so Nasa and i think all of the governmental space agencies are looking for is for arsonist to be the beginning of a sustained presence on the moon and in space and using the moon as a stepping stone for human and robotic exploration of the solar system including getting the mars so the philosophy of artists is really quite different. So you're there the stay So you need to figure out how to live off the land. So that does mean as you're saying mining's water being able to grow crops being able to manufacture Equipments the habitats themselves from the From the of the regular or the soil material so using the the kind of advanced manufacturing capability three d. printing Electrolysis so that's a really different approach. And it means that what will be worked on is not just get there but a flag in the ground rather in full of soil and return on instead it means You know how do you figure out how to be there for the long haul so that means than learning how to to excavate how to build How to really maintain a life in a in a certain sense of independence. Part of the reason you want to do all that is because that's exactly what's going to be

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