It was late on Monday. I just had the workshop (the first one) for people to work on their Space Communicator program. People to talk through and think about their speeches. I had probably been busy at work during the day. And while there were many people at the workshop, I was going to try to interview non-space people. Doug Hall and I were walking out after having cleaned and straightened the room. David was working at the library. I had also planned not to interview people at work. But if I didn’t interview him, I’m not sure who I would interview. So I asked, and with a little hesitation and trepidation David agreed.
David remembers the Challenger explosion more vividly than any other space event. He had heard about “robot things on Mars”. And when I told him that 1972 was the last time we went to the moon he says “Shocks me that I’m not more on top of that.”
David wonders “Are we ready fo this? Would the resources be better some place else? Otherwise, he thinks it is a great idea”
Would he go to the moon? “Probably not. I’ve not even been out of the continent which I hope to fix this summer”. I wonder if he was able to travel during the summer. On one hand the library was not opened and maybe it was possible for library staff to have more time off. On the other hand with Covid it might not have been possible to travel.
I am at our neighborhood Starbucks again. Christopher sees some of his classmates. Giavonnah is willing to do an interview. I remember thinking “Who can I ask?” and “How can I ask?”. Going up to people to do an interview was really nerve wracking. I think it still is. I do not think I have gotten any better at this in the past year, because I have been nicely hidden behind zoom. But I am hoping that next month (February) to start interviewing people again in person, randomly on the weekends. And then move more and more of my interviews to in person.
Giavonnah had not heard we are going to the moon in 2024 but she thinks it is “really cool. Amazing. Awesome” But she should not go to a party, would more likely just read about it. She thinks it is good to study and not bad to know more. It is not a waste of money.
What will humanity be like in 500 years? “Like this but times 10” There will likely be robots. But no woods because humanity would have grown so large that we would have chopped them all down. Would we live in places off earth? “Yes. We would find a way”
Did she know about Blue Origin? She did not. But while she would not have an interest in going into orbit, to the moon, or to Mars. She would be interested in going on a 15 minute New Shepard flight.
How can I improve? Keep doing what I’m doing. “Really cool to ask people’s opinion”.
Sandeep, Anjani, Christopher, and I had driven to Dallas for a tennis tournament. It was COLD. There is much waiting at these tournaments. Lots of parents and players waiting around. They don’t talk much to each other. Maybe that is the nature of these types of events. Just want to get through the day. Don’t want to disturb the players or the parents. Or we brought our own things to keep us busy.
Finding someone to interview should have been easy. There were so many people to strike up a conversation with. Finally I went up to someone and explained my project and he directed me to Zach.
Zach had not heard that we were going to the moon, but his thoughts were “Go for it! Why not. I’m sure there is more to explore and know about.”
What does he hope we get out of it? It would provide better pictures of the landing, and going this time would convince people that we went the first time. People “might be willing not to call it a Hoax”. And perhaps that is one of the reasons we really should go. To make people believe that we can go, that we did go, and that we can keep going. Perhaps we need to open people’s eyes.
I asked Zack when the last time we went to the moon was. He said that he thought it was the same as the first time. And considering the reasons we originally went, to show that we could go further than the USSR, that makes sense. It is really interesting that we did go back. It made sense to have some backup options, but that we had Apollo 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17. And I think there was the belief that we would keep going in some quarters. And there was a belief that we had achieved everything we wanted after the first landing the rest was just victory laps. And then still other people thought the whole thing was foolishness to.
How much do you think it would cost to send people to the moon? “A few billion” Would you believe that the rocket that NASA is planning to use cost $1 Billion per launch? “Wow. That is a lot of money. But might still be worthwhile”
Zach had heard about SpaceX’s plans to go to Mars. He is more interested in what we can discover than going to space himself.
Zach’s feedback about these interviews was to keep doing them.
Christopher and I are at Starbucks. I’m wondering who I can interview. It is a question that is constantly on my mind (until I do it for the day). Then I see Brandy. I know her. She’s Carter’s mom. Carter is in Christopher’s class. They did cub scouts together. And easy person to ask.
Watching the video, I notice that no one at that starbucks is wearing a mask. How much the world would change in the next 3 months. Now it is not possible to sit inside of the starbucks and to enter it you must have a mask.
Also, thinking over the past year, I think I interviewed at least 4 people at that starbucks. And I think in the next year I would probably interview a lot more.
Brandy had not heard that we were planning to send people back to the moon in 2024. She things it is “Very Cool. About Time!” “It was Great for the Country the first time. And it would be great for the country the second time.” Carter always looks at the space stuff, but not sure if he knows. But iti definitely means that he was not excited enough about it to talk to his family about it in an exciting thing. I think one avenue to spread the knowledge and the excitement is through the schools. Every school child should know that we are going back to the moon. They should be excited about it. and they should know that they have a chance to go. So excited about it that they talk to their parents, friends, and family about it. Then most people would know.
Brandy would not personally go to space. She is “a chicken” she says. But she would encourage others to go.
She is not so sure there is much more to learn on the moon. I think this is where we need to be able to talk some more. In some respects we treat the moon as something that is already known, already explored. But in reality we have not explored much of it. Some say that we know more about the moon than the deep seas. But is that really true? And how would we measure this knowledge to compare it in a realistic way?
What is good about going to the moon? It brought us all together that first time. But will it really do it the second time? The Covid lockdowns brought us together in probably a more profound way than a moon landing could.
Will they make the 2024 landing. “Pretty likely. Could do it today if they wanted to.”
Noe had invited me to speak at the Citizen Science group he has put together. I talked about the North Houston Space Society. My mom and wife came. Gary was one of the participants. He had worked on the shuttle system. He was not familiar with NASA’s plans to put people back on the moon. He had heard something vague, and was thinking that maybe the private sector was overtaking NASA.
He thinks the fact that it was 1972 since we last went was awful. And would like to see more money go into exploration. Why are we spending 1/3 of our national budget on the military and less than 1% on NASA. In fact, he saw a statistic that we spend more money on video games each year than NASA.
What do we need to do to get people excited about it? For him, nothing. He is excited by nature. And he has heard people say that we should “work on controlling diseases instead of going to space”. At this citizen science meeting Covid was not on anybody’s mind. And I wonder what Gary thinks about that now.
Karthik went to school with my son Stephen in elementary and middle school. They have stayed in touch. Karthik at the time of this interview was finishing up his last year at Rice University, the same place that JFK gave the famous “We choose to go to the moon” speech. It is also the school of the current NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine. Jim had come and visited the school a couple of times in 2019. And it was under Jim’s leadership that the 2024 date was announced.
Karthik had not heard about NASA plans to send people back to the moon. He wishes that there was more talks and presentations about it at the university. And I know there have been a few, but it is interesting that the information did not make it out to the wider student audience. Even in a place like Rice University there are information bubbles. Mainly because there is so much going on that students and faculty have to choose what to keep track of just to remain sane. But there needs to be better mechanisms to have broader explorations of topics.
Karthik wonders “What kind of mission is this?” which is another way to ask “What do we plan to get out of it?” This is a fair question. One we really should do some thinking about. I like to think of our trips into space being like the voyages in the age of discovery. But I am not sure they can compare.
This week I’m reading “The Worldly Philosophers” by Robert L. Heilbroner. I came across this passage (p.35)
Be it noted, in passing, that the treasures of the East were truly fabulous. With the share received as a stockholder in Sir Francis Drake’s voyage of the Golden Hund, Queen Elizabeth paid off all England’s foreign debts, balanced its budget, and invested abroad a sum large enough, at compound interest, to account for Britain’s entire overseas wealth in 1930!
“The Worldly Philosophers” by Robert L. Heilbroner p.35
The voyages in the age of discovery MADE MONEY. People directly benefited from them. Will our voyages to the moon do the same? What do we hope to get out of it.
We need to make space exploration economically viable. Lowering the cost is just one part of that equation. The other part is finding a source of value in going. Tourism is a natural thing. Getting moon rocks might be too. But if we had something of value on the moon, the other pieces will fall into place.
For many of us, going to space is an end to itself. Like some people going to a sports contest. Or eating breakfast. But for the vast majority of it, either we get them directly involved in that vision, or we have to show how it is worth it in direct and concrete ways.
Sonia and I were taking tennis lessons last year at Giammalva racquet club. I saw Roopa and Venky there. They were waiting for their son to finish tennis lessons. Venky didn’t want to do an interview (I hope he changes his mind in the next 4 years), but Roopa was willing.
One of the striking things about the interview with Roopa was the reverence for nature and the disdain for humanity. Roopa expressed a clear view that nature is good and humanity changing nature is bad. “Humans are needy and greedy”. “There is no depth to what humans can do” “Somethings should remain mysterious.”
I wonder where these views come from. What causes us to think that changes are bad. That progress is not possible. That humanity will always choose to consume, exploit, and destroy.
Roopa does not think humanity should expand out to space. Keep space for nature and earth for humanity.
The idea of using space to protect the earth is not something that Roopa found worthwhile.
I wonder how many people share these views. What can we learn from them? How can we address them?
Matt works at United Flight Systems where I was taking flying lessons pre-Covid lockdowns. He had heard that we were planning to go to the moon in 2024 from me, but was kind of aware that this is the direction that NASA was heading.
He is a little skeptical of the 2024 timeframe. “Governments move at different speeds” and he agrees that programs like the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) where companies figure out how to deliver a service that NASA buys has the potential to make things faster and cheaper.
Matt is excited to see NASA have ambitious goals. He wants to see them do something inspiration. Something difficult. Something that advances all of us. Government wastes so much money. It would be better for them to do something that inspires.
It was late in the day. I had not found anyone to interview. It was time to ask a family member and Stephen was graciously enough to interview.
Highlights from the interview.. “If we could spend that money on…” And that is the problem with the NASA budget. I think people see it as a large number, and it is a large number. But when compared to other things, it becomes quite a bit smaller. And the human spaceflight part is about half of NASA’s budget. And about half of that goes to ISS and related operations.
What value do we get from space exploration?
I had talked to one person that suggested if living in space could make you live longer or be younger than that would motivate people to go to space. Unfortunately, it seems to do just the opposite.