My younger son, Christopher, had been going to Coach David’s tennis classes for over a decade. Sonia and I both went to pick him up this time. I see our friend Meenakshi in the background talking to Sonia in the interview.
Kennedy was there and I struck up a conversation with him. He had been in the military. He takes yearly vacations to Thailand. And I remember it being a good conversation.
Kennedy in our conversation brings up two issues that will need to be addressed if we are going to become a space faring civilization with wide support.
First, “What new thing do we hope to discover on the moon that we did not discover in 1969.” This idea of space been about “firsts” and “achievement” needs to be shifted to “development” and “exploration” and “discovery”. But I think we need to put more of the emphasis on the “development of space infrastructure”. We need to create this compelling vision of humanity moving out into the solar system.
And perhaps it is not something that is possible to do with words. I think the idea of the space economy that some people envision will not be understood until after it happens. “Work with the willing” is a phrase we need to keep in mind. We should try to make the vision compelling and accessible. But at the same time, we need to be careful not to get in a situation where we feel we need everyone to buy into. What we need is to get enough to buy into it that it actually happens. Once it happens than the masses will be better able to understand it and support it. Until then it just feels like science fiction.
But one thing we must not do is undermine that future by emphasizing “one time goals”. Tell people it is about development and discovery. Tell them it is about exploration and about training to go further. But don’t tell them it is about simply “getting the first woman on the moon”. We will do that, and do it quickly. It is something that should have been done. But let us not use that to rally support. Because that support will turn into an obstacle, just as soon as that goal is met. “We got the first woman on the moon. Now let’s shut down the program.” We do not want to set ourselves up for this.
We are going to the moon as a “step into the future” … a future were humans travel the solar system like they voyage the globe. A future where humans can choose to live where ever they want. A future were the earth is protected from industrialization, but where humanity is unrestrained and can move forth.
The second issue that I noticed in Kennedy’s responses was the idea “We messed up the earth and we will just mess up the moon too.”. I will hear this idea many times over the coming year. I do not remember it as early as Kennedy’s interview. I thought it was an interview later in January. But it is something that comes up.
We humans are ashamed of ourselves. But we feel powerless to change it. And we do not want it to inconvenience ourselves. We want to become better for free. We think the problem with humanity is the other guy. We think “if only they would…” But humanity is all of us. Every injustice that any human does is the responsibility of all humans to some extent. And we need to continuously work to improve ourselves and to create the conditions that cause those around us to grow and to improve themselves. We need to sit down and learn to have dialog. We need to focus our energies on actually addressing and solving problems rather than our pastime of politics and economics. Betting on companies is less useful than creating them. Politics is less important than working with our neighbors to make our streets and neighborhoods better places.
I started taking flying lessons at United Flight Systems at the David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport in the fall of 2019. I had taken flying lessons in college, earning around 6 hours of flying time. But I did not have that much money then. And now I was working on getting my pilots license. I would have expected to have my license by now, but when the lockdown happened in March, I decided to put it on hold. Now that vaccines are being given out, I think I am close to being able to return.
In order to make the Countdown to the Moon project easier, I started interviewing people at the places that I would go. I interviewed several people from United Flight Systems. Marie was the first one.
She found the idea of us going to the moon in 2024 of slight interest. It would make a good headline but was not the beginning of a new era. It was not opening up the solar system to humanity. It would not be something to celebrate.
My mom was alive during the time that the Soviets launched the first satellite, Sputnik. In fact, kids at the time would play a game throwing a ball of the house and yelling “SPUTNIK”.
My mom says that at the time the Americans felt like they were behind and we needed to go to the moon to catch up.
Everyone shut down to watch the moon landing. But it may not be watched by many if it does not get much press coverage. And we have more than 3 stations so harder to have it covered by all.
Back then there were limited TV stations: ABC, NBC, and “I don’t know what to see”, and limited newspapers: Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle
But now we are all living in our own information bubble.
It is New Year’s Eve. Sue had come over to check on us. She does gardening and I have been trying to do gardening. Sometime she will come over to share some of the things that she grows. And sometimes when I have something that has grown, I will give her some too. (I always have rosemary, oregano, basil, and cilantro).
Sue is a long time friend of ours. Her son, Chris, and our son, Chris are in the same grade. And they had hung out a lot for the math competitions. But Sue’s Chris had gone to Klein Oak to be in the IB program and our Chris went to Klein Cain which was a new school but would be the school that all the non-IB kids would go to from our neighborhood.
Did you know that NASA was sending people to the moon in 2024?
“Don’t know, just hear it from you.”
Do you know the last time that we sent people to the moon?
“1972…my gosh… why did we stop?”
It cost a lot. People felt like we achieved the goal of beating the Russians and showing of our power. And there really were not any other reasons that the American people were convinced to go.
China’s space program. I told Sue about China’s mission that was planned for 2020 to go to the moon, collect some lunar samples, and return that to the earth. This mission has happened and was completely successful.
New York Times: China Brings Moon Rocks to Earth, and a New Era of Competition to Space
Washington Post: China moon mission returns to Earth, vaulting nation into ranks of space powers
National Geographic: China’s new moon mission returns the first lunar samples since 1976
Space.com: China’s Chang’e 5 moon samples are headed to the lab
Also, in 2019, China had more launches than any other country. China (34) had the most launches, and with the inclusion of RocketLabs (6), the US (21 + 6) came in second, followed by Russia (25).
China launched a rover to Mars in 2020.
China launches ambitious Tianwen-1 Mars rover mission
China chooses landing site for its Tianwen-1 Mars rover
BBC: China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth
Nature: China’s successful launch of Mars mission seals global era in deep-space exploration
Spaceflight Now: China’s Mars-bound probe returns self-portrait from deep space
“Did NASA’s funding get cut?”
NASA’s funding has had a slight increase, basically just keeping up with inflation:
But it not just “how much money we spend on NASA” but “HOW” we spend that money.
NASA gets more value out of the Commercial Re-Supply (CRS) which pays companies to deliver so many kilograms of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) which pays to deliver astronauts to the ISS, and the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programs than it does from its historic cost plus contractors which pays contractors for their work. And when you pay companies for services and results, you tend to get services and results. When you pay companies for work and effort without holding them accountable to delivering results, well, expect to be paying a lot for work and effort. And don’t plan on seeing the results. (There are a lot of good engineers that work at these government contracting companies that want to make something happen, but the business people that run them are laser focused on quarterly profits and risk reduction. And that means dragging things out. Adding layer of layer of overhead.)
What do you think about the first woman going to the moon?
“Woman can do everything that man does.”
“What is the final purpose. Since we spend huge money on the research we must have some significant result.”
The why question is important. It is right to expect to get something out of it. And what we want to get out of it is laying the foundation for expanding humanity and the economy to be beyond earth. Space mining needs to become a thing. Space power generation needs to become a thing. Space tourism should happen. And space colonization and habitation should be the future of humanity. But we get so tied up in our world down here, we forget that we don’t only live on a speck in the universe, but we live on a speck compared to a speck. The idea of humanity expanding into space needs to be something that becomes a part of our psyche.
Humans were meant to travel and use all the resources in the universe for the advancement of knowledge. We can and should go forth into the solar system.
Komal is a family friend. Her children and our children know each other. Her son Vivek created the High School Astronaut website. Sunil, her husband, is a great friend of ours as well.
It was great to get to talk to Komal about our return to the moon. She said she did not know about it until I had asked her for the interview. And I think it is still the case that most people that do not have a hobby or profession of space know about it.
Today is my birthday. A year ago it was also my birthday. I have an amazingly supportive family. A year ago we met up at Valley Ranch Bar-b-q. Maggie, my sister, had gotten me some space figurines. One of them was of the Saturn V rocket which took us to the moon the first time. I was thinking that Maggie would be the perfect person to interview.
I am glad to have this video to watch today. For today’s celebration we all met in my backyard and we had Valley Ranch BBQ also. It was a great celebration.
Samid’s family and my family are friends. We attend each other’s celebrations. Samid is the same age as Stephen, my oldest son. Samid had come over to see Stephen while they both were in town from college.
He was just the perfect person to interview. Samid said, “If you go up to people randomly on the street and asked, ‘How would you like for us to go to the moon in 2024?’ they would be excited about it, even if they did not know anything about space.
I can say that after a year of interviewing people (about 80 of which was literally going up to people on the street, in the stores, in the coffee shops, getting off the elevator at the hotel I happened to be in), that most people are excited about the prospect of us going back to the moon. Having humanity out in space pushing further can make us all feel like we are part of something greater. That we are actually making some visible, obvious progress.
How do we measure progress? We can definitely do it economically. Are we making more? Are things cheaper to buy? We can also get a feel from the news stories. Are their protests? Are parades of celebration? We also hear about the global warming, pollution and the like. War or no war? Beggars or everyone with a way to meet their needs in a dignified way? These are all slippery things. And there is no obvious improvements. But to see humanity on the moon when the last time was 1972. That! That is something we can understand and see and point to. And when we start having people routinely going and coming from the moon. Staying there longer times. Sharing with us the stories of the adventure, the risk, the challenges, the boredom, the discovers, the teamwork, the new insights.. “While I was walking on the moon, it occurred to me that….” (I can’t wait to hear the end of that sentence.)
Samid mentioned that in his childhood there would be projects that were something like “If you have a vacation on the moon, what would it be like.” and now with the work by NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others the idea of a holiday on the moon does not seem so remote.
The Economist magazine published an editorial called “Plague Year” and it was pointing out how the lockdowns have caused acceleration of some systemic challenges. Working from home is a proven concept. It works. It saves time. It is not necessary for us to be in the same office. In fact, it is undesirable. Because of the cost of the office. Because of the cost of time. Because of the risk of contagion. We can work remotely, and we can work better. We need the social interactions, but it does not necessary need to be in a central office every day of every week. It could be weekly get togethers or something like that.
Also, the pandemic has people not travelling but wishing more than ever to travel. People not doing the things they were used to, but wanting to do more than ever. “Life is not for hoarding but for living.”
The Economist article looks at parallels between the period of World War 1 and the Spanish Flu and the fact that led to the roaring 20s. And it supposes that we are about to enter another roaring 20s, but this time we have aviation, and space travel, and the internet. World Wide, High speed, low latency internet is about to be a thing and from multiple providers.
Tom Cruise is going to space in 2021. There will be several space tourists over the next couple of year. Virgin Galactic will also be flying people. Hopefully New Shepard will be up and working soon. And Space perspectives will be taking people to the edge of the atmosphere. And SpaceX will develop the Starship. It is happening!
dearMoon.earth which is echoing the
Accomplishments for the week:
•7 Countdown to the Moon Interviews
•7 Review of last year’s Countdown to the Moon Interviews
•North Houston Space Society – First Elections, First Business meeting; 2020 chapter report draft complete; Monthly outreach meetings Set and Next Business Meeting Set
•Successful Christmas Celebration
•Significant Winter Cleaning
•No Coffee or Tea
•Prepare for arrival of Tonal
Plans for the week
•7 Countdown to the Moon Interviews
•7 Review of last year’s Countdown to the Moon Interviews
•Put Countdown to the Moon on a micro SD Card
•Complete North Houston Space Society Chapter Report
•Market the Jan 9th North Houston Space Society Meeting
•Finish Reading “Notes from underground” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
•Exercise 7 days on the Tonal
•Run 3 days this week (3 miles each) – Less than a 12 minute mile
•No Coffee – No TEA
•Enjoy my last 7 days of vacation!
It was a day that I was not out talking to strangers. I continued to connect with people that I was already interacting with. Saroj is Radha’s grandmother. I had interviewed Radha a couple of days ago.
Saroj was a high school science teacher in Punjab, India. Her favorite area of science is zoology. Her science teacher taught zoology with much enthusiasm and excitement. And like so many people, the impact of a teacher who is excited about his/her subject can not be underestimated. If a teacher knows a lot about a subject and is enthusiastic, and is able to connect with students, then those students will also become excited about that subject.
Saroj asks a question that would be asked by many people over the course of the year of interviews “Why did we stop going to the moon?” And I just thought of a reason that makes sense to me. “We no longer thought it was worth it.”
Why were we going to the moon? The main political driver and the thing that stuck in the minds of the people was to “beat the Russians”. The Russians beat us badly at the beginning of the space race. Who first put a satellite in orbit, the Russians. Who first launched a person to space? The Russians. Who did the first space walk? The Russians. And on and on the list goes.
Going to the moon was to show “Yes, we got a late start. But we can beat you if we choose.”
And so, when we got to the moon that first time, there may have been many people who wondered why we even went of the second time.
But “Beating the Russians” is not the only reason to go. To understand the moon. To explore and develop the resources of the moon. To observe this area of space from an unique perspective. All of these reasons are importan.
If we reduce the reason of going back to the moon to “landing the first woman”, we will miss the point and have the same problem. “We go to the moon to understand and explore. To learn more. To learn what we don’t know. To learn what it can teach us. We go to the moon to develop resources that will help us explore further, more economically. Resources that will help us back on earth. We go to get practice to go further. To Mars. to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. We will send humans throughout the solar system. to the nearby stars, and eventually throughout the galaxy.” These are the reasons we need the emphesize.