Transcript: Space4U podcast, Chris Carberry
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
Hello, this is Andrew de Naray with the Space Foundation, and you’re listening to the Space4U podcast. Space4U is designed to tell the stories of the people who make today’s space exploration possible. Our guest today is Chris Carberry. Chris is the CEO of Explore Mars, Inc. And president of the Space Drinks Association.
Prior to his tenure with Explore Mars, Chris served as executive director of the Mars Society. He is also the author of the book, “Alcohol in Space, Past, Present and Future,” which was released by McFarland Publishers in 2019. And he has penned more than a hundred articles published in a number of highly respected publications around the world.
Chris has also been interviewed hundreds of times for print and online publications, as well as local national and international radio and television outlets. He has extensive political and policy outreach experience with both the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government and has testified to both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. Prior to joining the space community Carberry worked as a historical researcher and archivist.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Chris. It’s great to have you on the show. Yeah, thanks for having me on. So, uh, first question is, uh, when and how did your passion for the red planet begin? Well, it’s interesting. I’d always been interested in space exploration you know, even when I was, you know, in elementary school, middle school, I was always fascinated with astronomy.
Always had telescopes, but I was never particularly great at mathematics. I was good at various sciences, but I went into policy politics history, and didn’t really see for a while what role I could play within the space community, but then around the mid-1990s to date myself, I started reading up on it.
Again, read a number of books, including Robert Zubrin The Case for Mars, but also a number of others and realized by reading these that, you know, I did have a role that, perhaps the most critical role that’s been missing is continuous sustainable political support, you know, over the decades, over multiple administrations, there just hasn’t been consistent support.
So they’ve tended to start over each administration or even do during different congresses. So that’s how I started. I ended up joining various space advocacy organizations as a volunteer, but quickly became one of the top people in their policy outreach, still as a volunteer, but eventually it became my day job.
And then you were with the Mars Society. And then, uh, what led you to co-found explore Mars 10 years ago? It’s with the Mars society for a number of years before I became executive director, I was political director for, uh, for the Mars Society. Uh, Oh, for quite a while, for many years. And then in 2008 and 2009, I was executive director.
But then, you know, a group of us decided to leave the Mars Society and we thought we wanted to create an organization to start doing projects. And originally we didn’t even want to start a new organization. We just wanted to do projects, but realized to do so we needed to have a 501c3. And so it kind of almost started by accident because we weren’t originally wanting to start a new group, but then we started formulating a lot of other ideas and we realized.
We were filling a niche. There was a gap, you know, you had the membership groups like the Mars Society or National Space Society or Planetary Society. And they did their thing really well, but we were filling a particular area where we partnered more closely with industry with NASA and kind of worked from the inside out rather than the outside, in like a lot of advocacy groups do.
So that’s how we started. And, you know, we’ve been fairly successful, I think over the past. Now 11 years, we were founded, um, in early February, 2010. So we just passed our 11th anniversary. Awesome. In your opinion, what’s currently the greatest hindrance to getting humans to Mars. Is it just investment? Is that the question of whether humans can endure the journey or is it the difficulty in establishing accommodations?
That’ll support life there? I think it was a combination of things from a programmatic perspective. And I think this is becoming less of an issue. The big issue has always been creating sustainability in both policy and that funding area. And I think that’s still an issue. I think we still need to keep them on to moving forward.
But we’ve had a lot of momentum over the last decade. It’s quite extraordinary as all the momentum, you know, with, uh, NASA, what the plans that NASA is developing the commercial sector with the commercial sectors doing and internationally, we are in a much better place than we were 10 years ago. So, you know, as long as we can keep up momentum, we still need to make right decisions.
We can still screw this up. But I think that is not as much of an issue. It’s still an issue, but we still need to solve things like, and this is regardless of if we’re doing it through, you know, more traditional approach, certainly now with Nass or if some company like space sex is able to do it independently, we still need to figure out things like entry, descent, and landing.
There are some great plans, but it’s still a big challenge. The biggest thing we’ve ever landed on Mars. Now twice, actually, what was originally a curiosity, but now it’s perseverance Rover, which is essentially one metric ton at minimum. Most mission architecture, people, designers believe we’ll need land between 20 and 40 metric tons.
If you’re talking about SpaceX’s plan, that’s considerably more. And so. It’s a challenge, trying to get us down to the surface successfully. And of course, getting people off the surface, I’m going to go under the assumption that the first missions will not be one-way missions to Mars. And so I think that is certainly the issue.
I don’t think the transit itself is as big an issue as a thing. I think we can deal with the radiation. I think we have enough statistics right now, at least to indicate it’s not going to. Be a major issue, obviously their extra solar events, which we can prevent against, but you know, generally the radiation levels seem to be from what I’ve seen, from what curiosity sent back could be manageable.
The astronauts would have to accept a certain percentage increase of cancer sometime in their lives, but you would do that when you move to various parts of the country or, you know, or do certain things in your life. So I think most astronauts would accept that risk, but so I think the biggest thing with transit is just keeping, you know, up to mental health, you know, figuring out how to keep the astronauts.
Engaged and making sure that the living space is properly arranged, you know, for privacy. I think the thing we’ve learned over the past year within the pandemic is everybody’s been living in kind of a Mars simulation is trying to figure out how to remain sane in isolation. And while it’s more, um, luxurious in what the astronauts will under on the way to Mars, it’s still something that’s been able to focus people’s attention.
So we’ve been figuring out entertainment when we’re figuring out mental health, we’ve been figuring out systems, you know, even looking, even these systems we’re on right now have improved dramatically in just a year, because all of a sudden the whole world was using, you know, whether it be teams or zoom or all the other platforms.
And so it’s amazing how quickly. Technology has changed to improve based on this, um, this need. Now I kind of took a little sidetrack there, but these are the sorts of things they need to be thinking about to make sure it can happen. And my goal is that we can still get to Mars by the mid 2030s. No, that’s a good point.
Um, you know, we’re all in a practice run here, I guess. And, uh, so you’re saying we’ve got the momentum and everything, and so you think we are on track to buy by the 2030s to do that? I think we, we can be. And this also depends on, I know there’s a lot of differences of opinion out there on how we’re going to do this, whether this will be commercial, whether this be NASA, whether it be a combination, I think it’ll be a combination.
I think this will be a partnership between all these players, if we can find the right balance, at least when we’re going to Mars, but still we need to make the right decisions. Even with all the positive developments we’ve had over the last decade. And particularly over the last few years, if we don’t make the right decisions, if we just don’t allow ourselves to take risks.
That could real everything. We need to be able to embrace risks, not ridiculous risk, but it’s a dangerous thing going to Mars. We’re not going to be able to solve that. There’s only so much we can spend on, you know, safety when it’s just an inherently dangerous thing. So, you know, yes, we don’t want to take stupid risks.
But there’s also, there’s a point where you’ve got to say, we have to accept this level of risk. Let’s not do something that we can prevent easily, but let’s not. Delay for years or decades and spend billions and billions and billions more than we need to, to try to find some negligible reduction of risk, you know, when it’s really not making much of a difference, particularly compared to.
You do total totality of the risk of being in a vacuum for six to eight months, you know, in a, so far, you know, hundreds of millions of miles potentially away from earth. Yeah. That’s inherently dangerous and you’re not going to get rid of that danger. So it’s really an embracing that risk understanding.
We know that. We’re going to do it. We’ll take precautions, but we’ve got to make a decision on how we’re doing it and just do it as you know, we’ve been hobbled by this, you know, not being able to make a decision. Perfect. All right. Good point. And I know, I think Buzz Aldrin has even said that, you know, we kind of have to adjust our aversion to risk, you know, so that’s very true.
Yeah, no. When we went, when Buzz went to the moon, they were accepting a lot of risk, those were different days. And I don’t know, not even saying that we should accept the level of risk that they estimate that, you know, Buzz and Neil and Michael Collins, were accepting, but they’re going to have to accept a lot more than what we generally accept right now, because it’s a big, big difference between going up into low earth orbit and then heading off to the next planet over, or at least the next one out.
So like here at Space Foundation, Explore Mars has a STEM outreach side. Could you tell us a bit about what Explore Mars is doing to reach out to tomorrow’s Mars explorers? Yeah, this is very exciting. And particularly over the last two years, and when we brought in Janet Ivy as the president of Explore Mars, Janet is a very well-known STEM evangelist for lack of a better phrase.
You know, she’s had her show Janet’s Planet runs all these wonderful programs, which are now in partnership with us. She does these online astronauts, the giant planets online astronaut Academy, and always had this wonderful group of kids that continually comes back. But we’re also, we also like to try to engage them with, for instance, our humans to Mars summit.
We always, every time try to bring in as many students as possible for very reduced price. These most students still have to pay, but the last time that I think we had probably close to a thousand students registered. And so that was wonderful. Now that was online, you know, as everybody was online in 2020, But, you know, for instance, back in 2019, the last time we were able to gather, we love showing, bringing in role models.
We brought in the Afghan girls robotics team, obviously from Afghanistan and they were just inspiring. I think this is a big part of it, not just doing programs, but. Showing young people who have inspiring stories, who, who have pursued STEM, uh, despite all odds and the Afghan girls, robotics team have done that more than I think anybody can think of because literally by doing it, they are risking their lives every day.
I mean, constant threats by the Taliban. For having young women learn STEM education or any education whatsoever. One of the leaders of that team’s father was murdered by the Taliban, you know, because he had allowed his daughter to get educated. And so these young women just overcome extraordinary odds and had been wonderful spokespeople.
For just STEM education thought also just overcoming adversity and the show there, you know, no matter what your background is, don’t let these challenges getting away with you, you know, stay focused and use these people as an example, you know, that you can overcome these and we’re about, you know, we’ve done contests with STEM educators, but we’re about, I’m not going to go into details because we haven’t announced some of these, but we’re about to launch.
Um, competitions as well over the upcoming year, which I think should dramatically increase our STEM education footprint even more. That’s great. Now, like you said, those girls’ determination and that’s really inspiring and just the diversity and the feeling represented and kids seeing that stuff and identifying with that, that’s super important.
So, obviously it’s still early in the game with the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity copter hasn’t lifted off yet, but what’s your take so far on what these tools will do to advance the quest, to get humans to Mars? Uh, I can underestimate the potential impact they could have on getting humans to Mars.
It’s I mean, Perseverance is just a perfect vehicle. And it’s the experiments on board to, you know, really build momentum, not only public support, but literal, practical, uh, tangible results, things, they will have a direct impact as you mentioned, the Ingenuity helicopter. Well, and that’s great having the first aircraft on other planets is a great thing, but, well, how does that directly impact it?
Well, of course, you know, having the ability to have drones on Mars, to accompany humans, Will be of great value, as you can imagine, there’ll be a lot of places. We will, we will not want our astronauts going. We won’t want them going down cliff sides. At least initially we won’t want them crawling into lava tubes.
You know, eventually we will, we want, you know, as more and more people come, we’ll want people actually exploring, but. You can have the drones go down and explore these areas. And it either in advance of the people doing it or in replacement of the people, but people say, well, why don’t you just send them anyway without people.
You know, that’s where the magic is. When you can have humans and robots working in tandem, we still don’t have any robots that are even remotely close to what humans can do, particularly when they are so far away as Mars. Cause there’s such a lag time, you know, that latency between earth and Mars. But when you have a drone or a Rover that is actually can be operated by the astronauts in real time.
That dramatically increases the productivity, the benefit of those robots. So again, I don’t think this argument’s really argued anymore, but 10 years ago, people were arguing humans or robots, but in the last few years, I think everybody at not everybody. But most people agree. It’s humans and robots. This is a, can be a wonderful partnership.
Ingenuity helicopter will be a wonderful, uh, test for that. Of course. Another important one for human sustainability for humans on Mars will be the MOXIE mission. And the first ISRU test and see to resource utilization. And it’s going to pull in the CO2 Martian atmosphere and create oxygen hopefully, and well, and that, that really, that even more so than the helicopter, we want to have sustainability on Mars.
If you know all of these dreams and they’re talking about long-term settlements or whatever, have long-term presence on Mars. You can’t have that. If we have to ship everything from earth, imagine if European explorers came to the Americas and had to bring everything from Europe, he had no concern still that we would not be able, there would be no possibility.
Uh, long-term habitation. Same thing with Mars. Yeah, we can sustain as we will the first few missions with supplies from earth, but the fattest year, we can actually figure out if we can live off the land, use the atmosphere. Three oxygen, but even better access to water on Mars and obviously use it for water, but also use it for oxygen and fuel and other things I, that that is will be, yeah, that will be the biggest test.
For sustainability on Mars and so on, uh, MOXIE, which could actually start his testing within the next month. I, you know, I don’t know that for sure, but I’ve heard, I’ve heard tell from people who know, this, uh, it could be within the next month. So that could be really one of the most important experiments we’ve ever conducted on another planet.
So hopefully it’s successful and hopefully successful on the first try. That would be awesome. Yeah. And of course the big one already in progress, searching for life on Mars. Now Perseverance is searching for past life, but even, even finding evidence of past microbial life would be a pretty big discovery.
What are the biggest discoveries in the history of humanity? So, so, uh, maintaining that human presence on Mars and using resources that are closer and don’t have to go back to earth all the time is having the moon as a way station. Is it having infrastructure orbiting and more accessible Lagrange points?
What do you think? It all depends how it’s done. We have always been … Explore Mars, has never been opposed to going to the moon. We’ve always been cautious about going to the moon. We’ve been working with the lunar community right now. Actually we have been for the last two years, actually, really more than that.
Yeah, finding the right balance between going through the moon, the surface of the moon and utilizing the resources there, but doing it another way that really feeds forward to Mars and does not delay Mars so it’s finding that balance because we could very well find ourselves in a position where we go to the moon and then we get stuck there for decades.
And we don’t, we don’t have any help with going to Mars, you know, until the second half of the century. We don’t want that to happen. I think if we can move forward aggressively going to the surface of the moon, really? I don’t mean necessarily. Yeah. I think it’s everybody assumes we’re not going to be there by 2024 anymore, but if we can still keep up the momentum and say, 2026, 2027, we get back to some really ambitious human space flight and then real, and use this in a way that is sustainable and has direct relevance to Mars.
This can keep, you know, this can really build a momentum for really getting us to Mars in the 2030s in a way that’s beneficial. And it does not hinder going to Mars, but the really, this is the trick and we have to keep our eye on the ball because if we don’t really keep the pressure up, this could very well turn into a moon-only project.
Kind of like when George W. Bush announced moon, Mars and beyond we’ll over time, it turned into moon. Yeah. Maybe Mars sometime. Yeah, yeah. Beyond sometime beyond that. And so I don’t think many people want to emulate that, so, but it’s still gonna take a lot of effort. Sure. Yeah. I mean, if you get into that mining and invest everything in that I could see, it could be distracting for me.
Well, uh, for instance, example, there were a lot of people say, Oh, we can’t go to Mars and drill. We can mine the water on the moon and create fuel depots on the moon. Well, no, no, no. I think I’m all for actually creating, you know, having the private sector, mine water on the moon and creating fuel depots if that becomes viable and economically viable.
That’s a big question as well, but we cannot hinge the first mission to Mars on that because we don’t need it. We can go there. I mean, I think the moon can play a vital role. But it’s not required for going to Mars. I think, I think it can be a great benefit, but I think there’s also, and I, I’m going to be perfectly open about this.
One of the biggest benefits I think, is creating unity within the space community and You know, bringing the different sides together and finding, you know, making sure we agree on our overlapping requirements, agendas and finding the most efficient way to move forward, you know, by going to the moon and onto Mars.
So we can both achieve the goals we’ve been going for the last several decades. And I think that’s possible. I think we’ve had some very good luck, uh, very good success, you know, talking with a lot of different people within the space community and the lunar community and finding a lot of overlap.
Well, that’s true. And, and I, and I think advancements on the moon would, you know, beyond just unity, we would also mean advancements in outer space in general. And, uh, but the moon is so much closer to earth. So it is kind of like, how much is that going to benefit? Right. You know, I mean, you still need to get those resources much further out there.
So that’s why I was kind of wondering about that, you know, O’Neilian kind of concept of waystations orbiting at Lagrange points, you know, closer to Mars and, you know, that would provide services. Yeah. I don’t think, you know, the people who say we should have the Mars vehicles launch from the lunar surface.
Yeah. I don’t buy that at all. I think that’s an completely unnecessary and not beneficial step, but all of these programs like Gateway and other things there’s debate all over the place on this is essential. This is not essential. I think for all of these programs, it really depends on how we use it, how we leverage it, what they turn into.
I think we’ve been very clear. We’re certainly not for having a space station, but around the moon, you know, really has to be focused and really has to keep from once again, keep our eye on the ball. How can this be kept to learn and really be used as a vehicle that truly can build partnerships for the surface of the moon.
But also really test out Mars transit vehicle technologies and things that we really need to perfect. Before we vote a crew and a transit vehicle on the way tomorrow. So if we can really use it in that way, then that’s where I think it can play a really important role. You know, you were talking about the latency of using robots, being that it’s a harsh environment to humans.
What do you think about the feasibility of using robots to build accommodations on Mars prior to the arrival of humans? I I’m skeptical at least right now, eventually, maybe as they, as things. Perfect. But I think it’s more likely that we will have pre-positioning where we’ll launch the return vehicle launch, like habitat in advance of sending the people.
And that’s been talked about for decades, Zubrin and of course, uh, proposed that in the mid-90s, with The Case for Mars, he didn’t invent the concept, he refined it, but it’s been a key part of most of the mission architecture concepts since then at least the ones that NASA has been working on. And so I think that’s the most likely way we’re going to do things for the initial missions.
But once again, if they can build up infrastructure on Mars, I think if they can create that these automated systems to build structures, That’ll be great. And I think the more we can develop these things with Mars and mind, you know, develop innovations under the, with the lens of Mars, the more we’re going to also create these innovations, that could be extremely beneficial here on earth.
And this is one of the most exciting things. From my perspective, you know, there are a huge number of innovations required for sustainability on Mars or anywhere else in the solar system that are not the big rock. It’s the big crew vehicles, but these things like well eating, he had manufacturing food.
Breathing environmental systems, deep space communications, artificial intelligence, uh, manufacturing goes on and on and on. Not all of them are going to cost billions of dollars or even hundreds of millions of dollars to get into areas where smaller businesses can make a real contribution. And these innovations might be able to benefit earth.
But also might actually create markets because, well, uh, even, I don’t even think Elon Musk thinks he’s going to make a profit. If he’s able to launch his own mission to Mars, or at least anytime soon, however, that’s paying for the whole mission. There, all the sub parts that are required that could have dramatic benefits here on earth, but also could create markets as well, because they are small much smaller chunks and they have direct relevance to work as well.
That’s amazing. We’re actually going to be doing, uh, starting a whole series. Um, we haven’t officially announced it yet, but, um, I’ve mentioned in a few programs. So, uh, the Mars Innovation forum we’re going to be doing in may a virtual program, looking at all these different innovations. So you’ll, we’ll be officially announcing that soon, but you know, it’s going to be a long-term program.
We’re doing first with a top level one and deep dives into different areas. So the, your next, uh, Humans to Mars summit will be in May, um, vaccines actually, now that the Mars Innovation forum is in may where the week that we usually do H2M, so we will be pushing H2M the Humans to Mars summit. Until, um, September again, as we did last year, and it’s still unclear how much of an, you know, in person component, we’re planning on most of it still being virtual, but we’re probably gonna have some onsite components.
We just haven’t figured out what those will be yet. Still gonna play it by ear. And so hopefully we’ll at least be able to have some public lectures and a reception or something, you know, or even a track. Well, we certainly knock in a plan, the usual big event, you know, and commit to large facilities when we’re just not sure what we’re able to get to be able to do, because even if everybody is vaccinated by the end of July, it’s going to take a while for the world to get back to normal for companies to get back into their normal mode of business travel, et cetera.
We are, of course we are blocking in our dates for 2022 in May for Humans to Mars summit as quickly as possible though, back in Washington, DC. That’s great. And, uh, what are some great moments from past summits that stand out in your memory and why? Oh, there were a lot of them, a number of years back, you know, Lockheed announced their Mars base camp at Humans to Mars 2017.
Yeah. UAE gave a lot of new details on their programs for their Hope orbiter, which is now around Mars. A lot of the STEM activities we’ve been doing, you know, what other things we’ve had such great speakers. Of course, we usually have the NASA administrator or at least a deputy administrator and we’ve always had good timing on that as well. Last several years, it’s been perfectly time when there are new dis new announcements out. And it just really is though we had had like, for knowledge of this in the past. So, you know, I think some of the things I liked the most, most are when we going back to those innovations, when we have been able to bring in non-traditional players within the Mars community.
You know, of course we rely and we depend, and we are good friends with the big industry players, you know, Lockheed, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northern Grumman, Spacex, et cetera.
But we like to try to reach out and what we’re going to do with the Mars Innovation Forum as well. Beyond, you know, so it’s the companies that are not your traditional aerospace companies, companies working on AI, like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google companies working on food production, whether it be agriculture or lab grown meat.
So at H2M a couple of years ago, we had Finless foods which create lab grown fish. And that got very good at it. So it has the same texture and it’s almost identical to high quality fish now. So it’s an interesting, these, all these interesting technologies. And when you can look at them once again through this lens, it’s great to see what that Mars lens can do to help motivate some of these technologies.
But for us, it’s very exciting because. Really broadens the base of support. It shows this is not just a bunch of rocket companies that are interested in this. You know, when you have all these interesting companies around the world, investing in space, you know, slightly not, not completely related to Mars.
Well, it is related to Mars actually from good example, this wasn’t at H2M, but a great example. Is for instance Anheuser-Busch, you know, anything, what would Anheuser Busch have an interested? Why would they have an interest in space? Well, in 2017 they announced it South by Southwest. They wanted to be the first beer manufacturer on Mars.
Then they invested in four barley experiments up on the ISS. So I believe there is still a Barley experiment, you know, up on ISS National Labs. Um, Anheuser-Busch sent it up there and that’s great. Of course. On one side. It’s great. If you ever want to have a beer or whiskey manufactured in space, but beyond that, this is a direct investment in agriculture.
One of the required capabilities. If he wants to say inability in space, when you can reach out beyond the usual suspects and whether it be an industry or bringing in the Hollywood community as well. It’s always a lot of fun near a show. There are so many people who are inspired and interested that we need to utilize them all and keep expanding, expanding this network of people.
That’s perfect. Cause you know, barley is pretty much what’s, you know, sustained and grew the human population on earth. So why not start that way on Mars? Right? Absolutely. And so that’s, once again, it’s one of these things where there are so many, you know, you have that marketed purpose, but then that goes well beyond that, because this is just direct investment in a technology we need.
That’s a perfect segue. As I mentioned in the intro a little over a year ago, your book entitled Alcohol in Space: Past Present, and Future was published. Um, outside my duties at Space Foundation, I’m also a part-time professional brewer, uh, locally here. Uh, so I really need to pick this book up, but, uh, what made you decide to write it?
Well, it’s interesting. I’d been, you know, you may, you probably had these discussions also over the years, it wasn’t the space community after a conference or something, you go to a bar, you know, uh, I know it’s shocking, but you know, and sometimes after a few drinks, you get a little silly. And so many times I started getting brainstorming with people.
What would, if you could manufacture wine on Mars? What would it taste like? Would it tastes like, you know, would you have that terroir, you know, absorbing some of the tastes of the soil, would it tastes rusty or salty? And, you know, over time I started thinking this would be kind of a fun lighthearted article, you know, brainstorm with some of the people in the space, community, real people that have actually expertise in agriculture and biology and other things.
But it originally started off as just a small article, but over time I started looking more and more and found out they were literally dozens of companies you know trying to figure out if they can manufacture alcohol in space or consume alcohol in space or air or working on different products here on earth with simulated Mars or lunar soil.
So there were, there were literally dozens of them, including, you know, big companies like Anheuser-Busch that I mentioned or other, another big company, a Suntory Japanese whiskey maker who still has a whiskey aging experiment up on ISS. They had one of them come back down to earth, which they’ve been very close-lipped about.
Um, but they still have one up there and then they weren’t the first one of course Ardbeg was the first whiskey aging experiment launched in 2011, came back in 2014. But you know, even recently there were 12 bottles of Bordeaux sent up in a wine aging experiment and just came back down. But you have companies like Maison Mumm, champagne producer who worked for producing a champagne, a bottle and a glass.
That you could consume use in microgravity because, uh, well, as you know, I’m sure of course it’s hard to drink out of a glass and micro gravity because there’s no gravity. And so they created a glass that the champagne would adhere to inside, so they could consume their product with complete quote conviviality.
Like you would here on earth. And so that was really interesting and they even tested it on the European version of the vomit comment, the zero G flight, but the European version. And are there other companies have been looking at that, whether it be how to deal with carbonation and space, which that’s a problem as well.
But also glassware in space. I have actually a, a, a one second. I had a, a model right here. You can’t see it because you can, but since it’s not, you know, a micro gravity cocktail glass. Wow. Yeah. And so a company was working on this you know, because in microgravity, The fluids will adhere to a surface, but you need something that channels that.
So they put these channels and they fill it from the bottom. And so you can, this kind of looks like a gourd, but they have many different designs, but you’d be able to sip your drink, like a normal drink in space. So, yeah. Yeah, just looking at all these groups, working on it. And many of them, um, big companies, some of them small, some of them a little crazier than others.
True. But it was a, it was a lot of companies and groups, but then you had this interesting history of drinking and space as well. Despite the fact that alcohol is officially prohibited in space. There has been quite a bit of drinking in space, but not as popular belief would dictate that it was to access.
I’ve never found any evidence of anybody getting inebriated in space. It doesn’t mean people haven’t, but nobody told me that story. It’s just mostly little shots of cognac. You know, for special occasions, when there’s a new crew on ISS, everybody will get together and it’s like a bonding experience, a diplomatic tool.
So I think it has value within reason. And then of course there are great stories are mere before that, of course, but you know, there have been even the first, uh, there was even alcohol consumed on the first mission to the surface of the moon. You may have heard this story of, Buzz Aldrin having a communion, having wine as part of a communion ceremony on the surface of the moon.
So it’s an interesting story. And then of course, in the book, I look at the history of alcohol throughout civilization, how it’s played at impact in agricultural technology and civilization in general, as well as how it’s been depicted in science fiction, as well as enabling technologies like agriculture.
So try to cover all those areas. Oh, that’s great. Well, and you may have covered this in the book, but last summer I talked to Jason Held from Saber Astronautics and several years ago back, they partnered with an Australian brewery to create Vostok, uh, yeah. With 4 Pines brewery. Yeah. Yeah. And to make it drinkable and zero G you know, both.
Make it more tummy friendly as you know, so it’s not coming back up and then, like a friendly carbonation level there. And then also to create a container to, um, I’m curious, do you know anything about, you know, as far as the prospect of making alcohol and space. Uh, yeast and fermentation behavior. I was just curious about that.
Cause you have top fermenting yeasts. You have bottom fermenting yeasts. I wasn’t sure if like zero gravity would affect how those behave they were all. And there’s been limited, limited experimentation, you know, on, um, fermentation. There has been some, but it’s been still limited. And so I don’t see any reason why not, but as you said, gravity plays a big role.
And fermentation, you know, where frankly, where does the CO2 goes? It’s kind of like carbonated beverages. There’s a, you know, as you mentioned, you know, the problem with carbonated beverages in space, as you were alluding to like on, in one-G. The gas, as everybody knows with a beer or soft drink, the gas bubbles, go up to the top and disperses into the atmosphere.
And in micro gravity, it doesn’t do that all balls in the center and start to expand outward like that. Meaning I’m saying like that, but your people are only going to hear my voice, but basically it says an expanding circle and it does that in your stomach. And so astronauts have reported stomach cramps and wet burbs when they’ve consumed carbonated beverages.
Which isn’t what beverage producers would want in their products. So that’s why Jason and his team, you know, partnership tried to create, find the balance between taste and carbonation. And the taste is a big issue also because in microgravity, most astronauts report at diminished sense of taste, almost like they have a head cold.
So they, you know, a hot spicy foods are very popular in space. And so when they were developing their beer, they went for a Stout, but also tried to find how low could they have the carbonation level, where it still tasted like a real beer, but didn’t taste like essentially beer-tasting tea. And so when I’ve spoken to a British audience, they often say, well, you should use British beer because you know, it’s Stout and has a lower carbon nation level.
And it may be that British beer is the best. You’re good for space. Huh. Interesting. So, um, switching gears a bit here, uh, with the ups and downs of changing policy directives that typically come between presidencies, does it come as some relief, at least so far that, uh, the Biden administration has signaled that they’d like to continue the Artemis program.
Um, albeit with a adjusted target date. Yeah, no, I absolutely. So far, of course, there’s still a lot of mysteries out there, but you know, certainly happy so far with at least the signs in there, out there. Um, you know, they have indicated they support the Artemis program. They, of course there’ve been other statement, um, Biden speaking to the Perseverance crew.
So there’ve been a number already of indications of their support. And so the big question will be, how is this aligned? What’s the cadence of the missions? Are we, if we’re going back to the moon, it looks like we’re still going back to the moon. So, but when I know everybody agrees, it’s not going to be 2024.
That’s fine. I don’t think, I don’t think most people believe we were doing it even before. And so. However, most of the mission architecture people, even during the previous administration thought, you know, we might be able to get in a bare bones to get back to the moon by 2024, but it would be very minimal and it would have almost no relevance for going on to Mars would be no sustainability.
It would be flags and footprints, but you more of a statement than a practical a long-term program. But the most people agreed. 2026, 2027, you know, it was perfectly feasible and they can do that in a way that will really have relevance for moving forward and create sustainability. So I hope the Biden administration will, you know, with their support of the Artemis program.
Still keep it ambitious, you know, maybe not 2024, but really aim for that 2026, 2027 timeframe for the moon and still keep their eyes for getting to Mars. And I mean, to the surface of Mars by the mid 2030s, You know, if we have something like a, an orbiting mission or a fly by in the meantime yeah. Test out systems.
That’s fine. But you know, those also can’t be used in an excuse not to go to the surface, you know, say, Oh, we went to Mars and get out where we just fly, you know, orbited or something like that. That’s not good enough. And so we can’t use that as an excuse, not to go to the surface of Mars. So. If we can really put together a cadence, you know, land on the moon by 2026, 2027.
You know, if we’re going to do orbital or fly by do something like somewhere between 2030 and 2033. And, uh, if we can’t land on Mars in that time period, try to get to Mars. In that 2035 time period or sooner, you know, if you’re talking to Elon, of course, he says he can get there sooner if he can. That is terrific, but we don’t take courses on this.
We hope everybody succeeds. And you know, I think having more players at this is a good thing. If we have redundancy and if there’s a setback with one. Yeah, we still have the other. And so I, I’m not, I don’t buy into this. Oh, we need to drop this for that. Or drop that for this hell. I’m I’m for all of it.
Everything seems to be moving forward. Now none of it’s moving as fast as any of us want, but we are still making progress forward. So that’s great. So I’ve mentioned your political involvement earlier. What are some of the particularly memorable political efforts that you’ve taken part in personally?
Yeah, that’s a hard one. There’ve been a lot of them who have gone up down a lot of talking on the Hill with various groups, with explore Mars with, you know, other groups that we partner with, like Space Exploration Alliance, where we do this annual blitz with them. Uh, of course, you know, testified in front of Congress and that’s always been, you know, a lot of fun, hopefully effective, but I think, I think I’m going to talk about it more in the top-level angle, rather than a single meeting or a single event.
Yeah, no, it’s when you can actually see direct evidence of what you’ve been advocating or almost verbatim from talking points that you were handed off. And we’ve seen this a number of times where it’s, you know, whereas you almost see, you know, members of Congress. Practically reading off what you had sent them before in statements, or if you see that reflected in a bill or for instance, in the 2017 Mars Transition Authorization Act, you know, explore the Humans to Mars report, which Explore Mars produces was referred to it in it.
And we were the only non-profit that was mentioned by name in that very important piece of legislation. So. I think that’s the most important and the most satisfying thing, even more than the high profile things like occasionally, you know, testifying. Yeah. That, that has that’s high-profile but how much impact it had?
I don’t have a clue, but there are other things I can point directly to the impact. Cause you can see it or when it was pointed to right there, or, uh, when members of Congress referred to your programs or things that you’re doing. That’s a good thing. And, or like, for instance, similar, um, back in, you know, once again, this was previous administration, of course, because it’s only been a couple of months, a floor of the current administration, but back at like the space council meeting in August 2019, you know, the administrator calling out, explore Mars as well as Clive Neil from the lunar community for, you know, on our partnership with the lunar community on the Mars community, partnering.
Finally to get things done, you know, getting acknowledgement. He was sitting next to the Vice President at the time. So things like that are satisfying when you can see that these efforts have actually at least been noticed. Yeah. Get that validation for sure. I think, I think all of us, I mean, you know, when a lot of organization play a big role in this, obviously the Space Foundation and other groups like Planetary Society and all the different industry groups play a significant role in this.
You had mentioned Elon there and the SpaceX Starship 10 or the SN 10 test landed, uh, successfully last week. Um, it did blow up shortly thereafter, but it’s progress. Uh, what are your thoughts on that? Uh, thus far with their Mars efforts. And are you encouraged about it? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, absolutely.
Yeah. And I think that, you know, they’ve been making some wonderful progress, have a long way to go, but I think it’s wonderful to see this as great than so much in the public as well. And this is the great thing about the model that SpaceX is able to follow because they were allowed to blow stuff up.
And, you know, I think most of the other space community would love to be able to do that. But created this wonderful model and also been able to market when things blow up as well, which is really great that using that as part of the entertainment value. So, you know, still remains a question of how quickly this thing can be utilized for getting to Mars or how quickly it can get to orbit.
I know on earlier interviews, even when we had Elon Musk at our conference, virtually back in August, he had mentioned that he hoped that they’d be able to. Get Starship to orbit is early as this year and saying that we probably will blow up a few times first. So I don’t know if it’ll happen or not, but I think the fact that they’re able to turn around so quickly, you know, was wonderful, but, you know, with everything else going on, that’s the exciting part.
And you know, a lot of press goes to SpaceX as it should, but, you know, Blue Origin is moving forward. They have a little bit of a setback with the New Glenn, but. You know, and hopefully Artemis one will go off this year as well by the end of the year. So it could be, this could be already as an exciting year, but this could be a, one of the most, uh, eventful and important years in space history.
That’s great. Yeah, no. And what what gets people’s attention like explosions? Right? My nine year old is fascinated with it. Huh? Yeah. Yeah. Darn it. Didn’t blow up. No better luck next time. Right. Um, so in past op-eds, you’ve stated that the US-based program is less than one half of 1% of the federal budget, and that the efforts specific to Mars are only a small portion of that.
Is that still the case? Pretty much. Yeah. We’ve gotten NASA has gotten some increases over the last few years, but it’s still roughly in the same area. I don’t remember exactly if it’s where it’s standing right now, but it’s not far off that regardless. It’s a very, very tiny percentage. And this is where there’s been.
The big problem. It’s perception. You know, a lot of the people argue against spending. The space program are doing it under this assumption that it’s like rivaling the military in funding. Or if you ask them what percentage of the Federal budget does it take? They’ll often say five, 10% as high as 20%. And you know, it’s not even close to that.
Have answers that are like 10, 20, 30 times what it gets. And so, you know, or the people who say, Oh, we should solve some of the problems with the world, which I think canceling NASA would be counterproductive to that obviously. But, you know, I think once again, they think it’s a much larger percentage. Like its entitlements are NASA, whereas is NASA is literally within the drop in a bucket where it’s like 1% or less NASA, like one less than 1%.
Of entitlement. I mean, you know, social entitlement, I know that’s kind of the word entitlement spending is politicized, but you know, the social programs, um, you know, like social security, Medicare, all necessary programs that I support, but. You know, if you were to take NASA’s budget, literally less than 1% of all those programs combined.
And so if anybody were to say to you all, we’re going to say solve all the problems you are going to increase social spending by 1%. I don’t think people would think that would solve all the problems, the world, however, that small half of a percent of the Federal budget. Has a really big impact on national morale.
Think about excited the world and the country was with Perseverance. Think about all the impact it has on innovation on science. It just, it gives back a lot more far more than we put into it. And we would notice if we ever got rid of the program, even with the private sector, taking over a large portion of efforts, you know, without that driving force, we would certainly notice.
You’ve also said that the cost sided to get humans to Mars have often been inflated sometimes in excess of $1 trillion and that the actual cost would be much more reasonable. What do you think is a more, a realistic figure? It’s always hard getting into numbers, but you know, it’s, you know, I’m not, I’m not going to give you an exact number, but you were right that it’s not even close.
So it truly, we haven’t spent a trillion dollars on NASA, all budget combined, or we might, I should do the calculation again. Soon. Then I’m talking from the numbers were from a few years ago, but I think this still holds that even with adjusted dollars, we haven’t reached a trillion dollars since 1958 till now.
So we’re not going to spend a trillion dollars going to Mars. It won’t cost nearly that much, but even better reason, we wouldn’t spend a trillion dollars going to Mars. It would never be supported, you know? And so I wouldn’t support spending a trillion dollars going to Mars. And so most of the plans are actually can be achieved for not really much more than what NASA is getting.
Now it will require increases and some little spikes here and there when you need like. Key pieces of hardware, but with all these other players out there as well, it’ll be interesting to see if you can find the right hybrid, you know, partnering with the different players, you know, the legacy industry, the newer ones like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and international players.
Can we find that right balance where we can just. No only get it done with, you know, not much of an increase in the budget, but, you know, and I’m not saying, you know, we’ll need increases, but I’m not saying we’re not going to double the budget now, or at least in any given year, but, you know, I think we can certainly do it without not without a large increase in what I’ve said many times in articles and on shows like this.
We’ll probably spend roughly the same amount on NASA over the next 15 to 20 years, whether we go to Mars or not, or we go back to the moon or not, you know, we can either find yourselves 20 years down the line pretty much where we are now saying, well, maybe in the next 15 to 20 years, we’ll be able to go to Mars.
Oh. And having spent all that money or have spent the money and say, We have returned to the moon. We are now walking on Mars. We have now discovered life potentially on another planet. I prefer the latter, you know, having actually spent the money that’s going to be spent either way and spend it efficiently.
And this is where I, you know, sometimes people roll their eyes, but I think it’s. Going back to the moon and onto Mars is fiscally responsible. You know, can you say that if we hinder NASA and don’t let them do great things and we still spend the same amount, that’s an efficient and a, the right way to spend taxpayer funds?
No, I think if we can actually spend the same funds and do something historic, ambitious, inspiring. Yeah. I think that’s a far more efficient, far more responsible way of spending taxpayer dollars. And, uh, for those of us not on Capitol Hill, what’s the best way for an average Joe or Jane to get involved and support the effort to getting humans to Mars.
Oh, there’s so many ways you do not need to be an engineer. You do not need to be a scientist. I’m not an engineer or a scientist. You can just barely join one of these advocacy groups out there. You can write Congress, you can come to a conference. There are so many different ways within the space community.
You don’t have to volunteer to, you know, whether you are a good writer, whether you are an accountant, whether you are an attorney, if you’re have tactical knowledge, not necessarily space space is going to require all these things. I remember at a, what was, it may have been at the NSTA National Science Teachers Association conference, you know, and his teacher went by when they saw my sign Mars.
Oh, I don’t qualify. It’s not something. Cause I do it. I’m a biology teacher. Well, you have direct relevance because one of the biggest questions we’re trying to answer is there life on Mars? How does it relate to Mars, you know, life on earth, and that can directly relate to what you’re teaching in class without changing your curriculum at all, showing what you’re teaching the class in a way that, you know, how can this be used on Mars?
So there are so many different areas where, as I was mentioning, even with the Innovation Forum, That you don’t have to be an engineer or scientist, or, you know, traditional part of the aerospace community. You can be any number of different disciplines or have talents that can be of use, or even in the arts community.
We’ve been talking to composers and artists trying to disseminate this passion to music and art. It just, yeah, it just goes on and on. I think that’s all the questions I had. Thanks again, for taking the time to talk with us. We hope that your, uh, upcoming events are a success. And, uh, needless to say, we all look forward to that glorious moment when you’re a mission of getting humans to Mars is fulfilled.
No. Thank you. And that concludes this episode of Space Foundation’s Space4U podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast and leave us a review on Podbean, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and Spotify. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And of course our website spacefoundation.org.
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