CSP: The Solar System Part 2 – Timestamps
00:00 – Hello and welcome
01:42 – Factoids
15:03 – Apollo 11 mission
19:05 – SpaceX
34:08 – The future of NASA
45:10 – Living on Mars
50:07 – What if we met aliens?
55:24 – Our messages to space
57:22 – Femto-photography
59:18 – Ending and Outro
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Join Tom and Mitch in part 2 of their adventures in the solar system! Remembering the Apollo 11 missions this episode takes a look at the state of space travel within our solar system past, present and future. From the tech that was brought about due to the Apollo missions to NASA 3D printing a base on the moon, check it out! Music by: Joakim Karud – https://soundcloud.com/joakimkarud.
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Tom: Hello Ladies and gentlemen and welcome to The Conduct Science Podcast. Last week we were getting down with gravity and we have been captured by its grasp and we are still here this week. If you want to check out all the latest goings on, you can go to conduct science.com you can find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching @conductscience. And if you have any questions you want to get in touch, suggest a guest, anything like that, please use the #conductscience. I am your host, Tom Jenks and this week Brian Cox is still ignoring my emails after my impression last week, I fear that may be the only response I’ll get, so here again is Mitchel Gatting
Mitch: Hello there.
Tom: And today’s topic is the solar system… part 2. The solar system revisited.
Mitch: Yeah, still still flying around in space.
Tom: Well it works out quite well because since it is the 50th anniversary, almost exactly of the Moon landings, uh, I think it’s quite appropriate. We do a two part episode to the solar system, which was we completely neglected to mention last week.
Mitch: Yes, yes we did. But it was convenient because it was between the two episodes. So it gave us a good bridge.
Tom: Exactly. And I was so inspired, I made the new intro, which I think I’m going to keep for every episode space or not. [Laughter]. So as usual I’ve made some or got some factoids for, for everyone. So the first one, do you need, you know the vehicle assembly building at Cape Canaveral? It’s like the massive building they have near the launch pads.
Tom: It’s so massive that on humid days clouds would form inside it and it would rain inside.
Mitch: I didn’t know that. That’s, that’s pretty cool. Yeah, that’s a good fact.
Tom: It’s the single largest one storey building in the world. Um, and they just have to keep like the humidification, what’s it called? Air Conditioning on dehumidifiers. Suck all the humidity out so it doesn’t rain in there. Cause it mess everything up.
Mitch: Yeah. It would ruin all the electrical instruments.
Tom: Yeah. My next one is, so we were talking last week about how cool it would be to go into space and how quickly it might get boring and then I read this fact and it kind of was like, okay, I think it could get boring very quickly because when you’re in space, the fluid around your body isn’t being dragged to your feet by gravity anymore. So it kind of like spreads out evenly throughout your body and some more fluid ends up in your head than normal and it makes it feel like you have a permanently blocked nose. Like you have a massive cold permanently and it makes it really hard to taste a food. So I think that would be like a massive downside.
Mitch: Yeah. Well that’s the same, the same principal but they have the like if you were in an airplane. Because of the pressurization you can’t taste as well. That’s why they have to make it like a bit more tasty, if that makes sense. Even though a lot of people would say that, you know, plain food tastes terrible, but this is one of the factors of it is because you can’t taste as well in an airplane.
Tom: That’s true. And a quick extra tangent factoid for those of you who are getting on a plane, it thins your blood out, right? Going up in the air so high that it takes a lot less alcohol to get drunk. So if you want to get a an easy drunk that wasn’t English, you want to get drunk easily go in a plane.
Mitch: Just a cheap flight and a lot cheaper than just getting more alcohol. Apparently.
Tom: Well you know, flights that these days aren’t that expensive.
Mitch: Well have you got any more facts for us?
Tom: I have one last one. So we have been emitting radio waves since the 1920s and so the sphere around Earth, they go out into space and they just kind of keep going. So the sphere of these radio waves around our planet is about 200 light years across. So technically if there were any aliens in that 200 light year spherethey would be able to pick up our radio signals or you know, there’s other people out there, they would be able to pick them up. Or if we went 200 light years away, we’d hear the first day of the radio signals as they were.
Mitch: Yeah. ut if they, the people through that had a telescope on the either end. Were viewing Earth, wouldn’t it be dead by the time they’re looking at it?
Tom: What? Because if you look further away, listen to the past, right?
Mitch: Yeah. So if they, if they had a telescope and they could reach that entire distance, it would like earth may not actually be there anymore.
Tom: Why not?
Mitch: Well, if like if it’s that distance away, surely that has enough time for the, uh, the sun to burn out
Tom: Well 200 light years away.
Mitch: Is that enough time?
Tom: No, so 200 light years is the distance that light can travel in 200 years. Right. So if you are at the end of that 200 light years distance and you were looking at Earth through a telescope, you would see how it was 200 years in the past. Right?
Mitch: No in the future
Tom: No, in the past because you can’t see something that light travels and you see what that light was emitting.
Mitch: Ah mate, yeah that, that I just had a mental blockade there. Yeah. Yeah. They see into the future. If only that was that simple.
Tom: That’s actually what we see when we’re looking into telescopes is we see the future of the universe unfolding.
Mitch: Yeah, no, that was me. Yeah, so what, what I mean is if they were further enough away and the rip, the radios were far enough away, they could get their telescopes out being like, oh cool, that’s earth. Let’s go visit it. And by the time they get here, we could be gone because they’re viewing us in the past.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That definitely.
Mitch: That’s what I meant. [Laughter].
Tom: There’s probably like planets you can be on and look at Earth now and see the dinosaurs like the Earth when the dinosaurs are on it. You’d have to have a pretty sick telescope to be able to see the dinosaurs mind the. Did you have any factoids?
Mitch: I do. I, all my facts. Well, most of my facts, uh, on this week’s episode, are Apollo 11 related.
Tom: Tardigrades. [Laughter].
Mitch: I thought, no, not tardigrades again, Apollo 11 related as that seemed like a good theme.
Tom: Yeah, no, that’s good.
Mitch: So if you didn’t know, in today’s values, the Apollo 11 whole sort of the mission itself, including all the external bits and pieces that went together would have cost $152 billion.
Tom: Yeah, that’s a lot.
Mitch: It’s a lot of money. A lot of money going in towards it.
Tom: And something I thought about and a lot of people kind of complain about is like, oh, they should be spending that money on, you know, earth based things and helping everyone here. But I think what these people don’t realize is the money they’re spending on the rockets goes straight back into the economy.
Mitch: Yeah. I’ll, this is something more, my facks is directly to uh, this sort of economical surrounding with a what promoted. So if you didn’t know the brand velcro, which everybody knows from like shoes.
Tom: That’s a brand?!
Mitch: Yes. The velcro is what it is. It was a company. It’s a brand.
Tom: I thought it was just called Velcro. Didn’t think it was a brand.
Mitch: No it’s like the Pritt stick isn’t actually called Pritt Stick it’s like a glue stick but everybody calls it Pritt Stick. Can’t remember what one of those what it’s called. But yeah, so like Velcro is actually like the brand name. So Velcro didn’t exist until Apollo 11 and it was specifically created to hold down all the, like the mission critical things going into space. And I think it was 3,300 square inches combined surface area in the the Apollo spacecraft. Was covered in um, Volcker fasteners.
Tom: Wow. I got to just like, imagine, you know when people have this like velcro suits on an a velcro wall and they run up and jump on it and try and get stuck on the wall. You ever seen that? What if that happened in space in zero gravity, you wouldn’t be able to get off.
Mitch: Yeah. So they also created, like a special version of their velcro, which was a metallic version that was built to secure the heat shields to the spacecraft. So literally it was only velcro holding on the outside, um, heat shields for when a company, when the reentered Earth’s obit
Tom: But it’s quite progressive actually. Um, innovations of the time. Velcro.
Mitch: Yeah. So a few other things. Uh, this is more to do with like the established brands and built brands. Um, there’s all like the facts, so everyone knows Black and Decker if you don’t, they a power tools company. So they made a lot of the sort of machinery to help build, I think it was the Apollo 11 spacecraft and help along the mission. But what they did is after they helped, they used a lot of the experience in technologies. They learned building that to help build and sort of develop the handheld batteries. Battery held products. So without Apollo 11, we wouldn’t have had velcro and handheld battery operated machinery tools. And I was like, okay, this didn’t realize these things. Another one that wasn’t isn’t as significant. But the brands think things like Playtronics you ever heard them? They, they created the headsets for the mission. But what they went on to do is then they use those headsets as the basis for their product design for like aviation and gaming headsets. So if you have a playtronics gaming headset, you’ll know that that design was based on the original Apollo 11 headset.
Tom: I think I’m going to go out and buy one of those specifically for that knowledge.
Mitch: Yeah. Uh, my final, final factoid, um, so this has to do with the way that they sort of, um, developed the projecting if that makes sense. Is how they developed like had the running of the project over time because there was so many small different departments before that like it seems very obvious to us now that are a lot of business models have different departments who have different leads that then feed up. Like you have a line manager, then line manage has a department manager and that leads up before the Apollo 11 projects. It’s not really how it works. You would have had like a line boss and then that like there would be the head, so the Apollo 11 mission well not the mission itself, but the preparing for the mission when they had to break all the different components of the spacecraft into different departments that created the, like the segregated departments with the heads of the departments and they found like this was this like um, well the usual thing that you see day to day in businesses was like the most productive version of it. So they created that business type and like the way runs and like Boeing saw this and then took it forward to their business and then i think it branched out from there.
Tom: That’s pretty cool. They brought in this hierarchical structure that we see nowadays. That’s pretty sick.. I think you find a lot of things. They always say, oh, we wouldn’t have this without space travel wouldn’t have this without space travel. And I think that’s another reason why it’s so valuable is because and why we should keep investing in it because they are getting, you know, they are the forefront of creating new technology that we need to go into places that we haven’t or cannot go at the minute. And the applications back here or the backward applications for that are insane. It’s like they basically pioneered the way towards mobile phones that are now more powerful than the whole Apollo 11 rocket was.
Mitch: Yeah. That’s one of the other brands I didn’t mention, but they probably will phones, I think it’s quite sad is that the main manufacturer for the array that helped keep in contact with the shuttle as it was going up was Motorola. Day’s gone. Motorola is not the company it used to be.
Tom: No it’s not. That’s pretty, it’s pretty interesting actually. They’re under Google now, right?
Mitch: Uh, I think so. Yeah. But I think your point only stands if it’s a, if it’s a race. So if you’re just developing for space travel, you won’t get that much innovation. But if there is a space race going on, like what happened with Apollo 11 cause it was a sort of race between the USA and the Russians. They had to develop these things so fast. There was so much pressure and so much was invested in it that they then got all these innovations without race itself, you’d get the, it wouldn’t have been, they wouldn’t have been as many innovations or like reverse economic, um, benefits.
Tom: Maybe not in the same time span because they were under pressure to come up with the technology. So the innovations came quickly. But I think the same amount of innovations would come in just maybe over a longer time span, if that makes sense. Because they’re not rushing it. They’re developing it properly I think you’d still, I understand what you mean I think.
Mitch: Yeah, with the race you get a more volatile or creative environment so you’re more likely to come up with these off the wall kind of different ideas. Like I imagine the meeting where some guy walked in and went right lads, we’ve got our, you see these two pieces of material. Yeah. You put them together and they stick. And everyone was like, oh my God, this is amazing. What a, what is this? He’s like, call it velcro.
Tom: Give that man a raise! Yeah. That makes sense. But that even the stuff that they’re looking at now with wiring and chips and artificial intelligence will translate. Maybe not immediately, but it will translate over into everyday life at some point I think.
Mitch: Yeah. But I, I would say that’s less like developed for space. That’s more Google, Microsoft developing it for their advertisement, advertisement algorithms, and then it’s coming back from that. If there was a space race, I think we’d see a lot more development quicker, which hopefully
Tom: I hope we get a space race, but it’s going to be more commercial, not commercial, private.
Mitch: Yeah. So, well, any commercial spaceX is commercial, that’s not private.
Tom: Well, private as in Elon Musk owns it rather than a governmental agency. NASA, I meant.
Mitch: It depends if it’s a private or a public on the, if it’s like it isn’t it? If it’s, depends if it’s on the stock market, it’s private. If you can buy stocks in it or not.
Tom: Oh okay, well the stock market aside…
Mitch: I see what you mean, you mean government versus private business. Okay. Yeah.
Tom: Before we head on to that, I just want to mention it to a bit more about the moon landings quickly cause I think it’s very interesting since we are 50 years on. Exactly. We can just spend a second on that. Uh, so obviously everyone knows it was commander Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was the lunar module pilot and Michael Collins, who I think a lot of people forget.
Mitch: I was going to say that as one of the things on my notes is like: and everybody forgets Michael Collins.
Tom: He was the command module pilot and he actually stayed up orbiting the moon whilst the other two were.
Mitch: Yeah. I think that’s why everyone like just doesn’t view them as much.
Tom: Yeah. He was there for six days alone. Poor man.
Mitch: Poor man. With a block nose.
Tom: With a constantly bloggers. That would be awful. It’s like, oh, where’s play hayfever tablets. They were. So they went up on at the Saturn V rocket, which is one of the largest rockets ever built. The Falcon heavy SpaceX’s was the most powerful. Um, but I think the Apollo, the Saturn V was the most powerful in terms of the specific thrusters it was using. So it still claims that kind of record. It was a nine year project. And do you know how many scientists and engineers it was?
Mitch: It was many. It was like, I want to say like 40,000,
Mitch: Yeah. Yeah.
Tom: Scientists, engineers, you don’t think about how many and that’s from around the world. That’s not just American. That is people making the suits. Doing the wiring. Building stuff, designing thing. 400,000 people were in on that one mission. That’s insane. Um, so the Saturn five rocket is the only rocket of taking people beyond Earth’s orbit a up the two off to moon on did all the Apollo missions. It weighed 3,000 tons, but 2,000 of that was fuel. And everyone kind of has like the, you know, the iconic image of it splitting off into different stages and I didn’t actually know what these stages like were for rather than fuelwise but they actually have very specific like goals. So the first stage go is if it’s like a five rocket booster, it goes from the ground, zero to 38 miles above the earth surface in two and a half minutes. Then it kind of kicks it off. The second stage goes from 38 miles to 114 miles above the earth surface in six minutes. And then the third stage, which is just like the little bit on top, it just takes it from the, they orbited the earth I think one and a half times and then they went off to the Moon from there at 24,500 miles per hour. That’s insame, I mean how did you know you like when they were coming down they nearly run out of fuel? Which I didn’t know.
Mitch: I didn’t, isn’t the different stages to do with the different types of fuel it has?
Tom: I think rocket fuel is mainly just hydrogen oxygen. Right. Um, I’m not sure if they use different ones for different stages or whether it’s just that’s what they use.
Mitch: Yeah. So I think the first stage, what I’m looking at here is, uh, RP-1. Was it? No it’s LOX, which is what you said. And RP-1, which I think is a slightly slower burn, maybe. And then it switches to LOX and LH2, which is, that’s the hydrogen.
Tom: Oh, okay. To like compensate slightly for the different atmospheric stuff I imagine.
Mitch: Yeah. Cause I think at the, at the first stage it has to have higher thrust, and burn slightly longer. But when you’re at the upper stages, the atmosphere, obviously you don’t need as much through.
Tom: Okay. That’s cool.
Mitch: Yeah but, it’s not rocket science, not rocket science. [Sarcastic laugh].
Tom: Okay, So that was just a quick bit about the moon I thought we better, Apollo 11. We better do that since we are 50 years on. And I think it’d be a shame to forget again. But then I think as you were kind of going on to is the future of space travel with SpaceX and all of that. Um, do you have anything on that?
Mitch: I have so much to do with specifically SpaceX as I think it’s probably the only chance that we are going to see of colonization on Mars. Cause I don’t think NASA is going to do it anytime soon.
Tom: Well I’ve been looking into NASA stuff actually and uh, well I’ll come onto that later. But don’t be too skeptical about NASA, I don’t think.
Mitch: Well it like, I know, uh, Elon is trying to start another space race and he’s like doubled down and he hasn’t insulted people, but he’s like trying to
Tom: He hasn’t insulted people in the space industry you mean? [Laughter].
Mitch: Yeah, well, yeah. Okay. He’s insulted people in other industries [Laughter]. But yeah, I think well he probably has insulted some people in space industry, but he is trying to goad people into a space race. Um, and then try to, so yeah, he’s tried to goad people on, but he’s kind of created a pseudo space race within him, his own company. So if you didn’t know, um, SpaceX currently has, is developing two different starship prototypes and like they’re, they’re calling it stem starships because they don’t want them just to be rockets to rock you into space. They want them to be star fairing things that can take you back and forth from go on from there.
Tom: This is where Star Wars begins. I’m so happy.
Mitch: So, yeah. Uh, well you’ll be happy with the timeframe of this as well. There should be, should see if they go to their, I’ll come on to it. I’ll come onto it. I don’t want to spoil the end. So yeah, they’re developing two starship prototypes at two different facilities. One in Texas, and one in Florida. So what they’re doing is they’re independently creating these prototypes and not sharing information. And they’re doing this to spur a sense of like internal competition to see who can do it first. So they’re creating their pseudo own space, race between the different departments in SpaceX to see who can do it fast.
Tom: That’s pretty interesting.
Mitch: Yeah. I thought to get over it that was super cool. Um, this is called a bake off pretty much what it is, is what called in the industry. Which I loved. If you imagine two people trying to make a cake as fast as they can and as, as well as they can.
Tom: Yeah. The great American bake-off SpaceX.
Mitch: So I think that they build and like test the prototypes and then they come together and then when they come together they arrive at this combined process that is better than they would do as
Tom: So they could like Frankenstein the final product from the two?.
Mitch: It’s like, yeah. So if you, if they had one big team, like the ideas can stagnate. People just sort of build the same thing and you take influences. But if they’re completely separate, they’ll go in completely different directions though they may have a different take on things, which I think is really good, like design model.
Tom: Yeah, that makes sense actually. Cause whenever you’re at uni or school, when you’re in little small groups to do work, they always go in completely different directions. So that makes a lot of sense actually. I think that was a good way to do it. That’s pretty cool.
Mitch: So do you want me to just go into the full timeline of SpaceX or do you want me to like just dip in and out?
Tom: Nah full timeline it why not.
Mitch: Okay. So this year, 2019, they’re doing that space hopper tests. So these are small prototypes, um, that, so they’ve got the starships. Which are the big space fairing. Will go from earth to Mars and Mars up, sorry, Earth to the moon and then the moon to Mars. But then they have these small ones they called, um, space hoppers. And they’re currently doing tests on them or micro versions. And I think they had accessible test I think it was like yesterday, which would be the 2020 that would be, that would be the 21st of July, 2019. Um, so yeah, they’re, what they’re doing with that is they’re trying to see how much they can hop it off the floor pretty much in earth’s gravity and they work successful. Um, and what they’re doing once they’ve got it fully up and running, cause they said, uh, you know, until they’re going to aggressively test their heat shielding, which means they’re gonna fire the rocket into like the hopper into as high as it can go and then use its thrusters to blast it down at Earth to gain speed. So to not slow it down, but to speed it up
Tom: Just to test the heat shield?
Mitch: So they can test the heat shielding around the outside to how much it can take because they’re Elon’s of his design philosophy is these things have to be reusable. That’s why he developed the Falcon X? With the legs that come out so they can be reused refueled. So it’s not a one time like Apollo 11 was a one time built thing. It then gets destroyed, but it does its thing. He wants to keep reusing these so they can just keep going forward. And that’s one of them. So that’s why he’s testing it so rigorously.
Tom: And that was super impressive. I watched the live stream of the Falcon heavy and the Falcon X i think.
Mitch: So did I.
Tom: And when, no, it was the falcon heavy, wasn’t it? With the, when the boosters came back down.
Mitch: Yeah. With the three or the four boosters that came back down and one crash,
Tom: I think one had a bit of a miss-fall, but the other three landed like in complete unison. And that was so cool to watch. And the implications of that are insane because if you can make it reusable, the price goes down so much.
Mitch: Yeah. There’s also another reason that I’ll com onto why them being reusable is so, so important to um, colonizing the moon and colonizing Mars. Okay. So next year, um, they will cover the booster tests and the high altitude and high velocity flight tests of their starships. So yeah, during this time, uh, orbital spaceships could be tested during this period. So as of two years time, oh no next year, as of next year, they could be testing out auto flights, which is really, really quick to be honest. Um, and a lot of this people have said there’s some optimism from Elon in the timescale. Um, and the the reason that he’s working, uh, to this, uh, timescale is that there’s a thing called orbital synchronization. So what that is, is, um, all is when the, pretty much when the planets align, I think it is, it’s like one of those things like, oh, when stars align, this will happen. But it’s literally when the moon and the earth, the moon and Mars are in orbital synchronization, it means they’re the closest that they’re going to be when they orbit round. So that only happens every two years. So he’s trying to push this time scale as quickly as possible as he can. Because the first one I think, or, the first one could be, um, 2022 I think if everything goes to plan and his timescale goes right, he’ll be sending cargo. Well, star ships carrying, I think it’s like a hundred tons of supplies from the moon to Mars.
Tom: That’s pretty cool.
Mitch: Like that’s how quickly he wants to get things on the ball. And, yeah.
Tom: And that’s good because obviously they have to do it once every two years really, because otherwise the cost of fuel is just far too much to even make it monetarily worth it. So that’s why the thing you said about his schedule, sorry, I just want to touch on this a second is people are like, oh, he’s very overambitious, he’s never going to do it because they look at his other projects like the boring hole company
Mitch: The Boring hole company
Tom: Um, and is that okay? Yeah, sure. He is optimistic. But at the same time, if you look at the Tesla Company for example, you know, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, no one said we’d never have good quality electric cars that work well and can go for a long time. And here we have it, he’s done it with electric cars. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt of being able to do it for the space agency.
Mitch: Plus he has hit his optimistic targets so far. So I don’t see like. Things are looking good. Um, okay. So then 2021, so in one to two years time.
Tom: Nice counting. [Laughter].
Mitch: Uh, yeah. Thank you. [Laughter]. So that’s when the starships are set to make their first commercial flight.
Tom: Okay. With people on board?
Mitch: Um, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think it’s just to test taking a satellite into orbit, then releasing it and then coming back down. And this is super important because it shows that if they wanted to, they could take the starships up, put a satellite and bring it back down. So it’s not just sat in orbit, you know, creating because there’s so much space junk around earth currently, it can go up and bring it back down because it can pack it up and bring it back down because ’til now. Well there was one. But it was so expensive to use that it wasn’t really viable. So that’s what, that’s kind of showing, I think there’s a, there’s some telecom firms that are currently vying for that opportunity and I’m not currently… I don’t think they’ve released who it is yet, but I think there’s like three and it’ll be one of them to I guess that privilege. So then moving on to 2022 which is the year of the orbital synchronization, and this is the first year that the SpaceX, could reach Mars. First they would have to go to moon and then from the moon they could go on or they can try and go straight there like slingshotting around the moon I think. The plan is to take, because going to the moon at this point shouldn’t be a problem. The plan is to take all the resources to the moon, which will be the um, the a hundred tons of supplies, ro then set up like a base there if you will. And then when the orbitals synchronization happens is then to launch from the moon to Mars. And that will be a lot easier because the atmosphere is less, the gravity is less. So it’s less cost on resource.
Tom: And you are essentially y, you know, 400,000 kilometers closer.
Mitch: Yeah. Well in the distance of everything, it’s not massively closer. But It’s closer nonetheless. Then by 2023 is SpaceX’s the first manned, I think, mission. Oh no, not manned mission. Uh, the first sort of commercial taking people around the moon. So there is a, there a Japanese billionaire called Yakuza Maezawa, who alongside him and eight other artists are gonna have a trip around the moon using one of the star ships. And that’ll be the first major mission. With people on board.
Tom: That’s exciting.
Mitch: Yeah. And that’s only what, four years away? Okay. Then the year after 2024 if the previous date or the 2022, if they weren’t successful in getting the resources to the moon and then up to Mars, this will be the first opportunity where they’ll get to go to Mars and send all their resources up. But if the previous state of 2020 were successful, then this’ll be a manned mission. They will send to cargo ships alongside two cruise ships to Mars. Yeah. And that’s by 2024 and they will set up a base and this will. The main sort of product of this base will be a propellant production plant. So what they’re going to do is they’re going to go up sell this plant, which will combine marsh and Martian water, ice and carbon dioxide to create methane and liquid oxygen. And the reason they’re doing that is so they can refuel their star ships so they can come back. What they’ll need to do is a lot of ice they need to collect is one ton per day and then yeah, they’ll have enough to come back over some of that, like the earliest that they could. Um, they’re also set up some our hydroponics. So for those that don’t know what hydroponics is, it’s using only water and the sunlight to grow plants. So there’s no earth needed.
Tom: But like the water is supplemented isn’t it? With nutrients and stuff.
Mitch: So the nutrients is a lot easier to send up then taking the soil, then getting the soil to get the right nutrients in it and making sure it’s got the right pH balance. You can just get exactly how you want. And then like put the water through it and then like I think the plants actually grow faster.
Tom: Yeah. Because it’s 100% controlled with soil you got some lake factors you can’t really control. But with hydroponics you can control the temperature of the water, how much water, the pH, the nitrogen, the phosphorus, the car, everything that’s needed. You can like physically control the amount that in there. So yeah they grow faster.
Mitch: So they would survive and become Vegan. Survive on a plant based diet for the time being. Um, and then eventually become back now 2025. This is the earliest point that Musk thinks that there can be a colony on Mars taking shape. So they’ll be expanding from where the first humans left.
Tom: Use as like a base like?
Mitch: Yeah. So they’ve set everything up. The first humans have left, but then you can go back and then the plan is to start expanding on this outpost with a full city or maybe multiple cities across Mars.
Tom: Hmm. That’d be cool. What I’m very interested to see in this is, you know, you’ve seen lots of like movies about living on Mars and space colonies. What are they, what are they gonna go for? Because on Mars one of the problems is at nighttime there is massive radiation that the atmosphere doesn’t protect you from. So you cannot be in a polythene tent like they see in the movie. You need to be like underground or havea good barrier.
Mitch: So, I think they’ve got some plans for building protective shelters, but I think if they are successful with the star ships and being able to carry a hundred t like ton of of stuff, it opens up the doors to a lot more development from what they can take. So what protections they can take up with them that can protect them from radiation. Like they don’t have to slim down to have the polythene tents. The polythene tents that like we see in movies, they can actually have proper structures, they can drill, they can create bases on the ground, that kind of thing. Yeah. And so in the final dates they’ve got set planned in their timeline is 2026 this will be the next time that the synchronization lines up. And I think they plan to do a 10. It’s the. Yeah. So I think in that stage they’re going to have more starships so they’re going to try and do a more in one kind of like liftoff. So they like going to do 10 in one. Um, yeah,
Tom: That’d be pretty cool. Um, was it SpaceX where they did that competition for people can win on gadget to Mars? Was that SpaceX? So is that still a thing? Do you know?
Mitch: Oh no, it’s NASA that was.
Tom: That was NASA. Okay. I wonder if that still a thing, cause I remember someone winning and them being like really psyched to go to Mars, but I’d had no idea the timeline on it.
Mitch: Actually. I think it was Mars One that. Um, had the you could win a trip.
Tom: Oh, okay. That’s not NASA? That’s a private one is it?
Mitch: Yeah, this, this, so this is not spaceX or NASA this is a different one.
Tom: So SpaceX got a lot of things planned and that’s really good to see. And, one of the things that I didn’t realize as many, there’s so many private kind of projects, people trying to get into this line of work and NASA have recently switched their attention. They’ve been doing all the earth orbit things like the ISS putting satellites into space and all of that kind of thing. They’ve decided they’re not going to do that anymore and they’re contracting it out. Do you know who they’re contracting it to? Cause this surprised me.
Mitch: Uh, I do not probabaly is it like Boeing?
Tom: Yeah, it’s Boeing. So people who make planes, they’re making a, what they are calling the Starliner spacecraft
Mitch: You do realise like Boeing like has been in like the space exploration for the whole thing from the beginning. Like the airplanes were a side product for them. Like space was their original thing. I’m pretty sure.
Tom: Well now I look stupid. [Laughter].
Mitch: [Laughter]. Uh, well I I said earlier, um, with the the Apollo11 a Boeing was one of the people that helped build everything.
Tom: Oh sorry.
Mitch: Cause they took in that business. Yeah, they’ve been there from the beginning.
Tom: Okay. So yeah, they’re building what they call the Starliner spacecraft and it’s a, I think it’s a trillion dollar contract annually to take, uh, astronauts up to the space station every month. It’s like four a month or something. Uh, so they’re doing that in a minute and that’s going to be ready. Oh, they’re doing a test flight in two weeks actually for that. Uh, and then by the end of the year, they hope to have astronauts up in space and they have to make sure, you know, it can dock with the ISS and all of that kind of stuff.
Mitch: Yeah. There are Boeing now actually creating their own reusable space plane now.
Tom: Oh, okay. That would, I think it would have to be because if they’ve got that contract to do it 12 times a year. Uh, yeah. There’s going to have to be reusable of some kind.
Mitch: Do you know what it’s called?
Tom: I’ve only heard of the star liner.
Mitch: It’s called the Phantom Express.
Tom: The Phantom Express?
Mitch: I’m not sure if I was getting on a piece of equipment, I would want it to be called Phantom known for disappearing. [Laughter].
Tom: [Laughter]. Yeah. And then maybe they didn’t think that through that properly. It sounds cool though. I meanmystical but yeah. So when you say it’s a Phantom Express, all I can imagine in my head is a flying train, right? Is it like a space shuttle kind of thing or what is the deal?
Mitch: It looks, it looks like, um, the old, uh, the original one they had for taking, which had the bay doors that opened up on the top, what was it called?
Tom: The space shuttle?
Mitch: Yeah, the space….[strange noise ensues] It looks like an updated version of the space shuttle. So it looks like they’ve, they’ve taken that like product and they’ve revamped it into this cool hip new looking thing. Um, it looks exactly the same apart from, you know, clean edges.
Tom: Oh. And then like, oh, out of the back comes like a capsule with all the people in and they send that to the ISS it looks like. That’s, that’s what I’m seeing from this little Gif [G-iff], Gif [J-iff] i dunno. I’m going to say both and then I can’t be hated by people.
Mitch: It’s, I dude, I’m hating on you right now. Like insinuating that it’s called Gif [J-iff] please.
Tom: [Laughter]. Uh, for the record it is Gif [G-iff]. So yeah. So NASA, they’re contracting out the, uh, the Earth orbit things and they’re focusing on what they call deep space. Now this is a really anticlimactic name because what they mean by deep space, is the moon on Mars [Laughter]. So is not really deep space.
Mitch: Real deep, real deep, deep, deep down there.
Tom: Yeah. So they’ve got the Orion project, which is going to go to the moon and it’s the biggest rocket ever built. Maybe even bigger than the Falcon heavy. Oh No, it’s the tallest. So, so he’s taller than the Falcon heavy. And so that’s pretty exciting. That’s going to be happening in the next few years. And then next year they are flying to Mars, uh, with the 2020 rover and they’re sending it there, it’s basically like a new curiosity, but it’s going to, it’s going to a place that’s targeted to be like a lake bed and it’s exploring for by the surface taking samples and is looking for life. And they’ve got really interesting concept. What they want to do is this robot can take core samples, like little rods of dirt. And then what it does is they want to get them back to earth and so they’ve got whilst okay the, the robot can do itself analyze it itself, but it can only do so much. So they want to send some back to Earth to analyze them better and see what they can find out. But what that relies on is two missions after it. So they’re going to send this rover up no matter what and is going to do all the samples and see what it can find. And then it’s going to pack up these samples in like little tubes and just leave them on the ground and mark the gps coordinates of where. And then they’re going to send a second rover to Mars to go and pick up all the samples and take it to a launch pad, and then they’re going to rocket, the samples up to a third mission that has come along and is gonna meet the samples in space and then send them back to earth. So it’s like a three part mission to get these samples back Earth.
Mitch: So its like to a Fultoning someone?
Tom: It’s like what?
Mitch: I think it’s called Fulton. Fultoning?
Tom: Fultoning. Uh, I don’t know.
Mitch: So it’s, um, well the military used to get people from the ground to a plane, but you can’t land the plane is, you clip a inflatable balloon to a person and then the balloon goes up, like high enough for the plane to see it. Then the plane comes over, catches the balloon, which is then on a elastic string and then pulls the person off off the floor into the plane. Same kind of principle.
Tom: Yeah, pretty much like that. And it’s like a three stage rocket thing and yeah, that’d be very interesting. But I, I mean saying getting a rover to set up a launch pad and everything, it might just be easier to get the people to do it. Who are, they’re from SpaceX and that time [Laughter]. But they have built a space exploration vehicle. That’s literally what they’ve titled it and it’s not very imaginative, not as much as the Phantom Express and it’s basically, you know, like the Lunar Rover was, you could sit in it but you had to be in your space suit, otherwise you die because it’s not enclosed. They have built a massive one. Uh, you know, in the movie the Martian, they’ve got massive rovers. It’s basically like that and it’s got its own life support system and all of that kind of jazz, which means they can go out on one to two week missions along Mars. Because the problem Apollo 11 is they could only drive four miles away because if something broke down, they had to be close enough that they could walk back. So with this they can, you know, explore a lot of Mars and that’s something that’s going to be really cool. Then the other project with Orion that NASA wants to build, I don’t know if you came across this, was they are trying to build a moon station had you heard about this?
Mitch: No, no I hadn’t come across this.
Tom: So for them, the reasons that you mentioned that were perfectly correct earlier is that from the moon it’s so much cheaper to launch. Is 20 times cheaper to launch from the moon because of the lack of gravity and atmosphere as you say. So what they’re going to do is they are making them already and they’ve got the designs kind of down. They are sending excavators up to the moon and they’re going to mine the moon because from the moon you can easily make rocket fuel cause there’s a lot of ice around and you can get the hydrogen oxygen. And so if you mix the rock, someone has done the studies at NASA. If you mixed the regolith, they call it the moon rock. With plastic, it makes an incredibly durable material that you can print. So what I’ve got written in my notes here in all caps is they are 3Dprinting a moon base.
Mitch: Ah that’s pretty cool!
Tom: I don’t know if you’ve seen like them 3D printing buildings here on earth, but it’s pretty similar to that. And they’re there, they’re sending them up there and they’re just, and that means they don’t need to bring anything to the moon. They can build it all there out of the stuff that’s already there. So that, I think it was pretty interesting and that will just give us a massive stepping stone in like first colony type of thing.
Mitch: Well I’m not sure how morally I agree with strip mining the moon to build a base.
Tom: I don’t know. It’s going to be like strip mining, like not like enough to change, you know, they’re not going to do it so much that eventually there won’t be a moon. I mean the moon is bigger than like we think. So I think by mining it, we’renot going to change like the gravitational composition that much. So I don’t think it will affect it that much.
Mitch: I wouldn’t put it past humans.
Tom: That’s true. Okay. So we’re placing our faith and trust in NASA. Because, you know, we presume that they’re smart enough to think about these either way, whether they destroy the earth or not. It’s pretty cool. [Laughter]. Uh, but it did just remind me of black ops zombies on the moon. That’s definitely gonna happen with these giant excavators. Yeah, that’d be interesting.
Mitch: What’s that ridiculous movie? Where there is a space race and there’s like Nazis on the other side of the moon? With Sarah Palin in it?
Tom: Oh, what is that?
Mitch: It’s like war war thunder?
Tom: It’s not just Nazi’s on the moon is it?
Mitch: No, it has an iron sky.
Tom: Oh that’s it!
Mitch: Iron sky is a fantastically brilliant comedy. Yeah.
Tom: Is it a comedy or is it meant to be a horror?
Mitch: Oh, no, it’s a comedy. It’s a full action comedy, uh, with Nazis on the opposite side of the room that are mining a oxygen three, I think.
Mitch: And then, and then they start like fighting back against EArth after we’ve gone up. And then Sarah Palin is in it and like at the end, Sarah Palin whips off a mask and she’s a dinosaur I think. It’s very, very funny. [Laughter].
Tom: What? [Laughter].
Mitch: Yeah [Laughter].
Tom: I’m just trying to imagine where any universe that might make sense, but maybe because it doesn’t is what makes it great. So one of the things I wanted to talk about last week and ran out of time was living on Mars. And one of the best things about this, I watched it, amazing Ted talk on it, is everything can be done literally today. As you said, SpaceX are aiming for 2024 2026 those two years?
Mitch: 2026 to be fully up and running.
Tom: Okay. So that’s like for a colony. And what they were saying is if you want to colonize somewhere, there are five things you need, food, water, shelter, clothes and oxygen. Water is obviously kind of too heavy to take, but the soil on Mars is between one and 60% water. There’s lots of ice. Basically we are sorted for water on Mars, there’s so much of it. Second one is oxygen. So that is kind of an issue. But then you realize if you take a fuel cell and basically reverse the process it takes in CO2 and creates oxygen and they built very small prototypes and it can keep one human alive indefinitely. These prototypes and they’re planning to scale it up to like a hundred times. So stick a few of those on the side of a building. You can have 200 people there. Easy peasy. The next one is hydroponics or food, which you’ve already talked about exactly as we’ve talked about before to use hydroponics, but they say at the first kind of few years is going to be 20% hydroponics, and about 80% dried food. But how much that might have changed since the Ted talk or what innovations they’re gonna come up with. You know, that could easily end up 50 50. Uh, then the next one is shelter. As you said, inflatables, you can’t really use as a too much radiation. So they were thinking of, there’s lots of caves, so the first people can go there and kind of live in caves, or if SpaceX can take a hundred tons of material up, then maybe that negates this issue. But the soil is also very good for making bricks out of. Then there’s clothing, but there’s going to use special suits and they’ve already made these special suits that people have designed these that since the gravity is less there, our bones can kind of over time go a bit weird. But these, those, these like exosuits that exert the normal pressure on the bodies that you would normally expect and they’re radiation proof so that that sorts out the atmosphere problem and your bones getting weak and things like that. That’s amazing. And then he was like, well since we’ve got all of that kind of sorted, we can turn our attention to terraforming Mars. Now I don’t know that the ethics of this or anything, but if we, if we kind of find there’s nothing alive there, then maybe it should be okay. But he was like, okay, so if we were to terraform Mars, we could do it. Right now we have everything. The first thing to do would be to heat Mars up and we can melt the frozen carbon dioxide of the Poles and create the greenhouse effect. Just as we’ve done here, semi- unintentionally, one of the things I think you’ll like is they’re going to get a massive solar sail and just reflect sunlight at the poles and just melt it with a massive laser beam.
Mitch: See its ma boy, the massive mirror in space. Geoengineering at it again.
Tom: So that’s exactly what the planning to do for Mars is just direct sunlight with a massive mirror in space and they think it will take less than 20 years for the temperature to get good for us to build the atmosphere up again, better atmosphere means there’s better protection. So there’s less radiation, it’s warmer, there’s more water in the air, and it allows the one crucial thing that makes us human, I guess… Farming. Once we have an atmosphere we can farm in the soil, which means we can then produce all our food there and eventu… Eventually, sorry, there will be a breathable atmosphere, but that that is a long way off that as that’s like, you know, up to a hundred and little thousands of years off. But eventually that we could terraform it enough that there’s breathable atmosphere on Mars and that I think is really cool, but whether it will actually happen or we’ll crumble and die before that remains to be seen.
Mitch: Yes. Yeah. One of the articles I read, it was about how um, space travel should be one of like the forefront of human survival as one of the like gets out clauses that we have as a human race that some of the human race survives because we have like some of us away from Earth when it decides when we destroy it enough that we can’t live here anymore.
Tom: Yeah. I think it’s a, it’s definitely a worthy thing. Even in that sense, if that’s the only reason for doing it, at least you know, that is something that will get people to invest in it, if that makes sense. I think it seems to be a logical way to be looking at it, considering how much we’re messing earth up, unfortunately. So yeah. I had a couple of questions for you and I think it’d be interesting to kind of get your response. Firstly, so we’ve been speaking about living somewhere else and going to colonize somewhere. If there was life that we found or contacted us, for example, like some people have this dilemma about we should contact them, we should search for life or we shouldn’t contact them, all of that kind of thing. So i you were the first person to meet an alien, what would you do? Because do you know, SETI? The search for extraterrestrial life intelligence, extraterrestrial intelligence, sorry. They have like a proto-. They’ve created a protocol on what to do if first contact is ever made. So if you were that person, the first contact for some reason you are in a, on your computer and you interrupted a signal for some reason, only you, uh, what would you do? Would you reply? Would you send a signal back even if you couldn’t understand, but you knew this had come from like space?
Mitch: Yeah. I definitely would.
Tom: Yeah. I think, I think I’m with you. Even if it semi doomed humanity, uh, by accident at least we know there’s something else out there.
Mitch: Yeah. Plus, it’s like a, um, the watchman. Have you seen the watchman?
Tom: That is a fantastic film.
Mitch: Finally, a movie reference I can use [Laughter].
Tom: Woahhh [Laughter].
Mitch: It will give humanity, like a common enemy. Like he has to like come together. So even if they aren’t, if they aren’t, uh, friendly, it’ll give like everyone a reason to get together and be like, okay, so our pettiness means nothing when there’s legitimate other creatures in space that are hostile.
Tom: Yeah. Are you talking about the doctor? The Big Blue Dude?
Tom: Okay. Yeah.
Mitch: He, he pretends to be spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a very old film. He pretends to be a bad guy to give like peace on earth.
Tom: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay. That’s where I was getting confused cause okay. I have seen this, but I don’t remember him being bad. I thought it was the other guy who was bad. Okay. Yeah, no, I remember that.
Mitch: Yeah, he was, yeah he pretends to be the bad guy so that everyone’s scared of him.
Tom: Oh, okay. Yeah, no, that is absolutely fantastic. But we’re going to do like a film episode, I think one day. The science of film review. [Laughter]. No, that was okay. That would be one way to make it go down.
Mitch: [Laughter] a spin-off.
Tom: Yeah we’ll just do another sub series. I don’t know. It’s a struggle to think of like what it would be. What if, okay. You saw one and which like you could meet it rather than just like send a signal. If you were, if you knew there was aliens on a planet and they were semi-intelligent, sentient beings but they hadn’t got space travel yet, would you go to their planet? Because you know Star Trek, the newer ones, I think in the second film they’ve got like protocols. Would you like go down to that planet?
Mitch: I think following that protocol would actually pretty good to be honest. Because one of the episodes don’t follow that protocol when it comes back to bite them cause they think that one of the people is like a god because they’re not like above an intelligence so they can’t go and interact with them yet.
Tom: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. I think that’s a good way to…
Mitch: So if they, if they don’t have the technology for space travel, they don’t or that the capability for it, they don’t go and interrupt because they could, um, like ruin the flow of that civilization before it’s reached its like peak yet.
Tom: Oh that makes sense. That’s a noble of you. I I half expected just you to be like, I’m yeah I’m going down there like, hey look at this rocket. I am your God bring me food.
Mitch: Nah, too much hassle in it.
Tom: Oh that’s true. Being a deity. Stephen Hawking did say something about this kind of hypothetical situation and he said it would be a really bad idea if. Oh sorry its about the other way round. If, if aliens found us and we invited them here or they came down and he said it would be a very bad idea to invite them to even look for them to sound that we’re here because it would be like when Columbus discovered America and we all know how badlyy that went for the native Americans.
Mitch: Yeah. Illness.
Tom: Illness, all the illnesses and just killing. And then just straight up killing.
Mitch: Yeah. There’s also the genocide. Um, but you know that the more scientific, there’s the like the illness that got the spread. What’s that? What’s the film with Tom Cruise in it?
Tom: Tom Cruise? Mission Impossible.
Mitch: No, the one with the aliens.
Tom: Oh War of the Worlds.
Mitch: Yeah. That, that’s, that’s how that ended.
Tom: Oh, that’s true. Yeah. That was a good film.
Mitch: Because the aliens got killed by the common cold.
Tom: Yeah. Oh was it just the common cold?
Mitch: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s what he says is they didn’t have no resistance to the common cold.
Tom: That’s tragic. Innit imagine that being all sentient and, and super and coming down and being killed by [strange fake cough].
Mitch: Yeah. You see it, you see them like it gets really pale at the end and then just falls.
Tom: Yeah. Oh, I have to watch that again. Now, one of the things that comes onto actually is we have put a lot of messages into space and then you know about the, like the pioneer and voyager plaques and records.
Tom: What do you think about that? Okay, so for our listeners, you don’t know, there’s the pioneer probes were sent out and the Voyager to the furthest reaches of our solar system and they’re just still going and the plaques have on them like a map of the solar system and where earth is, how to find the solar system in the Milky Way it uses, it can’t use like centimeters or kilometers to cause we invented them. So it’s, it’s assuming that since math is like the universal language, they may have some, they may be able to figure out the units that we can use and the voyager record has 116 images, audio and video recordings of humans, animals, songs and greetings in 55 languages. How do you feel like about that? Because some people are like, this is the worst thing ever, I just got blood in it. I think one of the probes had blood, like A+ blood or something in it,
Mitch: Umm if I was a less suspicious person, I would say it’s fine. But as I’m kind of suspicious and paranoid, I don’t think giving away that information. I’m just assuming that if there is aliens out there, if the probability of them being hostile would be quite high, giving them all that information including blood would be a great idea.
Tom: Fantastic. That’s like doctor who stuff that aint it?
Mitch: Um, yeah. Like why, why would you they could create a biological weapon that just kills humans cause they’ve got our genetic code.
Tom: Yeah, I get it. But what’s the likelihood of that happening? Or even if there is one it being found. So I’m not like overly against it. I think by the time they get here anyway, we may not even be alive. [Laughter]. It doesn’t affect me.
Mitch: [Laughter]. Ah, the great dying three coming this fall.
Tom: In cinemas friday! On the semi space, subject of space and space travel, have you heard of femto-photography? This is a slight tangent.
Mitch: Femto-photography? Sounds familiar. But no, not off the top of my head.
Tom: I think it came out in like 2012 or something and there’s an amazing ted talk on it and basically they record trillions of frames a second. So they record so fast that they can watch light move.
Mitch: Oh yeah. That’s where I’ve had it. Yeah. Yeah.
Tom: And they can record it near the speed of light. And what they do is they get like a laser pen and shoot like a small, you know for like the trillionth of a second and it like, it creates like a beam, like a bullet of light that goes through the, and they show a video or they shoot a bottle of coke that’s filled up with got clear water inside and you see the, the light go into the coke bottle, how it reacts, how it bounces off everything. And it’s really, really cool. And then what you, they know, they said they noticed was because they are shooting at the speed of light. Filming at the speed of light or near to it. The things don’t happen in the physical order that they would have expected. So what they think happens is that because there is recording at the speed of light time got distorted for the camera. And that it showed things that happened after they, like in the wrong order. It showed things in the wrong order happening. So cause they were watching the video going well that definitely didn’t happen in that order because physics and but that’s what the film showed. So they think well and consistently over multiple trials so that they think because they’re recording at the speed of light, that time got distorted for the camera. So time travel exists already basically. So that’s pretty mad. But that is all we have time for this week. So remember if you guys want to check out all the latest goings on, you can head to conductscience.com you can find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching @conductscience. If you have any questions, want to suggested a gues,t want to just get in touch with us, use the #ConductScience. And yesterday I released an interview with Dr. Kevin Arbuckle an evolutionary biologist and lecturer at Swansea University. So please check that out. That’s yeah, that came out yesterday. Next week we are going to be talking about intelligence. What is it and how do you measure it? But that is it from us this week. So we’ll see you guys. A-next time.
Mitch: Ciao for now.