Fri, 19 Aug 2022

The Inside Story-Crossing the Frontier TRANSCRIPT

Voice of America
06 Jan 2022, 08:07 GMT+10

TRANSCRIPT

The Inside Story: Crossing the Frontier

Episode 21 - January 6, 2022

Show Open Graphics:

Voice of KANE FARABAUGH, VOA Correspondent:

All Systems go, Falcon 9 Blasts off into space.

With high expectations, changing the trajectory of U.S. space exploration.

And signaling a new era in the aerospace industry.

Kelly DeFazio, Lockheed Martin Orion Site Director:

We're going to take humans farther then we've ever gone before.

KANE FARABAUGH:

A return to the moon. More trips to Mars. And increased competition from China.

Rocky Kolb, Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor:

China is gaining rapidly on the U.S.

KANE FARABAUGH:

On The Inside Story: Crossing the Frontier.

The Inside Story:

Unidentified launch announcer:

Ok and here we go. 10. 9. 8. 7.6.5.4.3.2.1. Ignition! And liftoff! Liftoff of Falcon 9 and IXPE. A new set of x-ray eyes to view the mysteries of our skies!

KANE FARABAUGH:

Hi, I'm Kane Farabaugh reporting from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where launches again are becoming a more frequent occurrence, thanks to the commercialization of space transportation in recent years, and a new initiative by NASA to return astronauts to the moon and eventually get them to Mars.

It's a dramatic turnaround from just a decade ago at the end of the Space Shuttle program, when the industry here in Florida realized it needed to diversify to be competitive nationally and globally.

Dale Ketcham, Vice President, Space Florida:

I wasn't born here but I moved here and learned how to walk on Cocoa Beach three years before NASA was created.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Not only has Dale Ketchum grown up with the U.S. space program, he's watched it transform the economies of communities surrounding NASA's Kennedy Space Center several times since the 1950s.

Dale Ketcham, Space Florida Vice President:

The space program continued to progress, but it was always government focused.

Brian Baluta, Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast:

For 50 years roughly, Florida's Space Coast was the place for launch.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Launch... but not production. Most of the equipment used in the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs over those years was shipped to Florida for assembly. When Atlantis touched down in 2011 on the final shuttle mission, it marked the end of an era in human spaceflight. As launches decreased, the Space Coast's economy suffered.

Brian Baluta, Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast:

The job losses started to pile up and that happened to coincide with the Great Recession. So it was really a one two punch for this area. In 2011, unemployment was 12 percent at that point. The economy and its outlook were not strong.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Brian Baluta, Vice President of the Economic Development Commission, or EDC of Florida's Space Coast says that's when his organization offered a concept that could change the fortunes of the area's workforce -permanently.

Brian Baluta, Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast:

And it started with taking the unusual step of reaching out to the companies who were likely to produce the successor to the Space Shuttle. At the time it was called the Crew Exploration Vehicle and there wasn't a contract for it yet. But we reached out to Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman and Boeing - the companies that would likely compete and win for that contract, and we made the unusual pitch of - if you win the contract not only should you consider launching from Cape Canaveral, but you should consider assembling your spacecraft here.

KANE FARABAUGH:

The concept took off.

Kelly DeFazio, Lockheed Martin Orion Site Director:

Just like diversifying a portfolio, if you diversify the area and your products you can ride through those lows.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Lockheed Martin won the contract to create NASA's next generation spacecraft transporting humans back to the moon. The Crew Exploration Vehicle, now called "Orion," will be the capsule of the upcoming Artemis missions. Some of Orion's components are pieced together at Lockheed's new Star Center near Titusville, Florida, which is a former home of Space Camp and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Kelly DeFazio, Lockheed Martin Orion Site Director:

The contractors and the government support teams are investing in the community. This particular center here was an 18 month, $20-million investment by Lockheed Martin and that is helping to expand the manufacturing footprint for the Space Coast and allowing us to be able to increase throughput over time as we rate and support our mission.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Kelly DeFazio is also a longtime resident of Florida's Space Coast. She now oversees the work at Lockheed Martin's Star Center which includes creating wiring harnesses...

Unidentified technician:

This is basically the nervous system, so to speak, over the capsule.

KANE FARABAUGH:

...and the application of thermal tiles that will protect the Orion capsule.

Unidentified technician:

The panel that covers the side hatch so the hatch would be basically where the while foam is.

KANE FARABAUGH:

DeFazio says excitement is building.

Kelly DeFazio, Lockheed Martin Orion Site Director:

I think that it will start to become very clear with the launch of Artemis 1 that there is a difference, and you know what, we're going to take humans farther than they have ever gone before.

Dale Ketcham, Space Florida Vice President:

When I was growing up with the original 7 astronauts in Cocoa Beach, it was really a frontier town. People were coming and going rapidly, only staying a little while.

KANE FARABAUGH:

That Wild West frontier town description is also how Ketcham characterizes the present day Space Coast, with government contractors and private companies both jockeying for real estate and launch access.

Dale Ketcham, Space Florida Vice President:

With the commercial sector coming, particularly after the retirement of the shuttle program, in many ways we're going back... the workforce is younger. Particularly with Space X. They're not afraid to fail.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Space X, Blue Origin, and Airbus's One Web are just a few of the companies with facilities near the rocket launch pads at Kennedy Space Center, thanks in part to the efforts of the EDC and organizations like Space Florida, where Dale Ketchum now serves as Vice President.

Dale Ketcham, Space Florida Vice President:

We just had an announcement this week that there will be a small launch company called Astra coming here to build small rockets for small satellites which is a big new component of the whole space industry. They're the first small rocket to come here. But we've also got Firefly, Relativity, coming, and others will be coming after that.

KANE FARABAUGH:

The more the merrier says Ketchum. Not only does it help the local economy, it also keeps the United States competitive globally in what he sees as a new space race.

Dale Ketcham, Vice President, Space Florida Vice President:

The Chinese will put more rockets into orbit than we will because the Chinese are competitive and very smart and very capable very well resourced and very committed, and they are the major competitors in space that will be our major competitor in space for our lifetime.

KANE FARABAUGH:

One of the top generals in the U.S. Space Force says China's space program has grown at "an incredible pace," warning they could gain a military advantage over the United States if America does not step up its game.

There is hope among many in the U.S. aerospace industry that China's success will provide the needed impetus for a new space race to advance exploration of the cosmos --- perhaps in cooperation and not competition with China.

The steady stream of data Edwin Kite reviews from U.S. and Chinese rovers simultaneously exploring the surface of Mars keeps him busy at his University of Chicago laboratory.

Edwin Kite, Planetary Geoscientist:

You can quickly go through a loop of making a discovery, forming a hypothesis based on that discovery and sending a new spacecraft to test it.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Gathering information in Kite's field of study had traditionally been accomplished using telescopes and analyzing meteors and the few moon rocks U.S. astronauts brought to Earth in the 1960s and '70s.

But the new Mars missions are helping Kite and his colleagues obtain a more direct and complete understanding of Mars, thanks to the information the craft and rovers from the different countries have collected throughout the red planet.

Edwin Kite, Planetary Geoscientist:

We're at a really early stage of Mars exploration. We've only scratched the surface of what there is to discover. We don't know which country's investigation is going to stumble over something that unlocks the next stage of exploration.

KANE FARABAUGH:

During a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations hearing that was conducted remotely, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut and former U.S. senator from Florida, signaled alarm at the recent success of the Chinese space program, which he says isn't confined to the red planet.

Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator:

They want to send three big landers to the south pole of the moon... and that's where the water is. And we are still a year or two away from a much smaller lander going there.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Which is why Nelson is urging lawmakers to support NASA's Artemis program, which plans to return humans - including the first woman - to the moon, with Mars as an eventual destination.

Nelson says China is on a similar path.

Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator:

I think that's adding a new element as to whether or not we want to get serious and get a lot of activity going on landing... humans back on the surface of the moon.

Rocky Kolb, Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor:

China is gaining rapidly on the U.S., and the Europeans are also in this space race.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Rocky Kolb, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, believes a new space race could be positive.

Kolb would like to see the U.S. and Chinese space programs collaborate rather than compete.

Rocky Kolb, Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor:

So there's a lot of talent in China that we could make use of, and a lot of resources in China, and they have money to explore space.

KANE FARABAUGH:

But both Kite and Kolb acknowledge there is a limit to how much cooperation can realistically occur between the United States and China.

Rocky Kolb, Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor:

The technology involved in the peaceful exploration of space can also be transported to military uses.

Edwin Kite, Planetary Geoscientist:

There are legal barriers to bilateral collaboration between NASA and the Chinese space program. But those don't apply to non-NASA funded work by academic institutions.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Which is why Kite and Kolb and the scientific community they represent worldwide continue to pore over the tantalizing clues relayed from Mars in order to better understand the origins of our own planet and species - knowledge that Kolb says isn't confined to national borders.

Rocky Kolb, Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor:

I think it would be great in the future if the U.S. could cooperate with China in the same way that now we cooperate with the European observatories and the European Space Agency. It adds a lot to the table. So there's a lot of talent in China that we could make use of, and a lot of resources in China, and they have money to explore space. And I think this is something that mankind should do together. And hopefully in the next few years we'll have a better relationship in science and we will do it together.

There is only one Mars. It doesn't belong to the U.S., and it doesn't belong to China.

KANE FARABAUGH:

The future of space travel looks promising with private investment fueling this phase of space exploration. According to a 2020 report by Space Capital, 8.9 billion dollars was invested in space companies through private financing.

Elon Musk and his aerospace company, Space X, are the leaders in NASA's "Gateway to Mars" effort.

And the billionaire's vision of constructing a spaceport in a town best known for its battlefield is receiving mixed reviews from those who live there.

From Boca Chica at the tip of Texas, here's VOA's Elizabeth Lee:

ELIZABETH LEE, VOA Correspondent:

At the southern tip of Texas called Boca Chica, along Texas Highway 4, you'll see the historical site of the last battle of the American Civil War - and a few more minutes down the road there is another history making view - a spaceport that is the beginning of what could be interplanetary travel.

SpaceX has been building and testing prototypes for its next generation rocket called Starship, to one day, fly humans to the moon and Mars.

David Santilena, Rocket Ranch Boca Chica Owner:

People are going to want to come down and they're going to want to see this, this crazy pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

ELIZABETH LEE:

David Santilena is an airline pilot who has not been flying because of the pandemic. When SpaceX picked South Texas as the site of a spaceport for Starship, Santilena saw an opportunity.

David Santilena, Rocket Ranch Boca Chica Owner:

You know what? You only live once, so I bought it and then it was a tremendous amount of work but it's really coming along.

ELIZABETH LEE:

He purchased land near SpaceX's future spaceport and started building to make it a destination for space lovers to watch launches - with campsites and trailers for rent.

David Santilena, Rocket Ranch Boca Chica Owner:

If it lands, it's going to be amazing. If it crashes, it's going to be amazing. Either way, I'm going to be there watching.

ELIZABETH LEE:

Residents have seen successes and failures, such as this high-altitude flight test that met a spectacular end.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk congratulated his team on social media saying, "we got all the data we needed."

Musk describes South Texas as the gateway to Mars. He says he is highly confident humans can land on the Red Planet in six years.

Since SpaceX broke ground in 2014 in South Texas, it's been building and conducting tests for a working Starship, a rapidly reusable rocket that aims to make interplanetary space travel like air travel. The site has brought jobs to this area.

But progress comes at a price. Some residents who live in the village near the new spaceport say they've had to sell their homes to SpaceX at prices they wished were higher. In their place, SpaceX employees have moved in.

Maria Pointer, Former Boca Chica Area Resident:

We had a home that SpaceX needed, and that home was right in the middle of the compound for the production shipyard. We had no way to get away from the construction.

ELIZABETH LEE:

Maria Pointer negotiated with SpaceX and moved out in March, and SpaceX employees quickly moved in.

Maria Pointer, Former Boca Chica Area Resident:

I had to make lemonade out of lemons. I was not going to just take this lying down and say, 'Oh woe is me they're going to take everything I have.' No, no I'm going to reinvent the Pointers so that we have fun.

ELIZABETH LEE:

The experience has been bittersweet for her. From her new home, she's enjoyed watching the development of the rocket prototypes and writing about it. But she wishes SpaceX could have picked a different location so her life wouldn't be uprooted and the wildlife in the area stays preserved.

Pointer will continue to write about SpaceX on social media for her followers, just as Santilena will share future launches with anyone who decides to stop by Rocket Ranch.

Elizabeth Lee, VOA News.

KANE FARABAUGH:

2021 was a historic year for all-things space - from the success of private spaceflight companies to robots exploring Mars in a road trip for the ages.

VOA's Arash Arabasadi beams us through the Year in Space:

ARASH ARABASADI, VOA Correspondent:

This year, the world witnessed space history not once, not twice, but three times as the private spaceflight companies Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX successfully launched their space tourism businesses.

Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic became the first to reach the space boundary - in early July...

While Jeff Bezos' company, Blue Origin, flew a few days later and a bit higher on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Among the passengers was pilot Wally Funk, who at the time became the oldest person in space at age 82.

But, just a few months later, 90-year-old actor William Shatner, claimed that title when he also rode aboard Blue Origin. Shatner made famous the role of Captain James T. Kirk on the iconic 1960s TV show, "Star Trek."

Misty Snopkowski, NASA:

If you take a step back and look at 2021, it's been a really amazing year. I think that, at this point, we're kind of experiencing a renaissance in human spaceflight.

ARASH ARABASADI:

NASA's Misty Snopkowski tells VOA SpaceX's fundraiser flight for St. Jude Children's Hospital - may have been the most significant of the year.

Misty Snopkowski, NASA:

Because Inspiration 4 was successful, I think that's going to stimulate more activities in low-Earth orbit and really enable more people to go into space.

ARASH ARABASADI:

The entire mission was bankrolled by a billionaire on board the flight.

Greg Autry, Thunderbird School of Global Management:

Now, the private investment into space is bigger than the NASA budget. The private industry is putting more money into space than the government is into space, so this is definitely, in my opinion, the inflection point for the industry.

ARASH ARABASADI:

Autry says reusable hardware makes going into space cost-efficient and more eco-friendly than single-use rockets. But he adds that it probably won't be us making those first trips.

Greg Autry, Thunderbird School of Global Management:

I think before you see people, though, you'll probably see cargo. So, you'll see sushi coming from Tokyo to London in an hour. That's crazy, but I know there are crazy people who will pay for that.

ARASH ARABASADI:

In other news this year, NASA landed on Mars. The Perseverance rover - or Percy for short - and its travel buddy, the Ingenuity helicopter, began a quest for signs of ancient life. The flight took about seven months before a dramatic landing on the Martian surface.

That's all fine, says Autry, but he says the focus should be closer to home.

Greg Autry, Thunderbird School of Global Management:

We could run onto Mars, we could spend a lot of public money, we could stick that flag there, and bring back a soil sample and maybe discover life. But it wouldn't have actually done anything for people on Earth, right?"

ARASH ARABASADI:

What would do something for people on Earth, he says, is eventually moving mining and manufacturing industries off the planet and onto the moon.

But before that happens, NASA plans to launch its Artemis (one) mission next February. It is the first of three missions with the end goal of landing the first woman and next man on the moon by 2025.

NASA's Snopkowski tells VOA future moon-missions will include a public-private partnership that will drive down costs for the space agency.

Misty Snopkowski, NASA:

One of NASA's goals is to be just one of many customers, right, in this commercial space strategy that we've laid out. And so, in that goal, NASA would be only purchasing what they need as far as goods and services go.

ARASH ARABASADI:

Before we turn the page on this year, a look at Space Oddities 2021.There was the first known French crepe made in space, tests on the immune systems of baby bobtail squid, and the first ever space games.

For 2022, look for more launches from the private spaceflight giants, NASA's test trip to the moon, further research from Mars, and the U.S. Mint's release of the Sally Ride quarter honoring the first American woman in space.

Arash Arabasadi, VOA News.

KANE FARABAUGH:

NASA recently revealed its next class of astronauts to train for missions to the moon and Mars.

Half of the 10 new astronauts are military pilots. One is a champion cyclist.

Outfitting the next generation of astronauts is a key component of the upcoming lunar mission.

A new NASA program has American college students competing to design a high-tech spacesuit for the next phase of interplanetary travel.

Bradley University student Zach Bachmann didn't grow up thinking he'd be an astronaut.

Zach Bachmann, Student Team Lead:

I'm short, blind, and asthmatic so I can't really be an astronaut if I wished to.

KANE FARABAUGH:

But a lifelong interest in video games and computers is putting him at the center of a nationwide effort to boost new space helmet technology for the next generation of astronauts.

Zach Bachmann, Student Team Lead:

I've always been into sci-fi and tech, so it sounded like this was kind of a cool project and I kinda just got wrapped into it.

KANE FARABAUGH:

That "cool project" - NASA's Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students, or S.U.I.T.S Design Challenge - allows college students to create spacesuit information displays within augmented reality environments.

Abby Irwin, Design Team Lead:

You still see the world around, but you would just have overlays. So like the vitals would be an overlay, but they would still see the moon or whatever they are working on.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Abby Irwin works with Bachmann on Bradley's S.U.I.T.S. team using the latest Microsoft Holo Lens to create and test their ideas.

Abby Irwin, Design Team Lead:

Our navigation we kind of got examples from flight software that pilots use and train with, but we also got like some ideas from the game Skyrim, how they do navigation in video games.

KANE FARABAUGH:

While NASA has already announced a new spacesuit for the upcoming Artemis moon missions scheduled later this decade, the next challenge is figuring out the final version of the cutting-edge technology inside. That's where S.U.I.T.S. plays a role.

Brandon Hargis, NASA Office of STEM Engagement Activity:

The idea was why don't we put some funding toward having students contribute solutions to these technical challenges.

KANE FARABAUGH:

NASA's Brandon Hargis says the S.U.I.T.s program helps NASA solve several old problems...

.... including handling the time delay communicating between the Earth and the Moon, and the longer lag time for signals to reach Mars.

Brandon Hargis, NASA Office of STEM Engagement Activity:

In this case 250,000 miles away from Earth on the moon, or several millions of miles away on Mars. There's somewhat of a delay in communications, (((end courtesy)) so if the astronaut has a little more autonomy to make some decisions based on the plan of the mission, augmented reality could help them do that.

KANE FARABAUGH:

In a typical year, ten teams would travel to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to demonstrate their designs in person. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the current experience is all virtual and remote, giving more students a chance to participate.

Brandon Hargis, NASA Office of STEM Engagement Activity Manager:

Because we are doing this in a virtual environment this year, we actually invited twenty teams to participate in our virtual course online.

KANE FARABAUGH:

Hargis says the students' work has NASA ahead of schedule designing the technology.

Brandon Hargis, NASA Office of STEM Engagement Activity:

The work they are doing has spurred research in the field.

KANE FARABAUGH:

When the first woman, and next men land on the moon, the design of the AR technology influenced by students like those at Bradley University will be there, right in front of astronauts' faces, helping them boldly go, and do, what few have done before.

Abby Irwin, Design Team Lead:

I'm very proud of what we've come up with so far and where we could go.

Zach Bachmann, Student Team Lead:

I'm all for committing to more space exploration because it's cool and ya know it's the future.

KANE FARABAUGH:

That's all we have for now.

I'm Kane Farabaugh here at The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Connect with us at VOANews on Instagram and Facebook.

Stay up to date at VOANews.com

See you next week for The Inside Story.

###

Newest

See comments

Already have an account? Log in

Not a registered user? Sign up

  • Name
  • Your comment... *

Submit comment

Load more comments

More Beijing News

Access More

Sign up for Beijing News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!