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The Inventivity Pod
Space Pod: So You Want to Start a Space Company
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Just 20 years ago the dream of starting a space company could not have become a reality unless you had significant capital and access to government programs. Mark Sirangelo, one of the founders of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, along with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, joins us to discuss how the space industry is becoming far more accessible and how you can start your very own space company.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

 

Intro:

Inventors and their inventions. Welcome to Radio Cade the podcast from the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention in Gainesville, Florida. The museum is named after James Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade in 1965. My name is Richard Miles. We’ll introduce you to inventors and the things that motivate them, we’ll learn about their personal stories, how their inventions work and how their ideas get from the laboratory to the marketplace.

James Di Virgilio:

Welcome to a special edition of Radio Cade. I’m your host, James Di Virgilio. And today we’re going to explore what sort of space company we might want to start, which kind of venture would you get into? What would be the wise thing to do? And how complicated is this? My guest today is Mark Sirangelo. He is one of the pioneers of commercial space flight, the commercial space industry, and someone who has a wealth of knowledge and depth of expertise, not only in space, but a wide variety of entrepreneurial ventures and projects. Mark, thanks for being with us today.

Mark Sirangelo:

Well, thank you, James. I’m excited to talk a little bit about one of my favorite topics here and talk a little bit about the future and how people who might be looking at space might look at it.

James Di Virgilio:

Now let’s revisit the past here you were in fact, one of the pioneers of commercial space flight . So non-government oriented space flight , private space flight. What was the genesis for that? And what did that look like in those days?

Mark Sirangelo:

I’d be happy to go back a bit. And it’s funny because in going retrospective, you sometimes think it’s decades, but it really wasn’t. Most of what is now known as the commercial space flight industry largely started in the early 2000s. And in my case, 2004, when I took over a small little company called SpaceDev, that was based in San Diego. But about that time, it was interesting for me and a number of others who sort of created the foundation of this industry. We all seem to a number of us and I’m speaking of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Paul Allen, and a number of other people all from different directions started to look at the space industry and say that as an industry, it had not been disrupted in any really significant way for quite a long time. Really the only bellwether entrepreneurial company was a company called Orbital Sciences that was started by Dave Thompson. Who spun out of graduate school with an idea and a project that turned into a very significant company. But beyond that and a few others there , it was really not a sector in space for the most part was dominated by legacy companies, very large companies. And I think there was a convergence of people who had experience in disrupting other industries or who involved in the tech growth industry of the nineties and the early two thousands who looked at space and said, this seemed to be in an area which has a fascination to it. And that’s not a small part of why people get engaged, but had not been really refreshed for many, many years and decades, even. And from different perspectives. All within a couple of years, we approach various problems in space and said, how could we do this differently with a couple of benefits and one might see detriments, but the benefits being that none of us myself included had grown up in the space industry. We all had experience from other areas, but in doing that, we all had a pretty clean mind about how we might do it. And one of the challenges I think the industry had faced is because there’d been so much money invested into infrastructure and machine and equipment and processes that was very hard for them to step away and look at things differently. And I know in my own case, as I got together and a number of us met in the early days and sort of talked about how we might do this and how the industry might move forward. Most of the people and the names that I mentioned all gravitated to the rocket or the launch business, and the idea of finding a much less expensive way to bring things to space. And I think Elon puts it pretty well in that at the time, the rockets, which were one use rockets cost about the same as a seven 47, would you fly a seven 47 once and then throw it away. And that was his early comment in looking at this. And I think others felt the same way and still are in all those people are absent . Paul passed away recently were involved in getting up the space industry, mostly in the area of propulsion. I took similar view of disruption, but in my direction, in my company’s direction, surrounded by a tremendous group of very energetic people, numbering just about a couple of dozen people. In the early days, we decided to look at what was being brought to space, what goes on top of these rockets. And that would be the satellite industry. That would be the sensor industry. That would be the rock , the motors that move things around this space, not launched them. And we took a hard look at that and decided that the satellite industry really could benefit from the knowledge that came from other industries, other industries, meaning the computer laptop business or the medical device industry, many of which were able to build pretty exquisite stuff in a way that was not being done in space. Most satellites were being built by hand even into the early 2000s. So my path took me down the direction of wildlife associates out in the industry. We’re all looking to figure out how to launch things better, cheaper, and faster. I went to what would we launch on these things? And that seemed to be a fortuitous path to take, because it was at least in the early days, a lot less competition in that area, but it was a very difficult thing to do space. The reason why it hadn’t had new entries is that it’s a very capital intensive business. The primary customers being governments or large companies don’t really want to risk their business on new entries. It requires precision that requires a lot of quality control, a lot of gut checking on what you’re trying to accomplish. And that is very difficult to stand up. But nonetheless, we were able to take credit for launching one of the very first small satellites into orbit satellite with something small satellite, which has become fairly common these days at the time was not. I could control that satellite from my laptop, which was a pretty big breakthrough. And we produced it in the terms of months instead of years, and for tens of millions of dollars instead of hundreds of millions of dollars. But to do that, my motivation was not in and our groups motivation was not look to the space industry. We actually went out to look at other places, for example, Dell computer, which at the time was riding high building, essentially custom computers from a standardized system of choices and delivering fairly quickly a custom computer to your home. And we said, well, why can’t we apply some of these other techniques to space? And it worked quite well. We were part of a team that got us on the map. We won something called the X prize. We were part of the team that won the first X prize and at that time, and it seems crazy in some ways now, but the prize was to take a human on a spaceship to space and be able to do that three times in a month without any government money and working together with scaled composites and Paul Allen who financed it. We were able to do that and something called SpaceShipOne, which now hangs in the Smithsonian, and our company’s contribution to that was the rocket motor that enabled that trip to take place. And it was done out in the Mojave desert and felt very much like the wild West in many ways. It was quite an interesting environment. And still to this day, many entrepreneurial space companies gravitate to the high deserts out in California to collaborate and work together.

James Di Virgilio:

So let’s visit for a second, Mark, something you mentioned. So you have private companies entering in, you have this disruption as you’re mentioning, and you touched on large companies, the risk reward benefit, how they may not want to invest so heavily. And as you mentioned, new ideas, new ventures, more risky ideas. Why is it in your opinion that governments in general are obviously not going to be looking at the same things that you did that Elon did that others did? Like you just mentioned what the Dell computer, why is it that there is sort of that blinder effect that they don’t approach the problem the same way?

Mark Sirangelo:

You know, it’s interesting. And I like to think of myself as a bit of a historian. And when you actually look at cycles, and one of the things that propelled us in the early days was that, although what we were doing was new to the space industry, what we were doing in terms of disruption was certainly not new. If you went back into the seventies and eighties and looked at the birth of the computer, most people look at these computers in the personal computer industry and said, what could you possibly want to do at home? What could you do with a computer that has no computing power and has no battery power and so on and so forth. And most of the mainframe companies at that time just looked at that industry and said, it just doesn’t make any sense to us to go do this. And, and famously, they looked at software and they said, this software is not where the money is. It’s in hardware . And as many people know, that’s what launched Microsoft. IBM at the time did not think software is important. Then they seeded that largely to Bill Gates and Microsoft, as it turns out far clips to the hardware industry. And I bring that up only to say that those kinds of thinking processes in my view were exhibited in the space industry as well, that people looked at these small satellites and realized our first few satellites, we couldn’t do very much. It was like Sputnik was in the 1950s. Basically we can send it up and make some noise with it, take a few pictures maybe. And that was about it. And no one saw it as a serious tool for being used in government or being used in business. And the mistake was made that is, that had been made in the past that people just discounted it and this then credited it off to something else. If you look at Kodak who owned the photography and camera market for 50 years and had its 70 or 80% market share, they decided that digital photography would never work. And they are now relegated to historical footnote, if you will. And I think that philosophy is what drove us in that said it’s a very big market, which is very important when you’re starting something it’s tens of billions of dollars a year in acquisition. If you could break into that marketplace, even in a small way, it’s a fair amount of revenue. And I think Elon and Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson and others looked at the launch market and said, well, there’s 20 to 40 launches a year. And in each one costs a couple of hundred million dollars. If we can bring a product to market at half that price, aren’t we going to have a really good chance of getting a significant share in the market. And that’s in fact what happened.

James Di Virgilio:

So then let’s look at what happens. Like you mentioned, they are successful with that as we’ve all witnessed in a watch. And now that marketplace, as you mentioned, very competitive, the rocket, they get to space, if you will marketplace. And now we’re seeing space businesses obviously grow in range of diversity because we can get there with rockets because we can get there more efficiently. We can now begin to say, well, Hey, maybe more people have access to doing things and helping things which brings us to our topic for today. As you look around the landscape, as you’re seeing what’s needed, as you’re seeing maybe the next wave of disruption, what are some ideas or what are some endeavors that people can begin to work on further disrupting. And this, as you mentioned, large market large industry.

Mark Sirangelo:

Just to put it in perspective from the time where I launched into this industry, which is 17 years ago now, 16, 17 years ago, the company that I held was privileged to lead , or the several companies that we may end up doing acquisitions and mergers had completed over 300 space missions. And something we built has gone to seven of the nine planets has gone to the sun. It’s gone to our moon in my wildest dreams. Would I have thought that I would have visited seven planets in my space career? It was not something we were thinking about. We have done that and survived , but in part, I think every entrepreneur has to look at their business. And one of the hardest things to do is to be completely honest about it. Not only honest about the technology, but the timeframes, how long might it take. And in my case, when I looked at it, it was clearer to me that we could build the technologies. It was less clear to me that we would be accepted. And it was even less clear that even if we weren’t accepted many of these things take years to come to fruition. We were on the new horizons mission to Pluto, which took 10 years to get to Pluto, but it took six years to build. And so from start to finish, it was almost a 15 or 16 year journey. And when you’re starting a small company, how do you survive with those kinds of timeframes? So you have to look at it. And in my case, I made a pretty fateful decision. And that was while I was pursuing these big dreams of rocket motors and satellites. And eventually the craziest part of that was that we thought we could build a replacement for the space shuttle when we were less than 50 people on the space shuttle at the time was still flying in at 18,000 people working on it. But that was disruption at its maximum concept, if you will. And it has come to fruition that we did wind up building the spaceship. It is now built and tested, and it’s going to be flying here within the next year. So it was a long journey, but well, over 10 years we went from a crazy concept to something that could be one of the basis for US space flight for a long time to come. But in the midst of all those dreams you have to survive. One has to, I use the analogy. I may want to become a movie star, but I’m waiting tables for a while until I do. And in our case, what we decided to do is to go into the manufacturer of components and the pieces of other people’s spacecraft. It was not the most glamorous part of it. It wasn’t the most exciting dream part of it, but we got to be good at it. And we found out that everybody would buy our parts and our components and it paid the light bills and still does in any way. It’s a good business. If you get into it, it’s not the glamorous part of the business, but it is a good business. And I think in every entrepreneurial mindset, you have to look at what it is that you ultimately are going to do. But then you have to look at how do you get there? Part of it’s raising money. Part of it is having enough business to keep yourself afloat. Part of it is to build a reputation and we made a pretty fateful choice and somewhat laughed at at the time to diverge a part of our resources to go into this business and bought a company that was doing that and added them to the mix. So we had this idea of two or three big dream projects supported by a lot of sort of blocking and tackling simple stuff. And as I look at today, one of the things I think I talk about when I lecture at the University of Colorado and privileged to be able to do that, but a lot of people want to talk about the hardware, particularly since I’ve built so much of it and my teams have built so much of it. And it’s exciting, it’s sure is it’s exciting to build a new shuttle . It’s exciting to build a satellite, or we were on five missions to Mars that landed on Mars and sitting on the mountain here in Colorado and looking up at Mars, you’d say, you know, something I’ve built in touched is on that little star up there. It’s pretty mind-blowing. But what I do that today, and the answer is probably not as alluring and sexy is the rockets. And the hardware is a lot of people have entered that space. And particularly on the satellite side, it has become more and more ubiquitous in the sense of people trying to build small satellites. But what isn’t and where I would go is I think a little bit different. And again, history shows an analogy, but in the past 50 or so years, we have normally somewhere in the 3 to 5,000, depending on how you count them, satellites have launched. And that’s from the beginning of the space industry in the 1950s, that number of satellites will be launched in the next five years. And when you think of that, what’s the outcome of that while we’ve got all this hardware that’s up there. Now, the question is, what do we do with it? And my analogy here is imagine that you S had broadband to every house in America, but didn’t have anything on broadband. What has happened in the last 10 years, you’ve seen this massive movement to apps, this massive movement to content providers, and everyone can turn on their TV and get 900 channels. Now it’s not so much about the hardware anymore in maybe with an exception of 5g and a few things. Most of it is about what you deliver. And I think that analogy is where I would go in space. There’s going to be a significant amount of space, data, and access to other data. And the question is, what do you do with it? And I talk about the space app industry. What are the apps from space using this amount of information 10 years ago? If you talk to someone about the fact that we would get all our airline and travel done on our phones, and we would not need maps and everything would be done electronically, we do all our banking from our living room. People would have questioned that maybe thought you were a little nuts, but that’s in fact what’s happened. And it is happened because the hardware was built to accommodate it. But mostly because we now have a way to get that information. I have a friend who was involved with the Apple music business and they said, well, we had the Apple, the iPods and other music devices. We knew we could build them and we had them, but we had to wait until broadband hit to about 30% of the US market before we could really launch the business because no, one’s going to wait two hours to download a song. And that’s what’s happening in space. We were at the precipice of having huge amount of data and infrastructure. Some of it is going to be used for traditional methods. Others are though , it’s going to be open for creativity. How can one use this information? What new businesses can you derive? Some of it we’re seeing right now, we’re all going through the COVID response in our own way, in our own personal lives. But one of the things that’s come out of it is this idea of telemedicine using phones, using computers, to visit with doctors, to get a lot of our medical information moved and taken care of. That’s a new business that was driven forward faster because of the pandemic. But nonetheless, it’s a use of what I would call the app side of life, as opposed to the hardware side of life. And we’re seeing that in space. And I think that would be a big area that I would look at. How does one create new businesses? Businesses are , or applications. People may not even know they need or want right now. And that to me is where that opening is in the future.

James Di Virgilio:

Lets take what tends to be the sexiest story of entrepreneurship, which is somebody in their garage, tinkering with an idea, somebody nowadays writing code somewhere by themselves, somebody just off and their little nook, thinking about a problem and solving it. Are there any problems like that, that people are able to work on? Let’s call it the garage entrepreneur in space, or is it still too capital intensive as you mentioned earlier?

Mark Sirangelo:

Well, I think the point here is that someone else is building the infrastructure. You can tap into it, those people in the garages that do what they’re doing. They’re not building broadband networks, but they’re accessing it. We all are from our homes. So you don’t have to look very far to look at how much the access to broadband has changed our everyday lives. I mean, I probably have a hundred apps on my phone doing everything I ever wanted to do. So I think to look at this and say, you have to have hundreds of millions of dollars to raise a ticket in some space. That is the case now, or has been the case. It was the case in my run up. But I think once this infrastructure is up there, it’s going to be for sale. So let’s take, for example, several companies are doing imaging from space, commercially that used to be the privilege of the governments of the world. You can pretty much now get imaging of any location, any time that you want. The question is how good is the image and how fast is it updated, which is going to change very rapidly. So for example, the real estate industry where you will not buy or sell house in most of America without seeing images of that house from space, most, every realtor uses that somehow to show you the neighborhood, to show you the house, to show you what the property looks like to show you where you sit relative to those shopping malls that didn’t exist a few years ago. And that’s all using space imagery that imagery for the most part is weeks or months old. And what’s happening now is that imaging might be days old or hours old. What new industries can come out of that one for example, is that cities are managing their locations from space, a lot more actively using cameras, remote cameras, and imaging, big cities out here in the West, where I live. You can figure out where to go pile their streets by looking at the snow drifts and the snow falls and vectoring the piling to a place that’s needed more. We’re seeing how their huge forest fires out in the West. Many of those images from space are now telling us where to send the firefighters. And that helps us put the fires out, save lives, save a lot of money, but also helps us save the forest that we’re in those kinds of trends, which are already here are only going to accelerate very rapidly in the future. And the people who have the idea. If I were looking at this, I would say, how do I use that infrastructure to solve a problem that either hasn’t been solved in a good way, or maybe people don’t even know they want solved yet to me, that’s the wave of change here. Yes. They’re going to be people who still want to build small satellites or want to put the camera up in space, but that marketplace has dozens of companies already in it. I would say, if I were doing this, I’d go to the soft side of this, the software side, and figure out assuming that all this happens in the next few years, how do I use it for the betterment of society, for the people I need for the businesses that might need it? We used our satellites, for example, to track there’s a company out there as a public company called Orbcomm that I worked with in the past and their business was not space. We built the satellites for them. Their business was to track things for other people. So Walmart wanted to know where all their trucks were and FedEx wanted to know where all their packages, where they could track using space, tracking all those assets so that somebody sitting in Bentonville, Arkansas, who runs all the assets for Walmart , knows exactly where every one of their mobile assets is at any point in time. And not only knows where it is, but also knows how it is. What speed is, is it parked ? Is it moving? Is it, if it’s a refrigerated truck is a refrigerated compartment at the right temperature, all that’s using a commercial privately built space asset to do. And the reason you can get on your phone and find out where your Amazon packages immediately is because of this infrastructure.

James Di Virgilio:

Now we can look at this. You mentioned Dell earlier, just like the computer industry, right? Once upon a time, not that many years ago, computer was a huge, massive capital intensive fixed cost item. And now of course, your cell phone right, is a supercomputer and everyone has access. As you mentioned to app stores to code writing, to open source platforms, to all the things that allow you to go on and do the things you do without thinking about it. You know, once upon a time nobody would have had access. I think there’s this demystification of space. That is your saying seems to be right on the horizon of happening where right now, if you think, if you talk to most people, space feels so pioneering so far away, solving problems seems almost so other worldly. So complicated yet on this Radio Cade series, we find out that every person we talk to, they get into it much like somebody gets on any business here on earth, they get introduced to it and they see a problem and they think, well, I’ve got some expertise that might be able to solve that problem in the landscape. Your painting is that these problems are going to becoming more available, essentially becoming more available for someone to solve versus before, where as you mentioned, you know, you had to be a government or you had to be one of the engineers or thought leaders on the project, but pretty soon that’s not going to be the case. And then there’s going to be a wide array of options in space. It almost seems too, sci fi oriented to think that that’s so close, but here that is. And what I want to talk about now is your background. I get this question a lot. Yeah. But I don’t have the right background for that. Or I didn’t go to school for that specific thing. Or I just would have no way of getting into that. But your background is fascinating. You were a photographer, you were involved with Broadway, and now here you are. And if you just listened to the majority of this podcasts , I’m sure it’s quite surprising for the listener to find out what you have done, how Mark do those things possibly coincide. How do you get to where you are today?

Mark Sirangelo:

Thank you, but I think one of the things I like to talk about is the idea that they , these worlds that people think are so disparate actually coincide quite a lot. In my case, I have lived an active artistic path while I was building businesses. As space was my third entrepreneurial business that I was able to build and be successful in, but I never really left what I’ll call the artistic side, left brain, right brain. And the reason I say that is because most of what I do or most of what happens, even in something as technical as the space industry is art in a different way to bring an example of that, going to land a Rover on Mars. Very few people would think is art. But before that ever happened, somebody had to sit there and come up with the creative idea of how would we do this? What would the vehicle look like? What does Mars look like? How do you imagine the elements and something that you will never see personally, that we only have skin images on. And many of the people in my organization, which grew to be thousands of people, I would say are the creative mind. There’s a creative mind. There’s the people who come up with the creative idea and turn it into a prototype. And then people who take the prototype and figure out how to make it and make it successfully. If I can say in a broad scope, in any successful entrepreneurial company. And then there’s the fourth element of that, which is all the people who keep the company and all the activities of the company working and those four elements of any successful entrepreneur company and the three that I’ve built, you have that balance and that tension between those pieces. But you need all those pieces. You can’t come up with an idea. Even the conversation we’re having today is what do you do in the future? People think of that as somehow business orientated or technical orientated, and certainly is. But a lot of that is in the creative side. And many of the people that I employed, even directly artists, frankly, in this space, because we storyboarded out, like you would storyboard a movie, we storyboarded out. What would it be like to build this vehicle? And there’s an awful lot of overlap between the two. And I like to point that out for people. The other two things I would add is that space is somewhat of a paradox. And the paradox is that most people who aren’t in it believe it to be so advanced. They can’t conceive it. But the truth of it, most things that happen in space are actually behind the technology that exists on earth. It takes somewhere. If you’re building a big satellite or a program to go to another planet or even a spaceship, it can take 10 to 15 years from concept to flight in that period of time, somewhere around, let’s say, if it’s a ten-year program, somewhere around year three, you’re locking down the design, which means the computers, the sensors, everything that’s on there is what exists in year three. It may not launch until year seven. It may not get to where it’s going to year 10. So by the time it gets there in year 10, it’s using seven year old technology. And that is the case for virtually all the things that happen in space. And when you think of it in those terms, in some ways, the paradox is that it is less mystifying because in fact, it’s a bunch of computers and a bunch of sensors and cameras and wiring and composites and metals all put together to do something. And yes , it’s a very difficult thing to do, but the elements are not that difficult. And the other piece that I think is important as , as you do this, is that not everybody needs to be a specialist. The joke that a lot of people talk about saying it’s not rocket science. Well in my world, it was rocket science. And I was fortunate to have well over a thousand PhDs and rocket scientists. And I’d like to say, if I am successful, if I walk into a room and I’m the least smart person in the room, that wasn’t my job, my job wasn’t to be the specific person who knew physics, about how something lands on Mars. There are people who know that you spend your whole life on those kinds of things. My job was to round up all these very smart people, all of whom were smarter than me and get them to move in the right direction and make the right calls about where to move them and to get them to believe in what I was doing enough to follow me down that path. And I think people confuse the two that yes, I’ve become one of the leaders of the space industry. And I’ve had this fabulous career, but the idea is mostly behind. I am fortunate enough to have so many talented, good people. All of whom were specialists, that we were able to point in the right directions and win most times.

James Di Virgilio:

And that’s such a true picture of here on earth or here in space, as you mentioned, needing each other, needing creative diversity, needing different skillsets , what motivates us and utilizing the people skills, the different desires we have to come together and truly achieve something fascinating. When you described standing on top of a mountain in Colorado and seeing something you touched reach Mars, right, reach a planet that is such a great depiction of what an incredible creative process that took. And oftentimes we think of sciences, anti creative, which couldn’t be further from the truth is you just mentioned to look up in the sky and say, I want to get there. And I’m going to figure out how to get there is absolutely peak creativity. And as you mentioned, there are going to be more and more questions, more and more things that we can do to explore, to take things that we learned from space and improve the very lives that we live here on earth, as well as going into space. And all of those things are going to occur. As you mentioned, in , in what is a frontier market, that’s becoming much more accessible as a closing thought here, Mark, as you look out into the future, as you see where we are, I’d be remissed. If I didn’t ask you, there’s so many projections, when are we going to wind up being on the moon? When are we going to be on Mars? How realistic do you think some of these projections are about humans, truly having any kind of actual stable setup on any planet? Is this really as close as people make it out to be? Is that something that’s going to happen or is that too much of a moonshot right now?

Mark Sirangelo:

No, I think it is when you say close, close in space terms, I think is entirely feasible that we will have some type of presence on the moon within the next 10 years. And I don’t just mean sending someone there to walk around and take pictures and bring home rocks. I think what we’re moving towards and it’s pretty rapidly moving towards this is to have something. The easiest example is what we have in Antarctica and Antarctica research station that exists on the moon. And there’s a lot more similarities in those connections than most people realize. And Antarctica is the station we’ve been having for 50 years. It’s visited by countries all over the world. It’s not owned by any one country. And the research goes on there every year and people come in and out of the research station and do their work. They don’t stay there forever. And sometimes only there for a few months at a time. And it’s an enormously harsh environment that takes two or three days to get to some times . That’s what I think we’re going to wind up having on the moon. And there’s a lot of good reasons for it. Some of those are scientific. Some of those are resource driven. There’s potentially huge amounts of resources on the moon. We have found that there is significant what appears to be water ice for much of the Southern hemisphere and the moon, and perhaps even elsewhere. And we also want to think about, we have a space station that’s been flying around for the last 20 years this week as its 20th anniversary of the space station, being a human, going to the space station for the first time. But that’s base stations in the latter years of its life and is not going to continue. And there isn’t any plans and you made your plans to build a new one. I think that idea is shifting to saying rather than having something that’s mechanical, that’s flying around and tends to fall apart. Why not move that concept and put it permanently on the moon? We have everything that we need to do that some things have to be developed. We have to develop the right landing systems and the rovers and the computers and all those things. But there isn’t anything major there that has to be created in my view, the living part of it has to be figured out, how do we actually live there for long-term we’ve been living in space. Our astronaut’s been there for six to 12 months at a time they come home. There’s no harm to it. So I think that is well within the realistic possibilities and those things that need to be developed are largely onto the development path. And then the question is, could we go to Mars? Well, certainly we could go to Mars. We’ve already sent things there and they’re working and they’re working as we speak right now. And there’s a new Mars Rover that it’s on its way there. It’s about halfway to Mars. It’s going to land in another four months or so. So we have proven we can get there. And the question is, do we need to go there with humans? And what will it take to send a human there? And it’s really not about the time as much humans have survived in isolation kinds of situations for more than a 9 or 12 months, it takes to get to Mars. But right now the human going to Mars wouldn’t survive the trip because of radiation and other issues. And the question is, is that necessary? And that’s become an esoteric question I think is as society, both in the United States and around the world, do we want to continue that exploration it’s expensive. It takes a lot of commitment, probably a global kind of cooperation to get to Mars because no one country has those resources. Do we want to do it? And do we want to do it as humans? Do we want to continue the pattern of exploration that goes back now, thousands of years, when the first people got on their first sailboats and started moving, why did the Polynesians leave their homes to go to Hawaii? I mean, they left islands that were pretty good, but then went to look for something else. And I happen to like Hawaii. So I’m glad they did, but that question is not a new question. And it’s a question that I think is part science, part technical, but a large part, the human spirit. And maybe on that point, I’ll end by saying, I think a large part of why space is important, why it’s still important. Why we still talk about the moon program from Apollo is because it drove people to want to do more than what they’re doing now. And I don’t just mean in space. I mean, in computers, many of the early founders of computers were inspired by the space program. I mean, in medicine and list goes on and on. People saw that activity that pushing the envelope that we did in the sixties and seventies and they took it and they moved in into so many different areas. And I would argue, that’s probably one of the biggest benefits to society. Now as an inactive space program is what we learned , what we bring home, the things that are better, the medicine, the medical devices, and other things, we move into society, but we also create people who want to do something more and it’s still unknown how that will play out. But we can look back at history in the last 50 years and see what did all those people like myself, who were inspired by the early space program and aviation pioneers to go do something else. And I think that’s the hope of society.

James Di Virgilio:

It’s rather remarkable. As you mentioned for all of human history, we could say, I want to go over here because I don’t know what’s on the other side of the ocean, or even today, if you’ve traveled the world right now, you can’t stand outside and see across the world. You can’t see Antarctica. You can’t see China or Australia. You can’t even see the neighboring County, but you can look up in the sky at night and you can see the moon. And for much of the year, you can see a variety of planets. And to think that, like you mentioned, we’ve been there. We’re going to get there. Things are going to happen there. I think, is this other worldly feeling yet? It’s connected to the first humans who thought I’m going to go into the next set of woods . I’m going to go over the horizon. So absolutely fascinating stuff, Mark. Thanks for joining us. Everyone should know that you are a Hall of Famer, always great to announce a Hall of Famer at NASA and Space Foundation’s Technology Hall of Fame amongst so many other things. Wonderful discussion today. I know it enlightened me and I’m sure it enlightened to all of our Radio Cade listeners.

Mark Sirangelo:

Well, thank you very much, James and I am privileged to be able to talk a little bit to you and all the listeners take care now.

James Di Virgilio:

For Radio Cade, I’m James Di Virgilio.

Outro:

Radio Cade is produced by the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention located in Gainesville. This podcast episodes host was James Di Virgilio and Ellie Thom coordinates, inventor interviews. Podcasts are recorded at Heartwood Soundstage, and edited and mixed by Bob McPeak. The Radio Cade theme song was produced and performed by Tracy Collins and features violinists , Jacob Lawson .

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