Interview with “Out of the Cradle” web site, Feb 2006;

 

http://www.outofthecradle.net/archives/2006/02/part-one-of-a-conversation-with-dr-paul-spudis/

 

http://www.outofthecradle.net/archives/2006/02/part-two-of-a-conversation-with-paul-spudis/


Translation into Polish by Nadia Karbowska HERE.


Part-One of: A conversation with Dr. Paul Spudis


Posted on
13 February, 2006 by Mark Trulson


Dr. Paul D. Spudis is a Senior Staff Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland and Visiting Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. Dr. Spudis was formerly with the Branch of Astrogeology, U. S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.


He is a geologist who received his education at Arizona State University (B.S., 1976; Ph. D., 1982) and at Brown University (Sc.M., 1977). Since 1982, he has been a Principal Investigator in the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program of the NASA Office of Space Science, Solar System Exploration Division, specializing in research on the processes of impact and volcanism on the planets.


Included among many of the committees he has served on, he has been a member of the Committee for Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX), an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Synthesis Group, a White House panel that in 1990-1991, analyzed a return to the Moon to establish a base and the first human mission to Mars. He was Deputy Leader of the Science Team for the Department of Defense Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994. He was a member of the President’s Commission on the Implementation of U. S. Space Exploration Policy, (a.k.a. the Aldridge Commission.)


That is in and of itself a major mouthful, but it only scratches the surface, Paul was kind enough the other day to participate in an interview with us. Like the brief bio above, the list of questions that follow only scratch the surface of the list Rob, Ken and I could have put together, but we need to be reasonable, so I hope you find the results informative, I know I did.

-----------------

OotC: Let’s start with a little background first, you got your B.S. degree in Geology and later your Ph.D. from Arizona State University, are you from the southwest originally?


PDS: I was an Army brat, so I’ve lived pretty much all over the country. However, as I’ve spent over 25 years of my life there, I consider Arizona my home state. Arizona is a great place to learn geology; every type of rock you can imagine, all beautifully exposed and largely uncovered by vegetation. If you want to learn geology, move to Arizona.


OotC:
Can you pinpoint the moment that you knew your life’s goal was to study not only rocks but the rocks of the moon, asteroids, and other planets?


PDS:
I actually came to geology from an interest in space, not the other way around. I had collected rocks when I was a kid in Arizona, but had drifted away from it. I started college as an engineering (electrical) major because watching Apollo, it was clear to me that these were the guys who actually built and flew things in space. I later moved towards the science side and got into physics because I had a really good introductory course in it and I’ve always had a soft spot for astronomy. But my epiphany came during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. The great scientific performance put in by Dave Scott and Jim Irwin on that mission got me re-interested in geology. Dave and Jim exploring the Hadley-Apennine region inspired me to go back into rocks. And I haven’t regretted it.


OotC:
2005 was a good year for planetary space exploration, with a list of mission highlights that included Deep Impact, Stardust comet dust sample return, the afore-mentioned Mars rovers rolling along, Cassini/Hugyens and Japan’s attempt to get an asteroid sample. Along with the launching of the Venus Express, Mercury Messenger, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and New Horizons to name just a few, are we finally seeing serious efforts to fully explore and understand our solar neighborhood? And of these recently started or completed missions are you most keeping your eye on?


PDS:
I disagree with the premise of your assertion about “finally seeing serious efforts.”ť I think that we’ve always been serious. We are moving from the first-order reconnaissance phase of exploration (“Let’s just see what’s there”) to a more subtle, sophisticated exploratory plan, one in which we are designing and flying missions that are configured to answer specific questions. We couldn’t even formulate these questions in the 60’s and 70’s, so those older missions were much more reconnaissance in nature. But they did a superb job. And now, we’re following up on the questions they raised.


I am closely watching the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, which was built and is being flown by the Applied Physics Laboratory, where I work. I worked on the global geological map of that planet 20 years ago (using Mariner 10 images) and so I have a special interest in it. I’m particularly curious to see if the time-stratigraphic system I devised for Mercury based on seeing only half the planet holds up when we have pictures of the entire surface. I think that MESSENGER will be a very exciting and interesting mission.


OotC:
On the other hand, with people growing up on hyperspace, warp drive, “aye, aye, Captain, half-way across the galaxy — e.t.a., 20 minutes…”, how does one go about engaging the public’s interest when actual individual space exploration missions appears to travel at a speed slower than a snail’s pace?


PDS:
The public interest aspect is something that I think you’ll always have, but you must recognize that it’s only a minority of the public that has a real deep interest in space exploration. I reject the notion that Apollo ended because the public lost interest in it – Apollo ended because it was a battle in the Cold War, a battle that we won. When you win a battle, you don’t keep fighting it. The demise of Apollo had nothing to do with a loss of public interest; it was its loss of a sustainable political rationale that caused its end. That’s why we must structure the new Vision to be impervious to the winds of fickle popular opinion. If the space program has societal value, it will continue and thrive. If it ceases to have such, it will wither and die, and rightly so.


OotC:
With the solid possibility of hydrogen deposits along with other volatiles trapped in the polar regions of the moon attracting so much attention, what other regions of the moon interest you geologically and why?


PDS:
Basically, all of it. Every place on the Moon has a unique and interesting story to tell. There are some scientific problems that can be addressed anywhere on the Moon, such as recovering the history of the sun from study of the lunar dust grains. But we’re focusing our initial lunar return efforts on the poles because we found in the 1990’s that they were interesting in a variety of ways (e.g., permanent sunlight, not just water ice) and we know very little about them. There are many other places scattered all around the Moon that hold their own secrets. My preference is to get a permanent outpost established early, then mine the Moon for rocket propellant. After that, with the ability to refuel rockets on the Moon, we can go anywhere we want, for whatever reasons we want to.


OotC:
Starting with the unexpected robustness of the two Mars Rovers as they both passed their second year of operation, what tools and/or science packages would you like to see designed into possible versions of their lunar cousins?


PDS:
The lunar robotic missions will be outfitted with the instruments they need for very specific tasks. For example, if you want to determine the nature of the polar ice, you need to acquire a sample (probably by drilling a meter or two down), heat that sample with a laser or in a small oven, and measure the gases that come off of it. A mass spectrometer will tell us the species and abundances of the elements and compounds in the ice. You also need to physically disturb the soils in these dark cold traps to ascertain their physical properties, such as shear strength and density. We need this information to design the processes and machines needed to mine polar water ice and use it for a variety of purposes.


OotC:
Last March, (2005) it was announced, that India had accepted an instrument package designed by your group at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Can you tell us about the instrument and the science you plan to do with it? How is the process of getting export approval going? Are we talking ITAR in this case and does APL have to deal with that often?


PDS:
We’ve teamed with the U.S. Navy to design and fly a miniature imaging radar (Mini-SAR) that has been selected for flight on the Indian Chandrayaan 1 mission. Its principal objective is to make synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images of the lunar polar regions. Since radar provides its own illumination, we can map the terrain that’s in permanent darkness. Moreover, ice has very unusual signature to radar and we hope to map the locations and concentrations of water ice deposits in the polar dark areas. These radar maps are critical if we want to land near the poles and sample the ice in the cold traps.


We worked on getting export approval from the State Department all last year and our application was approved and signed in December of last year, so we are definitely on the Chandrayaan mission. NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have just signed an agreement to cooperate on this mission and hopefully, future missions to the Moon as well. We just had a very successful instrument design review and we are on track to deliver the mini-SAR and launch between September 2007 and March 2008.


OotC:
How would you contrast the progress NASA has made so far implementing the VSE, with what was envisioned in the Aldridge Commission report?

PDS:
It’s a mixed bag. Some things are going very well. Last year’s ESAS lunar architecture study was a move forward. The derived plan has a lot to commend it. Some aspects of it are not what I wanted, but it’s a workable plan and should give us considerable capability. The Centennial Challenges idea is a good one and needs to be pursued. But in general, I don’t think we’re doing enough to engage the commercial sector in the Vision. If we are to be successful in all that the Vision calls for, we simply have to broaden its scope beyond being just another government program. I think that our involvement in the Indian Chandrayaan mission is an excellent start towards fostering more international participation in the VSE.


OotC:
Do you think that the current climate of budget constraints affecting NASA will hinder the VSE goals of completing the ISS and returning to the Moon?


PDS:
We’ve always had budget constraints in the space program, even during Apollo. The real question is “Can NASA come up with clever ways of doing things such that it can make progress on implementing the Vision, regardless of the variability of the annual federal budget?”  I look upon the VSE fundamentally as a question to NASA: “You get over $16 billion per year – can you do anything with that?”ť The basic idea was to take small, incremental steps, but ones that are cumulative and additive, instead of the undirected and fragmented program that we had previously. Whether NASA can pull this off remains to be seen.


OotC:
Any chance you will become the next Harrison Schmitt — “Paul Spudis, lunar geologist” on the moon?


PDS:
I doubt it. Jack was in his thirties when he applied to become a scientist-astronaut. Then he waited 7 years to fly, and because of the curtailment of the last few Apollo missions, almost didn’t make it even then. I’m 53 now and we won’t be going to the Moon for at least another 10 years. I’ll be content to do my part to simply help get the implementation of the Vision off on the right foot, if I can.
_________

In part-two of our conversation with Paul Spudis he talks about his new book he co-wrote with his wife Anne. It is a fictional account of…well you’ll just have to tune in and find out more.

 

Part-Two of: A conversation with Paul Spudis

Posted on 20 February, 2006 by Mark Trulson


Dr. Paul D. Spudis is a Senior Staff Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland and Visiting Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. Dr. Spudis was formerly with the Branch of Astrogeology, U. S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.


He is a geologist who received his education at Arizona State University (B.S., 1976; Ph. D., 1982) and at Brown University (Sc.M., 1977). Since 1982, he has been a Principal Investigator in the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program of the NASA Office of Space Science, Solar System Exploration Division, specializing in research on the processes of impact and volcanism on the planets.


Included among many of the committees he has served on, he has been a member of the Committee for Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX), an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Synthesis Group, a White House panel that in 1990-1991, analyzed a return to the Moon to establish a base and the first human mission to Mars. He was Deputy Leader of the Science Team for the Department of Defense Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994. He was a member of the President’s Commission on the Implementation of U. S. Space Exploration Policy, (a.k.a. the Aldridge Commission.)


That is in and of itself a major mouthful, but it only scratches the surface, Paul was kind enough the other day to participate in an interview with us. Like the brief bio above, the list of questions that follow only scratch the surface of the list Rob, Ken and I could have put together, but we need to be reasonable, so I hope you find the results informative, I know I did.

----------------

OotC: To what space interest organizations, do you belong?


PDS:
I became a member of the advisory board of the Coalition for Space Exploration, which is an advocacy group created to lobby for the VSE. I belong to several professional societies; the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics just awarded me their von Karman lectureship for 2006, in which I go around the country giving a talk at various universities and other places (my talk is about returning to the Moon.) I also belong to several other scientific societies, largely because it gets you subscriptions to the various technical journals that we use in our business.


I’ve been beating the “Return-to-the-Moon” drum for the last 20 years and it’s rewarding to know that these efforts are taking root. Through my books and invited talks to interested groups, I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to raise awareness about the important role the Moon plays in our understanding of life here on Earth and the potential it holds for our future.


OotC:
Where can one go for a good Lunar studies degree?


PDS:
Lots of universities now have very strong planetary science programs – the Universities of Hawaii, Arizona, and Colorado and Arizona State, Brown and Washington Universities come to mind in particular. I would advise students to concern themselves with getting a good grounding in basic science of all types – chemistry, physics, biology, and geology, rather than focus on “lunar studies.”ť You need a broad scientific background to really contribute something new and innovative in lunar science.


OotC:
Do you think crater counting, sizing and dating is a worthwhile pursuit for Lunar science?


PDS:
It’s a tool that we use – I don’t know if I’d characterize it as a “worthwhile pursuit” in and of itself. We count craters to estimate the relative ages of surface units. On the Moon, we try to apply data from lunar sample studies to infer an absolute age, but usually those are merely educated guesses. Geologists want to know where and when things happened on planets; that’s why we make geological maps and why we count craters.


OotC:
What technologies do you envision coming from Lunar development?


PDS:
If we go to the poles, I envision a lot of new innovations in low temperature engineering and cryogenics. We think the dark areas might be as cold as 50 Kelvin (i.e., 50 degrees above absolute zero). This is a very challenging environment, to say the least! Getting the machines and systems we need to mine lunar ice in these areas will be difficult. I suspect that we may come up with new technologies to mine and process the lunar ice deposits. Although such technology would have many applications here on Earth, its real value will be for journeys to the planets beyond Earth’s orbit.


OotC:
As we lean toward exploring the ever-dark regions of the lunar polar areas, what do you think would result from the use of a mirror on a crater rim to illuminate a portion of a hydrogen rich crater? (A. Explosive release?, B. moderate out-gassing?, C. good way to illuminate mining ops?)


PDS:
I don’t think you’d want to do this. Sunlight shining into the cold traps would heat the surface and if the ice is volatilized, we could lose it to space. I want it to stay right where it is so I can dig it up and use it! We can rig artificial lights to illuminate mining operations. They would be low-power and unobtrusive.


OotC:
What kinds of things can we learn from studying the crust/mantle interface believed to be exposed in the Aitken Basin?


PDS:
Geologists always want to see deep into a planet. South Pole-Aitken basin is the biggest impact crater on the Moon and is potentially big enough to have dug through the entire lunar crust and exposed the mantle below. Studying the rocks of the lower crust and upper mantle would teach us a lot about the early melting history of the Moon, its bulk composition, and ultimately, its origin. However, it’s not clear that even SPA, as big as it is (over 2000 km in diameter) was big enough to penetrate through the crust. That’s an unresolved issue in lunar science. But we can study the basin in detail when we go back to the Moon.


OotC:
Last year it was ‘revealed’ at one of the space conferences that Lunar regolith had stronger magnetic properties than realized in part from the mist of iron nanoparticles found in regolith but not in the terrestrial analogues. Should NASA be making more of the real samples available for study so that we can search for other things we seem to have missed?


PDS:
That new insight came from many years of study of the lunar samples. In part, we can do that because the Lunar Curatorial Facility in Houston is very careful about maintaining the scientific integrity of the collection. While I favor experiments using real lunar samples, there is a well thought out policy of protocols that one must follow before they are given real lunar samples for experiments. They must first demonstrate their experimental techniques on lunar simulants and must do it multiple times for repeatability. Only after this will they be given real lunar material. I think this is a sensible policy. Although ultimately we’ll have all the lunar samples we could possibly want, we must be careful to preserve integrity of the existing collection until we get back to the Moon.


OotC:
With that and the news a while back of a laboratory, lunar regolith sample, going up for auction in Europe, what percentage of lunar samples has been kept unstudied in the vaults of JSC?

PDS:
I don’t know the exact numbers, but in terms of mass, it is certainly the majority of the collection. I seem to recall a number like 80% of the collection has been “untouched.” But that’s a very misleading statistic. Every numbered lunar sample has been examined, photographed, and characterized. The LCF might take a tiny chip off the edge of a sample, analyze it by a variety of means, including its mineralogy, chemistry, and age, and then put the remaining 99% of the rock in storage. Does that mean the sample is “unstudied”? Not really, because the subsample we took told us what it is and what it’s made of. Of course, some secrets still remain in the Pristine Sample Vaults at JSC, but I have no doubt that they’ll all be revealed over the years as sample studies continue.


OotC:
How was it working with Carly Fiorina on the Aldridge Commission? Do you think she saw the potential in space after all was said and done?


PDS:
I think that Carly always saw the potential of space. During the Commission work, she was very interested in the sustainability issue – how can we undertake and complete a project whose duration is measured in multiple Presidential terms and dozens of different Congresses? It’s an issue of structuring the program so that recognizable milestones and intermediate accomplishments provide motivation for ongoing political support. Carly’s input was very helpful as we struggled with these issues.


OotC:
Microwaves, solar and induction furnaces, regolith movers, nuclear plants. What do you see as being some of the advantageous early technologies that will give us a leg up in getting started?


PDS:
Learning how to handle large amounts of loose, granular material is a skill that is absolutely necessary to use lunar resources. I worry a bit about developing machinery that will be robust enough to stand up to repeated and continuous use in moving regolith on the Moon. Lunar dust is very angular and abrasive; without some mitigating countermeasures, moving parts will seize up after a few tens of hours of use. Developing good dust seals is essential. Learning how to operate in the lunar environment is also something that can only be partly anticipated. I think a lot of what we really need to know we’re going to have [to] learn by doing – on the Moon.


OotC:
You had a chapter in a recently released collection of essays called “Return to the Moon,” edited by Rick Tumlinson, do you have a new book project of your own in the works to which we can look forward?


PDS:
My wife Anne and I just finished a novel for young adults called “Moonwake: The Lunar Frontier.” It’s the story of a boy whose parent move to the Moon and they take him with them. He’s not particularly happy with this arrangement, at least initially. Once there, he learns about life at the lunar base, meets and makes new friends, builds machines, and gets into trouble – all the usual things that pre-teens do. We tried to make the story as scientifically accurate as we could and worked in a lot of facts about the Moon as a world of its own. We couldn’t find a publisher, so we finally decided to publish it ourselves; it’s available from Amazon.com.


OotC:
Anything else you got your eye on at the moment, to which we should be paying attention?


PDS:
One event of great significance that many haven’t noticed is that the Congress passed a new NASA Authorization Bill last year and it specifically endorsed the Vision for Space Exploration. So we now have both the Executive and Legislative branches on record as supporting the VSE. Funding the program is another issue, of course, but I think that it is significant that, unlike the earlier Space Exploration Initiative in 1989, the VSE is now official policy for the entire government. It makes it much more likely that something significant will come out of this effort.


Now, all we have to do is go to the Moon…
____________

We at Out of the Cradle would like to thank Paul Spudis for taking the time to visit with us and answer some questions. I also want to thank him for kindly answering many of questions over the past couple years in clear layman’s terms.


I’m looking forward to getting my copy of his new book I know I’ll find it entertaining and informative.


 

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