117 episodes

The new space age is upon us, and This Week in Space leaves no topic untouched. Every Friday, join Editor-in-Chief of Ad Astra magazine, Rod Pyle and Managing Editor of Space.com, Tariq Malik as they explore everything related to the cosmos.

New episodes posted every Friday.

This Week in Space (Audio‪)‬ This Week in Space

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The new space age is upon us, and This Week in Space leaves no topic untouched. Every Friday, join Editor-in-Chief of Ad Astra magazine, Rod Pyle and Managing Editor of Space.com, Tariq Malik as they explore everything related to the cosmos.

New episodes posted every Friday.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Junkyard in Space - The Dangers of Orbital Debris

    Junkyard in Space - The Dangers of Orbital Debris

    If you saw the movie "Gravity," you have a sense of the dangers of orbital debris—and the risk is very real. More than 25,000 objects over four inches in diameter are tracked by the US Space Force, and millions of others are smaller or untracked—everything from derelict satellites to dead rocket stages to bits of shrapnel and even just chunks of frozen rocket fuel is there. And even something the size and mass of a paint chip, traveling at orbital speeds, can take out a window of a spacecraft. We're joined by Dr. John Crassidis from the University of Buffalo, an expert in orbital debris and its dangers. Look out below; this is going to be a hot one!

    Headlines:

    SpaceX Falcon 9 launch failure investigation underway after engine explosion during upper stage relight
    James Webb Space Telescope celebrates 2nd anniversary with new "Cosmic Penguin" image
    Boeing Starliner return date still uncertain as NASA and Boeing review data
    Mailbag:

    Zaheer Mohammed congratulates the National Space Society's Ad Astra magazine on winning the Marcom Awards in 2023
    Main Topic: Orbital Debris Discussion with Dr. John Crassidis

    Orbital debris defined as anything in space that is no longer useful, ranging from paint flakes to rocket bodies
    Debris moves at extremely high speeds (17,500 mph), making collisions highly destructive
    Kessler Syndrome: cascading collisions could render low Earth orbit unusable within 50 years if debris growth is not slowed
    Approximately 47,000 tracked objects softball-size or larger, with millions more smaller pieces
    Challenges in tracking debris due to limited coverage, object tumbling, and modeling uncertainties
    Ownership and responsibility for debris removal complicated by lack of international agreements
    Current remediation techniques not feasible due to cost and technological limitations
    Urgent need for debris mitigation through international cooperation and improved satellite design
    Future threats extend beyond low Earth orbit, with debris already accumulating around the Moon
    Importance of investing in research to develop effective debris removal technologies
    Hosts: Rod Pyle and Tariq Malik

    Guest: Dr. John Crassidis

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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Understanding the Darkness - Dark Matter and Dark Energy

    Understanding the Darkness - Dark Matter and Dark Energy

    For many of us, dark matter and dark energy are two of the least understood areas of cosmology and astrophysics. This week, we invited Alina Kiessling and Jason Rhodes, both Research Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to explain these concepts and their broader implications for cosmology, exoplanet research, and more. Both of them are working on major space telescope projects to research "dark physics," as they will explain. Guest co-host Isaac Arthur asks compelling, comprehensive questions about physics and cosmology while Rod asks things like "is dark energy dangerous?" because, let's face it, someone has to ask the dumb questions. Join us for the fascinating deep dive into dark forces!

    Headlines:

    Chinese rocket startup Space Pioneer accidentally launched a rocket during a static ground test, highlighting the unpredictable nature of rocketry.
    SpaceX and Jared Isaacman's Polaris Dawn mission, set for July 34th, 2024, aims to conduct the first private spacewalk and set a new orbital altitude record of 870 miles.
    NASA announced that Boeing's Starliner spacecraft is in good enough condition to stay at the International Space Station for at least 45 days despite ongoing investigations into malfunctioning thrusters and helium leaks.
    Main Topic - Understanding the Darkness:

    Guests Jason Rhodes and Alina Kiessling, both Research Scientists and Astrophysicists at JPL, share their backgrounds and how they met through their shared passion for cosmology.
    The universe's composition, with dark matter and dark energy making up 95% of its content.
    Exploring the history of dark matter discovery, from Fritz Zwicky's observations in the 1930s to Vera Rubin's groundbreaking work in the 1960s and 70s.
    The differences between dark matter and dark energy, their effects on the universe's structure, and the challenges in studying them.
    The "cosmological crisis" or Hubble tension, which arises from discrepancies between early and late universe measurements.
    Upcoming space telescope missions, including Euclid, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, and the Vera Rubin Observatory, are highlighted as crucial tools for advancing our understanding of dark matter and dark energy.
    The potential need for new physics to explain current observations is explored, with the guests expressing excitement about the possibility of groundbreaking discoveries.
    Exoplanet research: discussing how the Roman Space Telescope will use microlensing and coronagraphy techniques to detect and study distant worlds.
    The potential for detecting biosignatures on exoplanets, with a focus on identifying signs of life through spectroscopic analysis.Jason and Alina's advice for aspiring astrophysicists, emphasizing the growing importance of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the field.
    Finally, a lighthearted discussion of the guests' personal lives and travel experiences, highlighting the balance between their professional and family commitments.
    Host: Rod Pyle

    Co-Host: Isaac Arthur

    Guests: Jason Rhodes and Alina Kiessling

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    • 1 hr 8 min
    A Home on the Moon - 3D Printing Lunar Habitats

    A Home on the Moon - 3D Printing Lunar Habitats

    For decades we've seen images of huge glass domes on the moon and Mars, but the reality of building settlements off-Earth is likely to look much different. This week we're joined by Evan Jensen of ICON Build, a company that, in just a few years, has created housing across Texas via 3D printing. Now, in association with NASA, they are also investing heavily in researching how to 3D print habitats on the moon and one day Mars. It isn't easy working in a vacuum--water freezes and evaporates instantly, and any other materials you need must be transported there. ICON has some unique processes they are testing in their large vacuum chambers, and the results are truly fascinating. Join us for a look into the future of living on other worlds!

    Headlines:

    - NASA has selected SpaceX for a $843 million contract to de-orbit the International Space Station (ISS) around 2030

    - ISS astronauts took shelter after a Russian satellite exploded, creating over 100 pieces of shrapnel

    - Boeing's Starliner capsule faces an indefinite delay in its return from the ISS due to technical issues

    Feedback:

    - Listener Tim Lazaroff suggests two space-themed songs by the group Lord of the Lost

    - Rod Pyle addresses inquiries about the decision to de-orbit the ISS, explaining the aging technology and high maintenance costs

    Main Topic: 3D Printing for Construction on Earth and Beyond with Evan Jensen

    - ICON's founders started the company in 2018 to push the limits of 3D printing technology for construction

    - ICON has completed several projects, including the House of Phoenix and a 3D-printed neighborhood in Texas

    - Project Olympus aims to use 3D printing for construction on the Moon and Mars, utilizing in-situ resources

    - On the Moon, ICON plans to use a laser-directed energy deposition system to melt and solidify lunar regolith

    - Challenges of lunar construction include the unsuitability of water in the concrete mix, extreme temperatures, and the need for robotic systems

    - ICON is developing lunar regolith simulants and testing robotic systems in their "Moon Box" facility

    - Mars construction may involve more traditional materials, but thermal energy deposition could still be viable

    - ICON's Vitruvius AI architecture model allows users to design homes based on their preferences and needs

    - The company's ultimate goal is to use robotics, automation, and AI to help solve the global housing crisis on Earth while enabling a sci-fi future of extraterrestrial habitation

    Host: Rod Pyle

    Co-Host: Isaac Arthur

    Guest: Evan Jensen

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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Spreading the Good Word - With the Space and Things Podcast

    Spreading the Good Word - With the Space and Things Podcast

    In the world of space podcasts, the Space and Things podcast is a keeper (along with ours, of course). The brainchild of Emily Carney, founder of the Space Hipsters on Facebook, and singer/songwriter Dave Giles, Space and Things brings us some premiere guests in the space sector. Subjects are always compelling, and as we well know, that takes work. We'll dive into the intricacies of creating--and maintaining--a quality space podcast and the success of Emily's Facebook group, the Space Hipsters, now 62,000 members strong.

    Headlines:

    - Boeing's Starliner mission extended to June 26th for further testing of thrusters and leaks before undocking and landing at White Sands Space Harbor (no, the astronauts are not "stuck" in space)

    - Rocket Lab achieves 50th launch of their Electron rocket, reaching the milestone faster than SpaceX's Falcon 9 and other major launch providers

    - June 24th marks the first full moon of summer, also known as the Strawberry Moon

    Main Topic: Interview with Emily Carney and Dave Giles from Space and Things Podcast:

    - Space and Things podcast focuses on space and its intersection with art, popular culture, and other unique aspects, with over 200 episodes released

    - Emily and Dave share their personal space experiences, including Emily's childhood memories of watching Space Shuttle launches and Dave's visit to the Kennedy Space Center

    - The podcast features a diverse range of guests, including astronauts, their children, historians, and space enthusiasts, covering topics beyond the typical space discussions

    - Emily discusses her Facebook group, Space Hipsters, which has grown to over 62,000 members and aims to create an inclusive community for space enthusiasts

    - The importance of space fan clubs in providing a sense of belonging and a platform for space enthusiasts to connect and share their passion

    - The guests discuss their dream podcast guests, with Emily choosing Gerard O'Neill and Dave selecting Tom Hanks and Jim Lovell

    - Emily and Dave express their eagerness to participate in commercial spaceflight if given the opportunity

    - The episode concludes with a discussion on the best space-themed songs, with the hosts and guests sharing their personal favorites

    Hosts: Rod Pyle and Tariq Malik

    Guests: Emily Carney and Dave Giles

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    • 1 hr 5 min
    Our Friendly Mr. Sun - Mr. Sun: Friend or Foe? With Dr. Alex Young

    Our Friendly Mr. Sun - Mr. Sun: Friend or Foe? With Dr. Alex Young

    We see the sun every day as it rises and sets... it's one of the few constants in life. But it's a very dynamic body, throwing minor temper tantrums regularly. As it happens, we're at the peak of its 11-year cycle of activity and there's a lot going on! Dr. Alex Young, the Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, joins us to talk about the sun, solar activity cycles, the recent solar storms that have given us auroras and some communications blackouts, the science from the Parker solar probe, and much more. Don't take the friendly Mr. Sun for granted--join us for this fascinating episode!

    Headlines:

    NASA's accidental broadcast: A simulated medical emergency on the International Space Station was mistakenly aired for 8 minutes, causing brief panic before clarification.
    Spacewalk canceled: Just before a planned spacewalk, NASA canceled the event citing spacesuit discomfort, with few details provided.
    Voyager 1 update: The spacecraft is now sending back data from all four of its working instruments, a remarkable feat for the 47-year-old probe.
    Remembering Bill Anders: The Apollo 8 astronaut, known for the iconic Earthrise photo, passed away at 90 after a private plane crash.
    Main Topic - Our Friendly Mr. Sun:

    Heliophysics defined: Dr. Young explains that heliophysics studies the sun's atmosphere and its interactions with Earth and the solar system.
    Solar activity cycle: Currently near solar maximum, the sun is exhibiting increased sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections.
    Space weather impacts: Solar activity can affect technology, causing communication disruptions, satellite damage, and even power grid outages.
    Solar observation: A variety of spacecraft monitor the sun, including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and NOAA's GOES satellites.
    Parker Solar Probe: This groundbreaking mission is providing unprecedented data about the sun's corona and solar wind.
    Solar magnetic field: The sun's magnetic field flips every ~11 years, which can lead to increased solar activity during the transition.
    Carrington Event: This 1859 solar storm remains the benchmark for extreme space weather, causing telegraph systems to catch fire.
    Sun in pop culture: Rod, Tariq, and Dr. Alex Young discuss depictions of the sun in science fiction, separating fact from fiction.
    Solar research: Dr. Young shares his current work on the statistics of large solar events and improving science communication.
    Hosts: Rod Pyle and Tariq Malik

    Guest: C. Alex Young

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    • 1 hr 7 min
    Starliners & Starships - Boeing's Redemption, SpaceX's Ambition

    Starliners & Starships - Boeing's Redemption, SpaceX's Ambition

    Well, we waited, we waffled, and we joked... but Boeing's Starliner finally made good! Seven or so years after their projected crewed flight date, the second provider of crew delivery to the International Space Station finally succeeded in sending two astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams, to the ISS. Despite a few problems with (sigh) valves, helium tanks, and thrusters, the mission appears to be going swimmingly. Then, just a day later, SpaceX launched a Starship on a fourth test flight with spectacular results--and may be ready for another test launch within a few weeks. All good news this week, and it feels like newspace just picked up a lot of steam. Join us!

    Headlines:

    China's Chang'e-6 mission successfully collected up to 2,000 grams of lunar samples from the far side of the moon and launched them back to Earth.
    The Hubble Space Telescope faces gyroscope issues, prompting NASA to use only one gyroscope to extend its lifespan until around 2035.
    A lava tube discovered on Mars near the Arsia Mons extinct volcano could potentially shelter future human habitats or host microbial life.
    A new star, "Blaze Star" T Coronae Borealis, may appear in the night sky between now and September, becoming the first visible nova since 1946.
    Main Topic - Starliner and Starship:



    Boeing's Starliner successfully launched, rendezvoused, and docked with the International Space Station, despite some thruster and cooling system issues.
    The mission marks the first time in decades that astronauts have launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on an Atlas V rocket.
    Starliner's reusability and cost per seat are compared to SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.
    SpaceX's Starship completed a successful test flight, with the Super Heavy booster and Starship vehicle performing well despite some heat shield damage during reentry.
    The hosts discuss the progress and challenges of Starship development, including the recent cancellation of Yusaku Maezawa's "dearMoon" mission.
    SpaceX's rapid launch cadence and plans for mass-producing Starship vehicles and engines are highlighted, along with the company's vision for catching Super Heavy boosters with the "Mechazilla" launch tower.
    Hosts: Rod Pyle and Tariq Malik

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    • 1 hr 16 min

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