LPSC Random with Alan Stern

I’m very frustrated. I have been walking around reading my schedule, preplanned and placed on my iPhone, trying to make sure I make it to everything I want/need to. One of the things on my list was Alan Stern’s address tonight at 5:30. The problem is it got moved to noon, and I only caught the last 20 minutes.

That last 20 minutes did give me a chance to hear one of the best exchanges I’ve heard so far:
Alan Stern: MSL can launch in 2011 if we miss the launch window [due to everything being behind schedule]. Infact, we can even launch in 2010 and hang out in a gravity assist Earth orbit that gets us to Mars the same time as the 2011 launch. That doesn’t get us to Mars any faster, but it gets MSL out of California.
Audiance: HUGE laughter (reason: As long as the mission craft is in California being worked on, there are HUGE cost over runs and there is a large jeopardy of the mission being canceled)

There was also some one question from the audience worth reporting that I caught. Paraphrased a lot, the question was, “What about launch vehicles?”
Alan Stern: We used to have cheap launch on Delta 2s. We’re running out of them. Today they are expensive because the military isn’t using them anymore, and NASA bares the brunt of maintaining launch pads. This makes the Delta 2s almost as expensive as the Delta 4s – which are too big for most purposes, so you’re wasting money. There is a tiger team of (impressive list of folks) to work on figuring this out. Solutions include ideas like co-manifesting and lower cost options, including the commercial Taurus 2, and lower cost future purchase of Delta 2s. Unfortunately, it will be higher cost because 1 company runs the launch industry. … we are looking forward to Falcon and Taurus, but they still need to be proven. We can’t identify yet what we will be buying in the future. We will have RFPs before the end of the year to buy rockets to get us out through 2015.
I’m most annoyed that I didn’t catch the whole thing, but I did arrange with Stern, who was running to catch an airplane, to get an interview with him later. I’ve actually had a problem trying to get interviews. NASA folks are mic-phobic and I’ve heard over and over that people can’t talk on things and I need to contact some other person higher up the food chain. This is annoying when I just want to interview people about what they just publically presented. Alan Stern is one of the names people keep giving me – He is someone who *can* talk on the record.

One of the reasons I missed Stern’s talk was the desire to get lunch. One problem with this and all meetings is the 24 hr content feed. Official meetings are running basically from 8:30am to 7pm or later (both Tuesday and Thursday official activities run until 9pm). There are no breaks for food. If you want to eat, you have to miss something. Oh well.

While seeking fluid and internet to post this I encountered my best overheard exchange of the day: “So What are you up to?” “Mars stuff. A little bit of MRO. And I’m looking at getting into the Moon more.” I’m not sure why this struck me as so funny, but it did.

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