Doug Turnbull here at Mars Pirate Radio, the nexus of science, science fiction and the future. Tonight we have an interview with Mihail Mateev, the founder and President of The Mars society in Bulgaria. In addition we will have some space science updates and the next installment of Titus Andronicus Scott.
Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society and President of Pioneer Astronautics has joined the advisory board of Mars One, the Dutch based foundation that seeks to establish a permanent settlement on Mars in the next decade. To date, Mars One has had over 200,000 volunteers for their astronaut program. The mission architecture calls for the trips to the Red Planet to be one-way. On accepting the position on the board, Zubrin said:
“Mars is the new world. Its settlement presents the challenge that will determine whether we remain confined to Earth, or can become a multiplanet spacefaring species, with a future made unbounded by our courage and creativity. Mars One has accepted that challenge. It is a daunting one, and the odds may well be against them. But if no one tries, no one will succeed. I’m proud to do what I can to help.”
According to an October 15th Leonard David article in space.com, India’s first Mars bound spacecraft is set to launch late this month. The Indian Space Research Organization’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe, will be carried aloft by the Indian made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The spacecraft is designed to photograph the Martian surface from orbit and search for signs of methane in the planet’s atmosphere, be it expelled by non-biological or microbial sources. The orbiter’s launch window opens on Oct. 28 and closes on Nov. 19, with the arrival at the Red Planet targeted for September 2014.
On October 15th I had an article posted in space.com positing that the planned 501 day Inspiration Mars circumnavigation mission could be flown using equipment that is already in service. Utilizing the Proton and Soyuz launch vehicles, the Mars vehicle would be assembled in low Earth Orbit and then injected into its Mars circumnavigation orbit by Russian built Briz-M propulsion units. The vehicle itself would consist of a Zvezda module similar to the one in use on the International Space Station and a Soyuz orbiter docked together. The mission is scheduled for 2018.
Links to these articles are listed in the introduction of Episode XXVI.
And now, to our interview.
Mihail Mateev is the founder and first President of The Mars Society-Bulgaria. He has a Masters Degree in Engineering in the area of Telecommunication Technique and Technologies. Having grown up when the Soviet Union still held Eastern Europe as part of its empire, Mihail brings a perspective to the subject of human space flight that differs from that of most of us who grew up in the western democracies. He speaks English, Russian and Bulgarian. A written transcript of this interview will be posted in the “Podcast” portion of my website.
Good evening Mihail
– Good evening, Doug!
-Tell us a bit about The Mars Society Bulgaria, what the organization does and what you do.
– Mars Society Bulgaria was founded in 2012. Our main aim is the younger generation – children and teenagers. Thus we pursue popular projects like translation of articles, we have done the translation of “The Mars Underground” 2007 with subtitles in Bulgarian.
One of our finished projects is a set of 2 maps – topomap and photomap – with size of 50 by 70 cm /19 by 27 inches/ – it is B2 size of paper, which we had distributed to most astronomical organizations /clubs, planetariums, observatories/ and some of public libraries. The rest of the print is available for donors for their donation. The toponyms are in Latin, the explanatory text is in Bulgarian. Even so, there is an American couple who bought a pair and put them framed on the wall of their home.
We have also a mechanical Mars Gravity Simulator (MaGraS). It is on paper only, as we need funding to make it.
Mars Society Bulgaria holds an annual literature competition for science-fiction short story and poem, too.
We have some other projects, which are not finished, and therefore we do not announce them too much.
My personal role in Mars Society Bulgaria… Well, I am the founder and its first President. It is my duty to participate whenever a journalist calls and asks for an interview, or if there is a Space related event – to go and to present Mars Society Bulgaria. I am also maintaining the website of the Society.
How did you get interested in space exploration and human space flight?
– I was raised in Communist Bulgaria. At that time the science fiction was one of the few areas, where some liberty of mind was possible.
In fact, as long as I remember, I’ve started with Tsiolkovskiy “On the Moon” and “Dreams for Earth and heaven”, where microgravity, reactive propulsion and closed ecosystems were examined, as well as Solar system, etc.
I am humbled to know that scientists from a global magnitude as von Braun and Korolyov had the same way in their life.
I become especially fascinated with the idea of closed ecosystems, therefore I am doing a theoretical research in aquaponics, which is combined growth of fish and plants in symbiosis. I will try to run a small system here, on Earth, and if it is successful, I will try to adapt it for microgravity and Martian gravity.
-Do you feel, as do I, that there is a future for humanity in populating and developing the solar system and how do you see that evolving in the near future?
– The curiosity and the spirit of discovery is laid down into the human being and I believe there are some people who are willing to go to a certain place just because it exists. For example – Mt. Everest, Mariana Trench, Moon, Mars… What is more – humanity had settled the Earth firstly on places, where the conditions are most favorable. With respect to the temperature Martian equator is a better place than some places on Earth, as Martian regolith temperature during the day reaches up to 30 degrees C. For example, the temperature on some Antarctic stations is – 40 to – 80 degrees C and people do live there.
So, everything is depending on the will of man and proper equipment. I strongly believe that gradually the humanity will settle the whole Solar system. Mars, for example, has total surface of all land area on Earth. Practically said, it is a second Earth in regard to the surface.
In order to settle down on Mars we should have develop technologies to maintain a regular and relatively inexpensive journeys to Mars and back. Then we would have the possibility to extract resources from the Main asteroid belt and to “Long live and prosper!”, as they say in Startrek. Then may be we would be able to visit and make outposts on Jovian moons, then the rest of the planets, and who knows, one day we may fly to Proxima Centauri, which is 4 light years away.
-Private ventures seem to be gradually displacing government financed space ventures. Is this the future of space development in your view?
– Yes, according to me the private enterprises would take over the governmental space program. If you want to have something sustainable on a long run, you have to make it profitable.
America was settled this way – with chapters from the British Crown, but the funding was private. My point of view is sooner than later the settlements would request their independence from Earth authorities and therefore it is best to have as less as possible governmental interference. New communities would be formed, with their own challenges, and that is why I strongly believe the role of national governments soon shall end and will be replaced by community councils of the settlements, which would be private ventures.
Something more – private sector and free market in space are would provide drop in the prices and boost of quality – something we already see if we compare SpaceX to NASA rockets. There was an article, which said NASA committee was elected to investigate how SpaceX did their Falcon rocket. The same committee said if NASA had to do it it would cost about 4 times more.
-I believe it is possible to begin planning and assembling the infrastructure materials for a Lunar or Mars settlement today, using equipment we currently posses, and assembling the missions in low Earth orbit the way we did with the ISS. What are your thoughts on this?
– It is possible to be done today, but it is impractical. Elon Musk from SpaceX is aiming to achieve price of USD 1000 per pound to LEO, which is USD 1000 for 0.5 kilograms in metric system. Current price is about USD 10,000 per pound.
I understand there are people of different age and some, which are with greater age, what to see things as soon as possible, but economics has its own pace. I would say if SpaceX achieve a reusable first stage of its Falcon rocket, then the prices would drop. What is more – we already saw a cargo delivery from Cignus of private company Orbital. The competition between private rocket companies would make prices to get low with a drop. I expect to see many more private players in this sector, so the near future is really bright. I am enjoying the first Sun beams of the rise already.
-In my books and stories, I postulate that the habitats and so forth for a Mars or Lunar settlement be constructed robotically before any human ever sets foot there. Do you agree or disagree and why?
– I am totally agree. Robots do not get tired, they do not need life support systems, they are remotely controllable and able to have some local autonomy. Plus, if they are supplied with energy, they can work non-stop around the clock.
3D printing revolution is already here, it is just starting to get more common day after day in spreading areas of application, habitats included.
The great benefit for Earth is if something is working on Moon or Mars, it would work for sure on Earth (well, if it is not specifically bounded to a less gravity).
-Right now it takes about 260 days to get to Mars using the economical, Hohman style orbit, during which passengers are subject to a barrage of high energy radiation. What do you think of the Aldrin Cycler as a mean of shortening the duration of missions?
– Aldrin Cyclers are a great idea of a great mind. Some of the outbound trips are just about 86 days Earth to Mars.
What we need is cheap access to LEO and strong business competition in order to secure low prices and great quality. We would need also redundancy reliability in automatics. The last article, written by Buzz Aldrin, had some extra intermediate vehicles to match the high speed of the Cycler. But what I saw is that it would become a transportation network. We need reliable access to LEO and beyond in order to secure that network.
-Along those lines, what do you see in the future of propulsion systems such as chemical, ion, nuclear, solar sail and other possibilities?
– Different propulsions are suitable for different aims. Ion propulsion is great on fuel consumption – it is very economic, but the acceleration is small and time is needed to achieve really usable speeds.
Until we handle nuclear waste reliably – for example – to burn it into the Sun – I would not use nuclear power. The fact the nuclear plant is dangerous even just as a device – just needs to go out of its optimal parameters to make a boom, makes me reluctant to accept it in any form. I am not environmentalist, but I do not want a Moon or Martian settlement to be erased just because of a nuclear failure. Of course, there are several types of nuclear batteries, which are somehow more secure, but nuclear propulsion is too dangerous for the crew on the ship plus Earth atmosphere, thus the whole Earth population if it is ignited in vicinity of Earth.
Solar sail is a great way for light equipment.
Chemical propulsion still has to offer a great way of transportation, which, combined with proper orbital trajectories can serve us for many years and decades ahead. For example, methane-liquid oxygen bi-propellant is very secure and clean fuel, which we still haven’t implemented on Earth, but it is quite possible to be implemented on Mars firstly, and then on Earth.
-I believe that private property rights are essential if we are to develop an extraterrestrial culture. What are your views on this?
– I believe that the political system as we know it – big governmental programs, big interfere of the government in the economics is a model, which soon shall be outdated. I think the community model is the future – people would live in one settlement because they are willing so, not because some bureaucrat/statist said so. The settlements need to be productive as much as they can, and feeding non-productive big government with money, collected by taxes or imposed fees is not the best way for surviving and thrive in such a community/society. If there would be any such need of people like this, they would be non-paid. For example as you and me are not being paid for what you do in Mars Pirate Radio, nor I am paid for running Mars Society Bulgaria. As long as I know the Swiss Parliament/Congress is also unpaid. May be this is the reason this country is has such an effective government and self-dependent people.
-On this subject, the so called “moon treaty” appears to prohibit ownership of extraterrestrial property. Should the USA and other space faring nations opt out of this treaty?
– I have been interviewed for Bulgarian National Radio on that matter. So called “Moon treaty” is not signed by any major Space faring nation, neither USA, nor Russia (also China, Japan, India, some European countries). So such nations do not have to opt out, as they have never signed it.
Moon treaty from 1979 is thought as a follow-up of Outer Space Treaty from 1967. The Moon treaty bans private or NGO ownership of any parcels on heavenly bodies and gives authorities to UN to rule.
Outer Space Treaty from 1967 rules out possibility to claim any extraterrestrial territory a sovereign national territory, but says nothing about private person ownership or a private consortium. Of course, in the midst of the Cold War no one could even imagine a real private ownership of any extraterrestrial plot of land.
Here comes the community system. If a community of settlers claim sovereign right over a territory, but not subdue to any nation on Earth, but something like a new nation in-situ, then it might work, especially if this community is self-sustainable and have knowledge or resources to trade.
Outer Space Treaty is built upon a frame of The Antarctic Treaty (also called Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)). It prohibits only nation to develop any national business in Antarctica. As a result, Antarctica is still a non-exploited land, contrary on the Arctic, where contracts have been drawn and the area is quite developed in regard to the resources, trade, etc.
So, if I can rephrase your question should USA opt out of Outer Space Treaty – yes, you should. For the sake of the future of humanity.
-Any other questions or topics you would like to discuss?
– I do not have any particular suggestions right now.
-How can our listeners learn more about The Mars Society Bulgaria and possibly contact you?
– Anyone who is willing to contact us may do it visiting www.MarsSociety.bg, and we are also on Facebook – we have a page Mars Society Bulgaria and a group Mars Society Bulgaria. Also we may be contacted directly by email info@MarsSociety.bg.
-Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.
– Thank you for the invitation! Long live and prosper!