What You Probably Don't Know About NASA


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NASA3.jpgMatties: What do you think about the privatization of the space race?

Gorospe: I think it's wonderful. It's going to define what we do in space from here on out. If you think about tanks, there are many American tanks in Iraq and overseas right now. Who got those tanks there? The United States didn't build them there. They didn't simply take them there with their warships. They paid a contractor to get them there. They paid for a transportation company to take their heavy equipment there. NASA pays people like SpaceX or other groups to take their equipment to space. If those people can do that inexpensively, then that helps us so much more, because suddenly myself and the other scientists at NASA Ames can be more interested in what we do with the equipment once it gets to space. We don't want to concern ourselves with getting the stuff to space.

Matties: The journey there.

Gorospe: Where NASA spent a lot of its money developing the space shuttle and the space transportation system, that effort and that money can now be redirected towards, “What are you going to do in space? What are you going to build in space with all that mass that you can suddenly get to space much easier?”

I like to think of SpaceX as UPS or FedEx. We're the builders of the package, and we're also the consumers of it when it gets to its destination.

Matties: That's a great way to look at it. You're right, that’s a very smart use of resources.

Gorospe: I think there are a lot of smart people in this world, and I like them to be focused on their specific portion. Focus on building better rockets, more efficient rockets, getting the price down, and when the price goes down, we can get more to space and can think more deeply about what to do in space, rather than how to build a rocket.

Matties: It also opens up the commercial market too, where companies can now look at technology like the cube satellites and micro satellites that you’re displaying here, and it allows companies to more easily get their technology into space.

Gorospe: We were just talking with a group from Virginia from an elementary school, and they are the first elementary school ever to launch a CubeSat. The CubeSat was launched on Monday.

Matties: Is that strictly a photographic kind of satellite, or is it giving them other sorts of data?

Gorospe: I'm not sure about the science payload on theirs.

Matties: Just the fact that they're doing it is quite impressive.

NASA2.jpgGorospe: Isn't that awesome? If you think about when I was in elementary school, we had computers, but we only had like a computer hour, where you had to have two people sharing a computer for an hour and then you had to go back to your classroom. Now elementary schools have iPads in their classroom and anybody can use it always. I was talking to someone else who said, “We didn't even have internet in elementary school, and now there are kids building CubeSats in elementary school?”

Matties: It's fantastic. I had Tinkertoys.

Gorospe: Yeah, but you never put your Tinkertoys in space, right? It really just broadens all these horizons, and when you don't see barriers like that, and you can think freely about how to use the tools that are in front of you, then new ways, new ideas, are just bound to come.

Matties: I see some circuit boards here. Are you guys designing circuit boards at your facility?

Gorospe: Yes. We often design them.

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