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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in space talks physical toll

More from Ora: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in space talks physical toll

Larry King visits NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Larry King NowJul 04 '16

Larry gains rare access to mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to talk with the facility's top scientists about 'Mission Juno' to Jupiter, the continued search for life on Mars and elsewhere in the universe, and the incredible power of the Kepler Telescope.


*Posted Online on Ora.TV on July 4th 2016:

“When they were first figuring out how to do rockets and jet propulsion, this was the place where they were doing the testing. The fuel testing, the engine testing, and it was part of Caltech. California Institute of Technology. And the story is, you know, they were having some accidents - it was a little bit dangerous - so they said ‘hey, move out here away from the campus so when you have an accident it doesn’t blow up a bunch of students.’” — Dr. Scott J. Bolton on how the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was founded.

“Generally we don’t work on the human spaceflight missions, although a lot of it - you can’t do the human spaceflight missions without knowing about where you’re going. So JPL plays a very important role in understanding that. So before we can go to the moon we had to go make sure on where to land, and what it was like. Before we send a human to Mars, we have to send a lot of spacecrafts to Mars that are robotic to study the planet and make sure we know what we’re doing before we send real life there.”— Dr. Scott J. Bolton on the robotic missions JPL uses to prepare for human missions.

“Jupiter is the biggest of the planets. It’s basically the monster out there. Bigger than Earth - 1,000 Earths fit inside Jupiter! So when we want to understand the early part of the solar system, where did we come from, how did the planets get made? Jupiter holds a lot of key secrets for us because it’s the biggest and most massive of the planets. One, almost everything else in the solar system would fit inside Jupiter. So after the Sun formed, there were leftovers kind of hanging around. More than half of those got sucked up and made into Jupiter. So it probably formed very early. It’s mostly Hydrogen and Helium just like the Sun. So it basically had to form before we lost the cloud that formed the Sun.But it also dictated and governed what the early solar system is like, so we’re here in part because Jupiter exists. It shielded us, it sent material that made us, and basically by studying Jupiter you learn about that very first step in how you make solar systems, and that’s very important. What we’re really after is, our long-term goal is to get the recipe for solar system formation. How do you make planets? We’re at the ingredient list, that’s the first step of any recipe.” — Dr. Scott J. Bolton on why Jupiter is important and what we can learn by studying it.

“We have a fleet of missions that are in operation, they last for a certain amount of time, then they eventually degrade and quit working. We call it ‘graceful degradation.’ Different pieces start failing. Right now I believe there are four orbiters and two rovers currently alive.” — Dr. David Beaty on JPL’s current activity in space.

“Mars has been an object of fascination since the time of the ancients. It’s our closest planetary neighbor that is habitable. Venus is about the same size as the earth, but the temperature of Venus is hot enough to melt lead. Mars is much more temperate and in the ancient past, it was even more temperate than it is now. So, the possibility of indigenous life on Mars is an object of fascination that just drives us all.” — Dr. David Beaty on why we should be interested in Mars.

“Everywhere on Earth we find water we find life. We don’t know of life forms on Earth that don’t require water. So that’s part of our search mechanism for evaluating the question for ‘are we alone?’” — Dr. David Beaty on what the discovery of water on Mars might mean.

“The Europeans have put together a mission concept, and asked for volunteers for a one-way trip. The number of people who have signed up for that trip – I don’t have the exact figure in front of me – but it’s in the vicinity of a hundred thousand. People signed up to go on this one-way trip! Of course, the mission can only handle a few, but it was actually rather surprising to us that there were that many people willing to go on a one way trip.”— Dr. David Beaty on the volunteer manned missions to Mars.

“Exoplanets are simply planets that orbit other stars. The first one was discovered in 1995, not that long ago, and we’re already up to almost 2,000 newly discovered exoplanets.” — Dr. Nick Siegler defines ‘exoplanet.’

“Kepler was a medieval astronomer, he came up with some magnificent laws of physics but he was the one that indicated that planets orbit stars in elliptical orbits. The Kepler space telescope - named after Kepler - is very simple. It just stares out into a field of stars, night after night after night, and looks for one thing. It looks for the stars brightness, which will occasionally dip when there’s a planet that crosses in front of it, and when the planet comes around to the other side and does that again, we see the same exact same dip indicating the presence of planets.” —Dr. Nick Siegler on the Kepler telescope.

“We think strongly and confidently that there is life. We don’t yet have evidence for life either in our own solar system or outside, but the reason we are so optimistic about finding life is not just the argument that there are so many planets in the galaxy. It’s that when we look out in the cosmos we find the building blocks of life all over the place. We find carbon dioxide, water, ammonia, evidence of the building blocks - these elements that are in our body. The fact that they are all over the galaxy bodes very well for us to finding life in the galaxy.” — Dr. Nick Siegler on chances of finding life in the galaxy.