The head of NASA (The NASA Administrator), Jim Bridenstine shares with us about: How the space race impacts our lives on a practical level, the future of commercial space travel, how space relates to our national security and more.
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Space Space, the final frontier. These are the voice of NASA. Its continuing mission are strange new worlds to seek out new life and new civilizations to boldly go,
well, no one has gone. I’m not sure if you, if you’ve got the memo, but we are actually interviewing on today’s show, the head administrator for Nash, right? He runs the whole enterprise. That’s what he does, right? Sorry to let you down there, buddy. But we’re not interviewing captain Kirk. What? I get done so much preparation. I knew everything. Why do you always do that to me? Cry. This was a real man. A real dude who manages 17,336 employees and a budget of over $19 billion. Please show the man they’ll kind of reverence that dope that he deserves. Well, can we, after the show, could we at least reach out to to Spock and not a real person, a La Hora not real or Sulu. Also not real Chewbacca feel. There’s just so many real, not space explorers. I’d like to interview. I hate to burst your bubble, but probably 99% of people don’t know what NASA is.
Today’s show, we have a very special guest now, doctors owner. Typically when we teach business school without the BS, we’re not really teaching rocket science typically, typically, and we’ve said that it’s not rocket science, but on today’s show and treat rocket science, we have the head of NASA on the show. Mr Jim Bryden Stein, welcome onto the thrive time show. How are you sir? I am splendid. Thank you for having me. Well, uh, Z, can you explain a little bit of background of how you know this incredible man are because really you guys have a connection here.
Yeah. Jim and I overlapped, uh, how many years ago was that Jim Bridenstine? Eight now is it?
Hey, yeah, it must’ve been at least.
Yeah. My brother who was, who was involved, my older brother, uh, Doctor Eric Zellner, George Erickson, uh, heavily involved in politics, loved the game, found a young man that was going to run for, was running for, uh, the first congressional district here in the Tulsa area. Basically Tulsa County. Got It. And was just enthralled by him and said, hey, I want to bring him over to your house and I want you to meet him. And I said, sure. Absolutely. So he did. We sat in my man cave and I had been a
huge fan ever since. And now, Jim, you are, uh, you know, you’re, you’re elected, you’re the first elected official to serve as the NASA administrator. Was it something that you always wanted to do or, or how did this come about?
Well, I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be the NASA administrator. I will tell you that I always wanted to be a pilot, the first pilot to be the NASA administrator. Going back to the Apollo era, when we went to the moon, James Webb was the NASA administrator and of course he was a Marine Corps pilot. So I will tell you a flying has always been part of who I am. I grew up wanting to be a pilot and then when I graduated from college, I joined the navy, became a pilot, flew off aircraft carriers for um, well maybe a few too many years. Yeah. And then, uh, decided to, to separate from the navy. And, um, during while I was in the navy, I got married, had children, and then I decided, uh, for a more stable lifestyle that included politics a little bit. I know that that was not going to be a more stable lifestyle, but, um, but no, I, I was, I was always attracted to aviation. And really when I
got the congress, I served on the Armed Services Committee
subcommittee on Strategic Forces. What that means is we had oversight over our national security space capabilities. And I also served on the science space and technology committee. Uh, the subcommittee on space, which oversees NASA. And I served on the sub committee on the environment. I actually chaired the subcommittee on, on the environment, which, uh, overseas, Noaa, the National Oceanic and atmospheric administration, which includes the national weather service and about 40% of their budget is space related activities. So I get to Congress, uh, as a, uh, as a freshman member, I’m serving on committees that are absolutely critical to the space domain. Uh, and what I was recognizing is they, they weren’t really, there’s a lot of space activities by a lot of different government agencies and they weren’t really coordinating. And so I put together a very comprehensive space reform bill. I called it the American Space Renaissance Act, and, uh, and, and, and really that kind of sent me on a path to eventually get to get picked as the NASA administrator. Um, but no, it was never on my agenda when I ran for Congress. It was never on my agenda.
Did you get a call from president Trump letting you know that you would be his selection, his, his nominee for this position? Or what was the, what was the relationship like with President Trump?
So president Trump created what’s called the National Space Council. Uh, and what that is, it’s think of an organization that has the heads of agencies that, that deal with space. For example, as you can imagine, space, um, is, is the State Department is very involved in space because, uh, it’s, it’s a domain that every country has access to and we need rules and those kinds of things. So the State Department, the secretary of state sits on the National Space Council and the secretary of transportation, they oversee a commercial space launch and reentry. Uh, the, the, uh, director of national intelligence, the Secretary of defense, uh, of course they deal a lot with space activities as well. And of course, NASA. Um, and, and there are a number of other agencies, all the agencies that touch space. President Trump created what’s called the National Space Council, so that we will come together about once a quarter and meet to discuss America’s collective space efforts. Um, he put the vice president as the chairman of the National Space Council. And so really my first interview, uh, for the NASA administrator position was with the vice president. And then, uh, after that I, I had a number of additional meetings with other staffers and other things. And over the course of time I eventually got the nomination and the confirmation.
I will, I will tell you, once I became the NASA administrator, of course, I met with the president. I’ve done that a number of times now and I’ll tell you he’s, he’s an amazing individual, very engaging.
I want to, I want to dive into that. President Trump and vice president Mike pence, they have a very, you see them on TV typically when they’re defending themselves or they’re in some kind of debate or you know, it’s typically you see them where there’s a lot of reporters who were asking what we call the maybe passive-aggressive questions, any passes and there, what are those two guys like up close when you’re with president Trump and vice president Mike pence, what do they like when you’re in the room? One on one talking to those guys? What kind of men are they?
So, you know, it’s interesting, I’ve gotten to know the vice president probably better than the president because he chairs the National Space Council. Would this the thing that you’ll notice that the vice president is, um, he, he has focused like a laser on, um, personal kind of things. Like when I meet him, he knows my name, he knows the name of my wife and he knows the name of my children and um, he asks about them. And um, he was just very personally engaging, very focused on, you know, how, how’s your family doing? And it was this transition working out for you and things like that. He was just a, a very sincere gentleman. Um, and of course tthe president has a very, um, I would say a different kind of personality that’s more focused on what is getting done,
if you know what I mean.
But they’re both, I mean, they work together very, very well,
who are not familiar, I believe approximately 17,000 employees and a budget that’s approaching $19 billion when you were first chosen to run NASA. I mean, a lot of people see you. And I’ve run multimillion dollar companies. But imagine all of a sudden going, hey, by the way, you have 17,000 employees and 19 or $19 billion to, to manage, uh, talk to me. How, how did you begin? How did you wrap your mind around managing this? How did you begin? Where did you start being the administrator of of 17,000 employees in $19 billion?
Well, you know, where it starts is the idea that I’m, I am not personally managing 17,000 people by any stretch of the imagination.
That’s good. That’s a long day.
The way to think about it is, you know, there, there is a, there is a small team at the top and of course each member of that small team, um, has their own teams and then ultimately it, it trickles down. And so what happens is the National Space Council, which I just talked about chaired by the vice president, um, we, we have discussions over what is going to be the space policy for the United States of America and what direction is that going to go. And then, and then the vice president and these different heads of, or I should say cabinet members are heads of agencies. Um, we come to an agreement and the vice president makes a decision. He forwards it to the president who signs what’s called a space policy directive. And then it comes to me to implement that space policy director of the parts of it, of course, that NASA deals with.
Now, once that happens, we turn to the, to the group of leaders here at the headquarters building, we start divvying up responsibilities. Who is going to be responsible for what, for example, um, the, the president’s very first space policy directive was that we’re going to go back to the moon. Uh, but he said, we’re going to go sustainably. In other words, and this was not written down, but in other words, we’re not going to go to the moon and leave flags and footprints and then not go back for another 50 years. We’re going to go to the moon sustainably this time when we go, we’re going to stay. He said, we’re gonna, we’re gonna take, we’re gonna utilize our international partners. In a, in a, in a more robust way. And we’re going to take advantage of the commercial capabilities in space that currently exist. And you can think about who some of those folks are.
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and some other entrepreneurs. We’re going to take advantage of a commercial. We’re going to take, um, and, and grow our international partnerships and we’re going to develop an architecture to go to the moon to stay. We’re going to retire or risk and then we’re going to take those capabilities onto Mars. Um, now that is all in space policy directive one. Well there’s a lot of things that go into that. How do we create a sustainable architecture? So we, we turned to the head of what we call the human exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. And we say, what are the things that we need to do to drive down costs and increase access to space? And of course, you know, one of those things is we need to turn to commercial partnerships. What are the commercial w why is commercial industry interested in accessing space? What are they trying to achieve and how has it synergistic with what we’re trying to achieve?
So it comes from the top. A policy directive comes from the very tippy top of government. It gets signed by the president and then it comes to me. And then again, I’m managing a small team of leaders. I’m again not managing a small team of leaders, getting all of them on the same sheet of music with the same messaging, the same direction. And then they take it to their organizations and those organizations take it on down. And eventually, we get to the part where we’re actually building hardware and putting things that are building things that are going to be put on the moon.
Two questions here. How big is that leadership team?
So it’s, it’s really not very big. We’re, we’re talking about, we have an associate administrator for human explorations. We have a, a science mission directorate, a technology, a space technology mission directorate. We have a mission support directorate. So those are all your, you know, uh, it and human resources kind of capabilities there. Uh, and then we have a deputy administrator of NASA. Um, and an associate administrator of the entire organization. The associate administrator is not a political appointee and it really know nobody that I have mentioned as a political appointee. They’re all civil servants at the highest level of government. Um, but, but that’s about it. Those are the key players that ultimately have to carry out. Yeah.
The president’s policy directors, that’s where it starts. That’s where it starts. Now
don’t get me wrong, like I said, like
17,000 people involved after that. And Oh, by the way, we have contracts support that is pretty robust as well, which includes probably another 30.
What’s it like to manage a team of six people and a budget of $7. Jim, how many of you met would you guess?
Oh, you, so we have a lot of opportunities that I, that I take advantage of to communicate agency-wide. If you’re asking me how many personally have I met, I would say probably on the order of maybe 10,000,
maybe more than that.
We have, we have 10 centers nationwide. Uh, and I visited all of the centers a number of them many times. And every time I go to a center, I’m doing a town hall and I open up to let people ask any question they want to ask. Uh, sometimes it’s not terribly fun because people have very serious
choose if they want to get a dress
from the very top. But I think it’s important to put everything on the table.
Well, Jim, I have an idea that you definitely don’t want to implement, but it’s just something I’ll give to you here. I went to the new kids on the block reunion tour
and their entire strategy was to touch as many people as possible during the concert. It was amazing. That might be your move. That might be the best way for you to connect with all the members of NASA, the best way to meet all these elite scientists, rocket scientists and engineers. Maybe it’s your move. Maybe you should just hire a new kid on the block to perform at some sort of large venue and you just run around just high fiving people saying, Hey, if he, if you care about NASA, put your hands in the air. And I think the Walberg Guy Probably touched a thousand people. That’s a boring, we’re going to be effective when you want to. It’s kind of a mother that’s a plan B. Plan B, you might think about it.
Did he catch a cold?
Ah, I don’t know. But he probably does a lot of viral load or viral, a dangerous, a lot of uncleanliness going on there at the navy. He was touring back. Go to space bags. Now here’s my question for you. Um, this is a show. We have a half million folks that listen to our show and I’m on a monthly basis. And so Z, this would be the confidential question. So I know it has, you’re working on confidential stuff, did some incredible innovations, but are there any innovations you’re working on right now that you could share privately with our 500,000 listeners? Something you could privately share between us and our listeners?
This is absolutely true and it’s been true throughout time. And that is this. Whoever controls technology controls the balance of power on earth.
That’s not a new concept. It is absolutely as true today as it ever has has
been. Of course NASA is advancing technology, um, as far as we can possibly advanced technology. And of course we’re working on things that are critically important to, to that balance of power on earth. Now you’re right, we do have classified programs. The reason our crypto when we have classified programs, the reason we have it is very simple. Um, we want to make sure that the technology that we’re using is for peaceful purposes. There are people out there who would like to get their hands on it for maybe nefarious purposes, but what NASA is and what NASA does. W we are a civil agency. We’re not national security, we’re not defense and we don’t do national security or defense. In fact, we have a partnership with Russia and that’s very difficult these days for any agency in the federal government have a partnership with Russia given the challenges that um, our to geopolitical, you know, nations are facing, right?
That being the case. When you think about the International Space Station, um, we are working hand in hand with our Russian counterparts all the time. We’ve got Russians and Americans living on the international space station now for 18 years in a row. And when we launch right now to the International Space Station, we’re launching on Russian Soyuz rockets. So this is a partnership. And so we, we don’t get involved in national security and defense. I will tell you that, you know, when you talk about technologies that could have uh, uh, you know, a, a, that could shift the balance of power on earth as, again, no secret here, but quantum capabilities, um, you know, are, are among them and NASA. We were interested in quantum communications especially. And of course, China has been very active in developing quantum communications. The idea that you can take a subatomic particle, think of an electron and, and entangle it with another electron and then you separate those two electrons from one side of the galaxy to the other side of the galaxy.
And if you spend one electron to the left, the other one automatically spins to the right without any time delay between them. There’s no communication between them. They are just entangled together. Whatever you do to one, the other one does the opposite. Uh, Einstein called that concept spooky. Uh, but what we’re trying to do is figure out how to utilize that for communication. So when I do communicate to Mars one day, God willing, we will communicate earth to Mars with humans in both places. That communication will be instantaneous. It’s not going to be a seven or nine minute delay or whatever it takes for the signal to get to earth from Mars. It’ll be an instantaneous communication. Um, and, and, and, and guess what? Eventually one day, if we fly humans even beyond Mars, we want instantaneous communication. So that’s a capability that we’re interested in, that we’re developing, um, where it’s, you know, we’re very premature right now, but at the end of the day, it will change.
Imagine being able to communicate without the ability of the enemy to, to hack or spoof or jam. Uh, the, the enemy wouldn’t even know that a communication took place, let alone be able to do anything about it. Uh, because it’s, there is no transmission of a signal. It is just entanglement of subatomic particles that enable the communication to happen. So that, that, that is one example I think that might, people might be interested in look up quantum communication, quantum entanglement. Again, Einstein called it spooky. I don’t pretend to understand it. I can only accept it as reality,
you know, quantum communications,Z , Russia and America, the people if they’re in space working together. I want to ask Jim a really deep question here. Jim, are you prepared for the deep question?
Oh, I’m very prepared.
How often do you think that the Russian cosmonauts, the American astronauts are watching rocky
to get it? So I was in, um, I was in South Korea for an exercise back in 2001. Uh, and, and when I was there, they have, you know, that they have, in South Korea, they have, yeah, Russians and others. And what was fascinating is the bar that I was at, and by the way, I don’t drink, I was at a bar because my friends were there, but the bar that I was at, um, literally they had all these Russians there and American and everything else and they’re all watching rocky four. Fascinating. And I was like, I’m talking to him. I’m like, you’re rushing. Like, why are you watching rocky four? Oh, uh, that we’ve all seen it. You know that like the after, I guess, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they’re all cool with it, I guess. I don’t know.
Okay. Now I want to ask you about basics. What is your, what, what are your thoughts as the head of Nasa about these reusable rockets? What are your thoughts about the reusable rockets and how they may potentially benefit or not benefit NASA’s space exploration?
A wonderful question. It’s absolutely critical. So remember at the beginning I talked about the president’s space policy directive one. Yes. And he said, we’re going to go to the moon, we’re going to go sustainably. We’re going to take advantage of our commercial partners. And our international partners. So the word sustainable. What does that mean? That means that when we go to the moon, we want to stay. We want to be able to get back and forth to the moon over and over again. Um, just like, you know, you know, you drive downtown, you know wherever you might live. Now of course, it’s never going to be that easy, but, but that’s, that’s the end game that we’re trying to achieve. So sustainability means reusability. Imagine if, I’ll put it this way. Imagine you’re going to fly from New York to La on a seven 37 and then once you land, you have to throw away the airplane.
Like that’s a, that’s a very expensive plane ticket. If every time you fly, you have to throw away the airplanes. But in fact, it will be so expensive that the market wouldn’t exist. It would be prohibitive. Nobody would fly because it’d be too expensive. Well, that’s what we’ve been doing in space for all of these years. So NASA made a decision. NASA said, people say, what did he learn? Must Do. The question is what did NASA do? NASA made a decision we’re going to commercialize access to the international space station. We now own and operate the international space station. We’re going to turn it to commercial industry and we’re going to say we’re no longer going to own and operate rockets that go to the ISS, the International Space Station. Instead we’re going to say to commercial, you tell us. I want you to tell us how you’re going to get us to the international space station and we’ll give you money to develop that capability in that concept, and of course NASA gets these proposals back.
Elon Musk is out there with space x and we want to, we want to use rockets to go to the international space station and we want to reuse those rockets and all of a sudden when you think about reusability, the cost goes down and the access goes up and all of a sudden, because NASA was willing to give itself up again, NASA used to purchase, own and operate its own rockets. Right now, NASA is saying we’re going to buy a service and whoever can provide that service at the best cost and the most efficient manner. Those are the people we’re going to buy the service from. Elon Musk steps up to the plate and Boeing steps up to the plate and now they’re both going to provide services to the international space station with what we call commercial crew. They’re going to be this year. As a matter of fact, 29 we’re going to launch American rockets with American astronauts from American soil for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011 and we’re doing, yeah, and we’re doing it with commercial partners, American rockets, American astronauts from American soil to the international space station.
And we’re doing it commercially. In other words, we’re buying the service. So here’s the thing, if you allow people to compete in a private free market, the innovation, we’ll go off the charts and that’s what’s happened here. And because of that, the cost of access to space is going down and we’re getting more access to space than ever before. Now that’s just for the International Space Station, which is in low earth orbit. The question is how do we take what we’ve learned there and take it all the way to the moon? And what we’re going to do is, no kidding, we’re going to have reusability built into every piece of the architecture between the earth and the moon. So we’re going to have launch reusable. Well guess what? We’re almost already there. Number two, we’re going to have tugs that are reusable. In other words, how do we get what is put into Earth orbit?
How do we get it to lunar orbit? In lunar orbit, we’re going to have a reusable command and service module. What that means, think of a small space station in orbit around the moon there permanently. And so that is going to enable our human activity to be around the moon all the time and then reusable landers that can go back and forth to the surface of the moon. So what we have learned given NASA’s ability to turn the commercial capabilities to service the ISS with both supplies and humans, we have now learned how to commercialize our activities all the way to the moon. And that’s going to be what enables us to follow the President Space Policy Directive one which is go to the moon and go sustainably with commercial partners. Um, it really is, it’s, it’s a beautiful model and we were making it happen. It’s not gonna happen overnight, but it will be a beautiful thing when we have an international coalition of partners going to the moon sustainably with our commercial partners as well.
Spit, spitball. This isn’t like, you know, down to the, down to the nitty gritty number, but let’s say a trip to the ISS right now with your new system in place that’s going to be launching this year, your per ups. Any, any idea at all right now? How much savings per trip for those who sign up today?
Again, a couple of things. Number one, what NASA does it we have, we have made investments into these commercial companies. So it’s been a public-private partnership. They’ve made their own investments, they’ve raised their own private capital. NASA has invested some of its money and now we’re to the point where they’re going to be launching our humans to the international space station. Now, um, again, if you take away just the development costs, I would, I would bet that just order of magnitude, a trip to the international space station would be on the order of maybe 50. I say,
maybe $50 million and that would include a capsule with maybe three seats or something. But again, this is not for NASA to determine that these are the, these are commercial.
Uh, enterprises now and so they would have to negotiate their own deal. I will tell you what, what has been advertised not to orbit. Remember when we launched to the International Space Station, we’re going to orbit instead. If you think about sub orbital space, in other words, just launching straight up and coming straight, but crossing what we call the Karman line, which means that you went into space. Um, sir. Richard Branson has the capability for that called spaceship two and he’s selling seats for on the order, I think it’s like $250,000 a seat. So it’s a lot less expensive if you just want to go into space for a matter of minutes, maybe 10 minutes, 20 minutes. Um, so Richard Branson has a solution called spaceship two. It’s called uh, uh, well it’s, it’s a $250,000. And then if you want to go all the way to orbit unthinking, probably closer and you know, tens of millions,
do you know if he’s given frequent flyer miles,
imagine that, uh, if you’re, if you’re a good customer, he’ll probably take it.
Do you want to go on that? Would you want to do that $250,000 to go up there in a heartbeat in a heartbeat?
Just spend 250.
Jim, I want to ask you a question. There’s listeners out there who want to know these things. So I’m going to ask, these are kind of like my three or four rude questions in a row. Root question number one for the, the head of NASA, the head of NASA. Here we go. Um, do you believe in aliens and do you believe that any of them might look like wikis? Okay,
so let’s start with this. And is it an important question? I know you’re joking.
Serious as half serious. Okay.
So look, I have been the NASA Administrator for eight months. Eight months. Well actually, Gosh, Dang, nine months now
tell you the time keeps flying. All right,
so here’s the thing. In the time that I’ve been the NASA administrator, we’ve made some absolutely critical discoveries. Number one, we now know that there are complex organic compounds on the surface of Mars. Now that, that people say, well, what’s that mean? Well, what that means is that the building blocks of life are on Mars there on the surface of Mars. We’ve discovered that, right?
The Mars Curiosity rover.
No, that’s number one. The other important thing is those complex organic compounds do not exist on the moon. They’re not on the moon. Of course, they’re all over earth, but they’re not on the moon, but they exist on Mars. Doesn’t guarantee life, but it increases the probability that life might be on March. Number two, just since I’ve been the NASA administrator, we have discovered that the methane cycles on Mars are perfectly commensurate with the seasons of Mars. Again, it doesn’t guarantee that there’s life on Mars, but it increases the probability of life on Mars. Number three, since I’ve been the NASA administrator, we have now learned that there is liquid water, 10 kilometers under the surface of Mars. Anywhere there’s water on earth, there is abundant life. It’s just the way it is on Mars. We now know that there’s liquid water 10 kilometers below the surface, and of course on the Poles, there’s water ice on Mars, like at the surface on the top. You can see it with, with the telescope from your backyard if you want. So this is what’s, I do believe that as we go about our business, we are eventually going to find life on a world that’s not our own. Um,
do you mean by aliens? I’m talking about, I’m talking about microbial life right now,
green guy, but someone who’s just, you know, do you believe that that could happen? Is that a thing?
You know, I think they look like,
okay, now I have a a that are rude, rude question listeners want to ask, because Pluto recently has been discriminated against. It’s been undervalued. It’s been called it, uh, a dwarf planet spaces of man. We would like to know, we as in about 500,000 listeners who I, none of of them have asked me to ask you this, but I know they’re thinking it. Is there any way, uh, Mr Jim Bridenstine, could you rename the Dwarf Planet of Pluto? Daigo ball and honor of our good friend Yoda?
No, look, look, we’re renaming it, but it’s going to be Dan [inaudible].
Oh, can you rename planets? Can you do that? Is that something, is that part of your job description? Can you do that?
It’s not part of my job description. Uh, there, there was an organization out there that, that has that authority. I can’t really, it’s like the international astronomical something or another or, yeah, something I can’t remember. But, um, but no, that’s, that’s not the NASA administrator’s job, but I would vote for Dan to lean because it got, it got destroyed in episode four, the first star
and I think
to reestablish it in our own solar system.
I agree. Let’s get back into the economics of NASA, Boeing over here, a space x over here. And uh, what is your relationship like with these two organizations and is there maybe a third organization, you mentioned Richard Branson. Is there a third or fourth or Jeff Bezos? I mean, how many private organizations are you working with right now to help, uh, create sustainable space travel using commercial partners?
It was, so there’s a lot of, uh, we have a lot of prime contractors that are large in nature and historically very active and most of Americans are aware of them. Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and others. And then of course, we have these new players in space that consist of billionaires and that would include, you know, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson. And, and now there’s, there’s other very wealthy individuals that are pooling their resources to, to create space activities. And all of this is tremendously valuable. And I’ll tell you why, because there are there absolutely there’s disruptors out there that are changing the paradigm and making us think differently. And some of the more traditional companies are changing their ways of doing business. So when we go to the International Space Station, now it is true space x and Elon Musk, you know, they’re out there taking us now resupplying the international space station.
But so as Northrop Grumman resupplying the International Space Station in a way that is very commercial in nature. So what you’re seeing is a lot of the, the, the new space companies are starting to behave more like traditional space companies. And a lot of the traditional space companies are starting to behave more like the new space companies. But all of them are, they’re all working towards, you know, our eventual, um, you know, the goal, which is to have a sustained presence on the surface of the moon and, and then take that technology to Mars. So the moon is a proven ground. That’s what a lot of people would go to the moon or we go to Mars. We’ve already been to the moon, but no, we need the moon. The moon is a proving ground, plus there’s hundreds of billions of tons of water ice on the surface of the moon. Water. Ice Is life support.
It’s air to breathe, it’s water to drink. It also represents rocket fuel. Hydrogen and oxygen, h two o hydrogen and oxygen when cracked into its component forms put into cryogenic. In other words, liquid form. It is rocket fields, the same rocket fuel that powered the space shuttles. So all of that is tremendously valuable and if we can learn how to do in situ resource utilization, how do use the resources of the moon to live and work and even go further, then ultimately we can take that technology to Mars. Here’s the thing, when you go to Mars, you’re going to be there for 26 months at least, probably longer because the earth and Mars, we’re only on the same side of the sun once every 26 months. So that being the case, when you go to Mars, when you go, you’re going to stay the vote. The value of the moon is, it’s right in our backyard. It’s a three day journey home and it never leaves the earth. So the moon is the best proven ground for what we want to do eventually on Mars.
Would you rather go to Mars?
Oh, I’d take Mars, but look, uh, look, if I get the option, I’ll, I’ll take either one. You want to give me
If you go to Mars, you can be the first. Who wouldn’t want to be the first
a series of questions that I’ve talked to this week. The clients I work with, real business owners in Tulsa and they’ve, they’ve kind of given me some questions. I said, you know, I’m gonna, I’m to ask, uh, Jim, Brian, send these questions. So one, one thriver, this is a guy, he’s a contractor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kind of your stomping grounds. He said, why do we have to go to space? What’s the point? Like how does that empower might be the average tax payer. Why do we need to go? How does it benefit me? I’m a contractor. I’m paying taxes. I think you’re a great guy. This guy actually voted for you. Like she was going, how does this benefit me? So I would like to ask on his behalf, how does it benefit?
I’ll try to put it in a nutshell. Yeah. When you think about the value of space, what does it mean to you in your everyday? I feel like that’s a big job of mine as the NASA administrator. Cause a lot of people have that same thought. Like why, why are we in space? Why are we going to the moon? Here’s the thing, the way we communicate. In fact, uh, you know, if you have dish network or DirecTV or XM radio or Internet broadband from space Xfinity, what, you know, pick your contractor that does that kind of thing. The way we communicate now is dependent on space. And we’re talking about a multiple hundred billion dollar industry just for communications alone in space. And all of that technology was born from NASA exploration endeavors. So the way we communicate, uh, the, the way we navigate. Do you think about gps?
Anybody out there ever used gps before. But GPS is not just about navigation, it’s about timing signals. The way we manage the, the, the way we regulate flows of electricity on the power grid is timed with a gps signal so that we can actually have electricity the way we, yeah, every banking transaction is dependent on a gps timing signal. The way we manage data flows on terrestrial wireless networks dependent on a gps timing signal, gps has enabled all of these capabilities that has elevated the human condition. Again, that’s, that’s a dod manage technology, but it’s also technology that was developed by, by none other than NASA. So the way we communicate, the way we navigate, the way we produce food, next week I’m going to the International Ag Expo, or there’s going to be 100,000 farmers from all over the world in California. And I’m going to be talking about how we’re using NASA technology to increase crop yields, when to plant, when to harvest.
Uh, what kind of fertilizer you need when you need to water. All of these things are coming from NASA technology. Um, and so the way we produce food, the way we produce energy, we’re talking about, you know, producing oil in a way that is environmentally safe. So we can pick out when is methane leaking and when is it not leaking and how does that save money for oil companies? The the way we do disaster relief, I mean, a lot of people don’t realize, you know, when there’s a, when there’s a, uh, uh, uh, a hurricane, um, on a, on an island in the Caribbean or even an earthquake, the way we’re able to respond is over the horizon communications. All of that capability, of course, is, is, is dependent on NASA. Of course, when I was in the navy, you know, it was critically important that we had high-resolution motion picture videos that we were able to send around the world instantaneously with, with, uh, satellite communication capabilities.
So the way we do national security and defense, um, the way we do, whether I got really involved in, whether, you know, you get up in the morning, you turn on your TV and you see that green blob on the screen, right? And you’re like, oh, I know it’s going to rain at four o’clock because that green blobs going to hit it four o’clock. Well, 80% of the data that helps create that green blob is data that’s coming from satellites that were built by NASA. And of course the way we understand the environment and other things. Um, so people say, well, you know, a lot, do we go to the moon? Why are we going to Mars? Look the and everything. I just, these are all capabilities and technologies that exist right now today that have elevated the human condition far more than anybody ever believed when we were trying to go to the moon the first time back in 19, you know, we landed I guess 1969 on the surface of the Moon, July 20th, 1969. Nobody believed how it would elevate the human condition. And not just for Americans, but for everybody in the world. And all of that is the legacy of one each NASA from the United States of America. So people say, well, why do we do this? And the question is why in the world would you not? The return on investment here is unlike anything anybody could have ever imagined and it continues to grow.
You hear a lot of people talk about the dangers of space. If we let the technology, if we let the competitors in the space race get ahead of us. So we, if we let the country with the nefarious, uh, goals and dreams and visions get ahead of us. What kind of dangers loom if NASA does not continue to lead the space, race of America does not get behind what you’re doing if America decides not to continue funding it. If our, if our citizens out there don’t buy into the vision, what kind of dangers loom for our country if we were to let the North Koreans get in charge where the or the Russians take the lead or somebody that we’re maybe not on the best of terms with sometimes.
Yeah. So this, this is so important and I hope everybody downloads. Listen, I hope everybody shares it with their friends because what I’m about to say could not be more important. The, the truth is space has become critical to everybody’s lives in ways that most Americans do not know or understand. But it is a part of our everyday lives. We have become dependent on it. Like I said, the way we manage electricity flows on the grid, the way the way we, um, the way we manage banking transactions using a timing signal from GPS. It has, it has become what the Chinese have called the American Achilles heel. Uh, we have become so dependent on space as a society that it becomes an existential threat if people can take space away from us. And so what are the enemies of the United States attempting to do or I should say the potential enemies of the United States.
They are trying to deny us the use and utilization of, of space. And so, um, you have heard the president called for, and many of us when I was in Congress called for a separate space force, a space force that is not part of the Department of the air force, but a separate space spores that competes for funding and resources at the same level as the air force. Right now, all of these space activities that are for national security, or at least the preponderance of them are resident within the United States air force. And there’s been a lot of us who have been advocating for a separate military service that is focused exclusively on space to deal with all of the threats. So the proliferating threats, you’ve got jamming and hacking and spoofing and dazzling. But now we have seen direct ascent anti-satellite missiles being launched. In 2007, China launched an satellite missile shot down one of their own satellites just to demonstrate that they could.
And we’re still dealing with that. Orbit was brief field by the way. It’s, it’s an, it’s a, um, and of course Russia is doing the same thing. So if this becomes an economy of force kind of challenge, it doesn’t cost that much to build a missile. It costs a whole lot to build a satellite that can do what our satellites do. Um, and so they, if, if, if you can, you know, spend a couple of, you know, tens of millions of dollars to build a missile that can take out a multi-billion dollar satellite, it becomes an unsustainable proposition for the United States. And that’s what a lot of these folks are attempting to do. And it’s not just missiles, it’s also co co orbital anti-satellite activities. In other words, things that are already in space that could be a threat and or dangerous. So, uh, it is critical because we have become so dependent on space and how it’s a part of our everyday lives. It critical that it be defended as critical infrastructure. President Trump is moving out on that because he knows that it’s important. Um, and rather than giving it lip service, he’s actually making it happen.
Uh, debris, you said orbital debris, debris floating around. How do you, how do you get rid of that junk?
So, depending on the altitude in low earth orbit there, you know, there’s trace atmosphere in low earth orbit. So in some altitude, you know, it might take 10 years, but it’ll eventually that drag will catch it and eventually it will burn up in the atmosphere or just re-enter ballistically which is never a good thing. But sometimes things come out of space. Um, so, so that’s the, but as you get higher in elevation, higher in altitude, those objects, um, never come down. They’ll come down like 10,000 years from now or more. Um, and that’s really the risk because it’s in those orbital regimes where things don’t come out of orbit, where you have a permanently damaged orbital regime that could eventually not be usable. There’s this thing called the Kessler Syndrome. You guys, what’s the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock?
Are you guys familiar with gravity?
So it is very entertaining movie. I will say the physics of it are not tremendously accurate, but it was not made for the physics. But it, it, it shows an example of what’s called the Kessler Syndrome, which is, you know, one, one satellite colliding with another satellite begets orbital debris and then all of that debris then can hit other things and create more debris and eventually you get this chain reaction where you have so much debris that it becomes too dangerous to operate in space. I don’t think that we’re not anywhere near that happening yet, but what is happening right now is, um, you know, people are having to spend more money shielding their satellites and, or building multiple satellites to do what one satellite used to do, just to mitigate the risk that somebody’s something will destroy your satellite. So, um, we’re not at the Kessler Syndrome. I don’t want to scare anybody. We’re a long way from that, but at the same time, we have to be very good stewards of this. Um, this, this natural resource that we have, which is called Earth orbit, uh, is available to us as long as we take care of it. Yeah.
Hey, June, 1967, the outer space treaty, uh, said that nobody can own any of these bodies out there. Do you think they’ll ever get overturned? I mean, cause I would think my, maybe getting a nice condo on the moon and uh, I hate to build it on land. I don’t own a nice boat. Dock
has been the kind of the gold standard for international kind of, um, law for space for all of these years. Here’s the thing, it is absolutely true. We cannot expropriate the moon for our own purposes. We cannot own the moon. Yes, we planted a flag there, but before we planted that flag there, we signed the outer space treaty that says we’re not going to own the moon. All that being said, what is clear in the outer space treaty is that you can use the resources of the moon. So what are those resources? We talked about the water, ice, the water. Ice is air to breathe. It’s oxygen, it’s water to drink for life support. And of course it’s rocket fuel, hydrogen and oxygen. Um, and so it is absolutely true that if you put in the work and do the effort to extract a lot of ice as a private company, the United States, in fact, I was in Congress and a coauthor of a bill that we actually passed in the house and passed in the Senate signed by President Obama at the time.
And that bill said that you could own the own the resources that you extract from celestial bodies, including the moon and asteroids and other things. So that water ice becomes in essence the currency to encourage, um, commercial enterprise to go to go to the moon and, and asteroids and mine, those, those activities. Now it’s also true. The question is what else is on the moon? We know the water ice has value, at least for a human life and propulsion kind of perspective. What else has value there? Well, we know on earth we have what are called rare earth metals. We also know that those earth metals are not earth metals at all. They’re asteroid impact from billions of years ago. So the question is, you look at the earth, we’ve got this active geology and an act of hydrosphere. And so whatever hit the earth billions of years ago, it’s been morphed and changed and pushed underground and ruined to the top.
And it’s, it’s very, it’s found in very trace amounts and difficult to get to. And we call them rare earth metals, platinum group metals, those kinds of things. Now you look at the moon, the moon doesn’t have an active geology. It doesn’t have a hydrosphere and whatever hit the moon billions of years ago. It was probably right where it hit billions of years ago. So the question is, do we have deposits? And of course, looking at the moon, you can tell the difference between the moon and the earth. There’s craters all over the moon. Well, there’s creators all over the years too. It just has this active geology and an active hydrosphere. But again, the moon hasn’t changed. So whatever hit the earth, billions, he hit the moon billions of years ago. It was probably right where it was back then. Now, yes, it, it can evaporate. And of course, uh, you know, the, the heat, the impact would make it, uh, you know, evaporating that kind of thing. But the reality of there are probably deposits there and quantities much bigger than the earth of platinum group metals which could be there as well. Um, and all that is it could be tremendously valuable and we have the right to own it. If you go, if you invest the money and spend the time and the effort to go get it, you as a private entrepreneur have the right to own it.
My final two questions for you. Um, you’re a very, a proactive guy, very intentional guy. You, you served our country honorably. Um, you have multiple degrees. Uh, you went to Cornell, I believe. I mean you’ve had a lot of um, success. I think you’re a very intentional person. You’re a family guy. How do you typically organize the first four hours of your day and what time do you typically wake up?
That’s a great question. Um, of course the everyday heavy, honest and this job every day is different. But, um, I have a scheduler and her, her one job is to manage my schedule. And that’s not easy because there is a lot of incoming. Yeah, of course. I’ve known Robert for many years and so he just sends me a text and the next thing you know, I’m on your show.
That’s not the way it works for everybody. You know, the, the, the, when you think about the way we manage it, all of the, all of the requests come in and there’s a lot of them. And then she has an available, and we have, we have a team meeting on Mondays and we go through them all and we determined what are the ones that we can accommodate? What are the ones that we can’t accommodate? What are the ones that we want to accommodate but camp, but maybe we can do it another time. Those kinds of things. We go through that on a Monday morning and, um, and, and we’re not just planning for the week. We’re actually planning for months in advance. So based on that process, you know, every morning when I get up, you know, there, there’s, there are items on the calendar. For me when I, when I get to work, we have to be very intentional, intentional in this job.
I’ve got a, it’s, it’s weird. I have to be studying as much as I am working because there’s always something new that I need to be aware of. And so I’ve gotta be preparing. So we have to be very intentional about making sure that I’ve got free time available to study and prepare. Because last thing you want to do is overextend yourself and you can get to everything you want to get to, but you’re not ready for it. And then you end up looking not too good. And I’ll be honest, that has happened from time to time. So we had to be very intentional about not over scheduling, making sure that you have plenty of time to prepare. And so we were very intentional about that as well. Um, I usually get up around six in the morning. I’m at work usually around seven 30. Um, and then, um, and, and that gives me about an hour before most people show up. So I can I have some time to prepare even ahead of the day started.
No, I know Robert has been watching a lot of political news. He’s trying to think of the perfect, Gotcha question for a time. So
Robert, if you can’t get too personal, if you want to paint a gym into a corner here, I gave you the floor. Yeah, I won’t put them in your corner. I, the question I always love to ask are our guests that are on, by the way, thank you for being on jam. That’s awesome. Means the world to us and you’ve done it. You’ve done it fantastically bang up job as we knew you would. If you could go back your 43 years old for anybody out there that doesn’t know that I’m just a whippersnapper. If you could go back 20 years back, if you could go back 20 years. Uh, cause I’m sure you’re working on a time machine now in mass. I’m sure it’s probably the secret things you can’t tell us about. So we won’t, we won’t discuss that, but you could go back 20 years. What would you say to yourself? Hmm.
Well, number one, eat your vegetables.
I have, I have had not a good diet. I was a swimmer in college and, uh, and of course I was able to eat anything all the time. So I would say number one, eat your vegetables, get a balanced diet, it’ll help sustain you. Um, I’ve been trying to do a better job at that recently, but I would also say, um, you never, you never know. Like I was, you said I was intentional. Absolutely. I was intentional. I wanted to be a navy pilot. Actually. I wanted to be, I want to be a fighter pilot since the day I was in kindergarten and they made us draw it on a piece of paper, what you want to be when you grow up. I want it to be a fighter pilot. And then that, that stayed with me all the way until I graduated from college. And then I, I joined the navy to become a pilot, uh, eventually becoming an FAA pilot, which accomplish that objective.
I will also tell you that if you would’ve told me back then that I was going to run for Congress and then be the NASA administrator, I never in a million years would’ve guessed it. And there’s no way I could have planned for it. So I would say, look, the the, when you go about the direction that you’re heading, wherever you are in your life, don’t close the door to ideas that you think are crazy. And I think a lot of people do that. I mean, it was crazy. And Robert knows this. When I was running for Congress, it was crazy. The idea that I might win, it was crazy. But ultimately it happened. And then next thing you know, I’m in Congress and I followed through on a number of my commitments. Number one, I voted against the speaker of the house who was in my own party. And so that kind of put me on the sidelines in Congress. Well, how do you be effective when you’re in the
I’m going to, I’m going to delve into the issues that most members of Congress don’t delve into. So when, when you talk about frequency hopping for anti jam capabilities or encryption or orbital, you know, orbital regimes and things like this, members of Congress who are all lawyers, their eyes glaze over. But I was able to delve into these issues on the committees I was in, in ways that were, it was very clear that I had a background that my colleagues did not have to the point where it, it elevated me just because of that expertise. So I never would have guessed when I ran for Congress because I, I was, I was running against the sequester on because my squadron got eliminated. That’s why I ran for Congress. Um, but what was fascinating is I never dreamed that it would result in me getting involved in these issues as a member of Congress and then becoming the NASA administrator.
Never would have dreamed it. Um, so I would just say, don’t, don’t shut the door on, on things that are out there and look whatever. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a position. Maybe it’s a goal you’re trying to achieve. Bottom line is probably, I mean, some, if it’s a job, somebody has to do it. So there’s no reason you should sell yourself short and say, that’s not for me. I’m not designed for that. Uh, you know, Robert knows this. I am not a wealthy individual and I don’t have some kind of background that would, that would make people think that I had a special advantage. Um, but with a lot of hustle and hard work, um, you know, you can make a lot of amazing things happen. And I also want to say that it’s, I don’t, you know, I think there, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m what you would say a turtle on a fence post? Do you ever see a turtle sitting on a fence post there? You know that it got there somehow, but it doesn’t make sense. Well, it got there, it got there cause a hole. Somebody, somebody did something to put that turtle on a fence post. So it wasn’t just you. You’ve got a lot of support out there and take advantage of it. And of course Robert knows that all too well.
What are one of our thrivers out there? Eric Chop is a frequent contributor. He was asking, I don’t know if this too much to ask, but he said, I don’t know if Jim could decide who gets to go to space or not, but is there any way that I could go to space? Eric Chop, Eric. Jeff is his name. What does he need to do to go to space?
So a virgin galactic is the way to do it right now. I mean, they’re, they’re going to be selling rides here in no time there. They’re launching a civilians to space in 2019. Yeah, it’ll be probably a virgin galactic is owned by Sir Richard Branson and they just had their, uh, you know, a very important flight where they tested their vehicle and it was very successful. And now they’re going to start flying this year. And if, you know, it’s 250 to $250,000 plane ride. But by the way, wait, when you’re up there, you’re going to, you’re going to see Canada and Mexico at the same time. Uh, so it’s a, it’s an amazing view. I’m not selling a ride. I’m certainly not promoting them. There’s others as well. Uh, but that’s, that’s one way you could get it done. Now I know 250,000 is kind of a, maybe a hurdle too far, but you can start a go fund me page if you want.
So Eric Transplant, he says work harder and start a go fund me page. Jim Brighton’s dine. Thank you so much for being on the show. It’s an honor to have you on the show. I know you’re passionate about space exploration and the health of America and I thank you for serving our country there and we just appreciate you so much. Thank you so much. Anytime. Let me know if I can come back. All right, you take care of Sir. Well done. Well done. Okay. It’s, you laughed or learned or, or just enjoyed today’s show. I would encourage you to share this show with a friend or a family member or a business person that you know, because we are growing the thrive nation to help people out there just like you. And we can’t help them if they don’t get a chance to hear about our show.
And I want to encourage you to take a moment today and write down your big goals. Let’s go ahead and take some time today to write down that big 10 year goal. Because if you make a goal to, to, to shoot for the stars and uh, you, you miss, you come up short, maybe you might just hit the moon, right? But, uh, probably you shouldn’t shoot at the moon because Jim Bryden Stein’s team might be up there, uh, mining various elements from the moon that we can use on earth. So the big point is make sure you set big goals, set those big goals, set those big dreams, make those goals today. Write down your 10 year goals. I know you can do it. I hope today’s shows inspired you. I, we interview so many people on this show at the peak of their success. But the point is, we want you to be able to just see how they did it. We want you to know their story, and we want you to be able to be inspired by knowing that you, to have what it takes to turn your big goals into reality. Now, we typically like to end each and every show with a three to one and a boom, whoever. On today’s show, we’re going to end just a little bit differently and honor of our good friend Jim Bryden Stein and the folks at NASA.