Ep. 553: What To Look Forward To In 2020

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It’s hard to believe it, but we survived another trip around the Sun. Now it’s time to take the whole journey all over again, but with new news. Let’s take a look at some of the space and astronomy stories we’re looking forward to in 2020.

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Fraser: Astronomy Cast episode 553, what we’re looking forward to in 2020. Welcome to Astronomy Cast, our weekly facts-based journey through the cosmos, where we help you understand not only what we know, but how we know what we know. I’m Fraser Cain publisher of UniverseToday and with me, as always, Dr. Pamela Gay, a senior scientist for The Planetary Science Institute and the Director of CosmoQuest. Hey Pamela, how you doing?

Pamela: I’m doing well. I survived our 40 hour stream last weekend and we’re doing good and it’s looking like 2020 has the potential to be explosively awesome year.

Fraser: Oh, hope in a good year. Well it’s hard to believe it but we survived another trip around the sun. Now it’s time to take a whole – the whole journey all over again but with new news.

Let’s take a look at some of the space and astronomy stories that we’re looking forward to in 2020. Yeah, of course the big news is that Betelgeuse is definitely, probably dimming. 

Pamela: Yes, so there’s no probably on it. Betelgeuse is currently dimming to the point that it is a lower magnitude. A lower brightness which is a higher number magnitude because astronomists do stuff backwards.

Fraser: No, no, no, it all just depends on whether you’re above or below the zero. It is a bigger – hold on. 

Pamela: The larger the number, the fainter the object.

Fraser: Right, right. So, the brightest thing in the sky is minus 27, the sun or something like that, magnitude.

Pamela: Yeah, I don’t remember its magnitude but it’s the sun. So, Betelgeuse, the top if you’re Orion right shoulder. If you are looking at Orion, his left shoulder that top red star, that top red shoulder, had been the brightest star in the constellation. Had been one of the brightest stars in the sky. 

Fraser: Top 10 yeah.

Pamela: And currently it is fainter than Aldeberan, the bright orange eye of Taurus, the bull. And in the last 50 years of modern measurements we have never seen it this faint. Now this is a super-giant star. They do vary in magnitude. This particular star has a number of different ways that we see it growing and dimming.

But because it’s one of the most likely to go boom, supernova explode stars in the sky, all of the astronomers are like, please explode. And there’s a whole lot of headlines floating around right now, saying astronomers think Betelgeuse will explode.

No, we don’t think it’s going to explode, we are wishful, we are hopeful. It is doing something we’ve never seen before. We know it has the potential to go boom. We know it’s about nine million years old and that stars this size generally go boom within the first ten million years of their lives. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to go boom.

And, in fact, January is an important month because if it follows its normal behavior it is simply getting fainter than it normally gets right now, we will see it begin to increase in brightness which means its magnitude number will go down towards zero. 

We will begin to see that change. Actually, it’s already below zero so it will simply go even lower. We will see that change in January. Now if we don’t see that you will see a whole lot of astronomers going please burn, please go boom, do something, because we are owed a visual brightness supernova in our galaxy.

Galaxies like ours, in general, should have a massive supernova every 100 years or so, we haven’t had one in a while unless it was the other side of the – 

Fraser: 1674/1624 Kepler Supernova was the last one that we saw in the galaxy. And that’s really unusual. There should have been, and there probably were, they’re just on the other side of the disk and we couldn’t see them. But the closest one was 1987A in the large Magellanic cloud and that was 170,000 light years away and that sucks.

Pamela: And there’s a couple things that I’ve been seeing in the news that I want to highlight as just wrong. So, one of the things that I’ve been seeing a lot of stories say, is telescopes around the world, the most mighty instruments are being turned towards Betelgeuse. No, they’re not. Betelgeuse is stupidly bright.

If you pointed an eight-meter telescope even at its faintest right now, to image it, it would do bad things to your detector. Now there are people that you can block down the light, you can spread it out with a spectrograph, but you don’t need an eight-meter telescope to be doing this stuff.

It became the first telescope to have its disk at a low resolution imaged, and that was done with a one-and-a-half-meter telescope back in the – believe it was the late 90s.

Fraser: Do you want to hear something crazy and this can account for some of the variations that are happening with it. It has cells on the surface, you know when you look at the surface of the sun you see these little blobby cells, the little granules, right? So Betelgeuse can have cells that are 60 percent the size of Betelgeuse.

So – and Betelgeuse extends out almost to the orbit of Jupiter.

Pamela: It extends past the orbit of Jupiter.

Fraser: It depends on – 

Pamela: It depends on where it is in its pulsation cycle.

Fraser: Yeah, that’s right. And so, it grows and shrinks – 


Fraser: It has these cells on its surface that blob around and it’s blowing out gas dust, it’s thought it should blow about the mass of the sun in its lifetime out in space.

Pamela: Now what we need at this point is color information. Because the way a star changes in magnitude is a pulsating variable, you see changes in color linked with changes in size which are linked in changes in brightness. And it all interplays quite nicely.

Now if the temperature isn’t – the color and temperature are the same thing – isn’t changing the way we had expected for a pulsating variable star, that is new information that it is even weirder than before.

I haven’t been able to find high-quality color data yet. And this is another one of those things that isn’t getting talked about a lot. And there have been a few good Twitter feeds, but I haven’t seen a good analysis in the mainstream media yet.

And the data that’s getting pulled for Betelgeuse is getting pulled from The American Association of Variable Star Observers massive and amazing data base. And this data base consists largely for this object of naked eye observations. Of people standing out in their driveways, going okay – 


– how bright is Betelgeuse compared to all the surrounding stars? 

So, while this is really good data, the person-to-person variations are huge which means you can’t just download the data and use it as is, you have to do statistical analysis of people over time, pull everything up to a mean, and, in fact, the people who were initially just pulling the data down raw were like, oh this is nothing special, until they started making these corrections.

Different people started making these corrections and were like, oh expletive, these are actually fainter than we’ve seen. There are a few people that have good photo electric. This is digitally measured brightness. A guy at Villanova University is one of them.

Fraser: That’s the one I saw too.

Pamela: But, we need more color information because knowing how bright or faint it is compared to other stars doesn’t offer us temperatures which is what we really need to know if it’s behaving out of the ordinary. So can these people please color information public, somewhere please?

Fraser: Well, what we really need is neutrino observations. That would tell us if it’s on its way out, but that is impossible.

Pamela: So, the neutrino information are only slightly ahead of the go boom light brightness information. 

Fraser: Yes, you get a couple minutes.

Pamela: And here’s the thing, is when Betelgeuse does decide to go, whether it be tomorrow, please, please, please, or a million years from now, which would be really sad; when it does decide to go it will be observable with the technology we have today and all the colors of the electromagnetic spectrum, so all colors of light. But it will also potentially be giving off detectable gravitation waves and it will be giving off neutrinos, so this will be something we can study across particle physics, gravity physics, and light.

Fraser: When you think about pictures of the crab of nebula which was in 1054, it’s ten times closer. Can you imagine how – what it will look like if it goes off.

Pamela: So, they’re saying it will get to get to magnitude minus ten potentially.

Fraser: It could rival the full moon.

Pamela: Yeah, it will pixel-for-pixel be brighter than the full moon.

Fraser: Yes but will be the same size.

Pamela: Right, and it will be ten times brighter than Venus. And Venus, if you know where to look you can see as a daytime object. This means that the supernova will be a day-time object.

Fraser: Oh yeah, for a year.

Pamela: Please go boom, Betelgeuse, please. I know you don’t actually care what I wish, what I hope, what I desire, but Betelgeuse.

Fraser: And for anyone who still lives at the Betelgeuse system we apologize for the horrific disaster that we are hoping will happen to your system, but if you live, if you orbit a red super giant, you’ve had a bad time for a long time. That’s a terrible, terrible, place to live. So, I don’t think we have to worry about any civilizations, you know, to having a rough go at it when their star explodes

But, so the reality is we are hoping that Betelgeuse is going to explode but we have no idea what’s going to happen and we will just wait and most likely it’s going to increase in brightness again and then maybe 100 years from now we’ll go, wow Betelgeuse is dimmer than we’ve seen in 100 years. And then at some point, in 100 thousand years or so, someone is going to go, wow Betelgeuse just exploded.

Pamela: And I see in the chat that Astrowise is asking are neutrino detectors directional? And an individual neutrino detector is not directional. It simply goes neutrinos, no neutrinos. But at this point in time we have multiple neutrino detectors around the world and by looking at the arrival time in different places, it starts to give us vague, vague directional information. 

It’s never going to be accurate enough to say, that, that star did it. But statistically if you see a burst of neutrinos and it’s vaguely in the correct quadrant of the sky you can link the two events, as we were able to do back with supernova 1987A.

Fraser: And like the ice cube observatory in Antarctica, the most sensitive machine to ever do this, and it has one cubic kilometer of ice that it’s watching neutrinos explode in. And you’ve got other ones as well across the world now. So, actually it’s – but I mean you get a couple of neutrino detections with a supernova going off.

Like, there was a recent supernova a couple – 2014, there was about 11, the closest one since supernova A. Supernova was about 11 million lightyears away in a nearby galaxy. And no neutrino detections. So they are so far, one has not gone off that’s close enough beyond 87A to really detect this. So this is absolutely new science.

Pamela: But this – this is 650 to 700 light years away, it’s kind of hard to measure the exact distance. This means – all you people who are like, but Orion will no longer have a shoulder – yes he will have a shoulder, it will be a bloody nebula of a shoulder. It turns out Taurus the Bull is finally going to gauge him. And as a longhorn I’m okay with this.

Fraser: Right, well this whole episode is going to be about Betelgeuse if we don’t ring this is.

Pamela: Yeah, we should move onto other things. So, January, the thing to look forward to in January is the rebrightening or not of Betelgeuse. 

Fraser: Yeah, if it doesn’t get any brighter, re-brightened, then it’s getting weird.

Pamela: Yeah, and I’m okay with that.

Fraser: Yeah. So, what are some – let’s just go – I don’t think we want to go month by month, let’s just pick some events, some big events you’re excited about for 2020. So what’s the next big thing you’re excited about?

Pamela: So, I’m always a fan of meteor showers and in January, unfortunately the Sister and the AA’s meetings so I’ll be down in Hawaii which is a really weird statement, normally one doesn’t say unfortunately.

But Honolulu has a lot of light pollution. So, there’s going to be the quatrain meteor shower and so here we’re looking at a few meteors per hour. 

We also are going to have the best at the end of the year, Geminids that we’ve had in a while. There’s going to be a new moon and as someone who was born in the Geminids I don’t think of the astrology too hard, because that hurts the should, but I love the fact that I was born during a meteor shower and this year is the year to go out and watch that meteor shower.

Beyond that, this is the year I’ve decided I’m going to actually try to get good-ish at astrophotography. I don’t have the money to be good. I’m aiming at good-ish.

And there’s some really cool events this year. We’re going to have Jupiter and Saturn close enough – they’re going to be 1/5 the diameter of the moon apart which means that in a really good camera lens you’re going to be able to resolve both of them ever so slightly, side-by-side, and that is also in December of next year. Apparently, I’m really excited about next December.

Fraser: I’ve been keeping my eye on this event for probably a decade now. I’ve been looking forward to this moment, this conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn because, as you say, it’s going to be 1/5 the diameter of the full moon which means that in a fairly high power image you’re going to have both Jupiter and Saturn side-by-side in the eye piece.

Pamela: Moons tangled together in the foreground and background.

Fraser: Yeah, it’s going to be some of the most stunning, creative pictures that I think we’ll have ever seen in astrophotography and planetary astrophotography in a decade. So, this is a big one. When’s that happening? In December?

Pamela: December 21st. Now if you want to practice, these are the kinds of events you really need to practice for. A cool thing you can practice with that’s much sooner is Mars is going to pass behind the dark edge of the moon which means you’ll be able to see the sky glow of the moon in images where you’re resolving Mars. 

And that’s kind of really cool. And being able to see Mars dip behind the lunar mountains it’s just cool. Practice your astrophotography, and that’s February 18th.

Fraser: So let’s talk about – obviously there’s a couple of eclipses, there’s going to be an angular eclipses, so a usual combination of that. Let’s talk about some missions in robotic space flight first and then we’ll switch over to some human space light. 

Now we’re getting our closest approach to Mars again, sort of near the end of 2020, which means it’s the perfect time, it’s the window where you send things to Mars. And so, we’ve got two really important missions that are going to Mars from NASA. 

It’s the Twin of Curiosity, it’s going to be the 2020 rover, which I’m sure it’s going to get a new name at some point. And so it’s going to be launching. And then you’ve got Europe’s Exco Mars Mission which consists of an orbiter as well as the Rosalyn Franklin Rover which I love as the name.

Maybe, ESA has been having a bear of a time getting this parachute working so it very well may be – they’ve actually, NASA has been helping them out. They’ve been letting them use – they’ve got a test facility where they test out parachutes on this high-speed rail system to try to get the deployment working. 

They had a bunch of failures of their parachute system so if they can’t get this sorted out they’re not going to be able to launch this year and they’re going to have to wait until the next launch window which will be 2022. 


Pamela: And this is one of those things where I really feel like delay is all right. Mars eats rovers, it eats landers, it eats space craft that comes nearby. This is referred to as the Mars curse within the community.

Fraser: The Galactic Ghoul. 

Pamela: It’s one of these things that Mars likes to remind us space is hard. And getting everything to work perfectly when you’re landing on another world that has enough gravity that it’s yanking things down at a good clip towards the surface but not enough atmosphere that you can effectively brake in the ways we’re used to.

It makes testing and designing things here on our world, with our atmosphere and gravity really, really hard. You have to take things extraordinarily high in the atmosphere if you want to try to practice and they just haven’t had the successful tests.

Now this isn’t for lack of trying. They’ve pulled together parachute experts from around the globe, they’ve done workshops. They’re doing everything they can and I’m really hoping they pull this off, but if they don’t have successful tests, I’m really hoping that they [inaudible] [19:58] and give it another go around.

Fraser: Yeah, this is the year that Osiris-rex is going to be grabbing its sample from Bennu and making it’s – well I think it makes its journey home in 2021. But this is the year we get the sample. Thanks in part from all the work from our good friends at Cosmo Quest.

Pamela: Yup, and we’re looking at hopefully in the New Year we’re going to see a rehearsal of what that will look like as we have these primary and secondary landing sites, one is towards the North Pole the other is near the equator. Equator is much easier to get to. The polar site is much more interesting.

But both of them kind of have awful, nasty, horrible boulders and are kind of tiny, and Bennu’s nasty rocks all the way down. So, I’m personally just looking forward to the rehearsal to see what we learn when, oh gosh, we get closer it’s even worse than we imagined, or hey, it’s not that bad.

Fraser: But that is not the only mission that visited an asteroid and we will get the sample back from Hayabusa-2, the Japanese space craft that got up to all kind of shenanigans with its asteroid Rayego

Pamela: And they’re going to be – I love the mission planning on this. They are going to be ejecting their sample from a distance greater than the distance of the moon, flinging it towards earth, where they expect it to come in over Australia. And I just love the fact that orbital mechanics is that exact.

Like you know it’s that exact because of homework assignments, but to see it actually implemented is glorious, it’s glorious.

Fraser: Yes, totally. We’ve got a couple of other missions. Oh, the Chinese who have been exploring the far side of the moon. They’re going to be launching their Chung-5 mission and the goal here is to actually bring a sample back to earth from the moon. And we are again watching the Chinese, step-by-step – 

Pamela: Catch up.

Fraser: Catch up and demonstrate how serious they are about exploring the moon and progressing the science. They’ve now done things no one else has done and this is the next step.

They’ve set up a radio telescope on the far side of the moon. They’ve got a rover roving around on the far side of the moon. And the South Pole. And so they’re serious. And then next comes the sample.

Pamela: And this is where slow and steady really is showing that it wins the race and we’re going to talk more about this later in the episode but I love what they’re doing systematically, calmly, on the timelines that work without a whole lot of, we’re going to do such and such. 

They’re just getting stuff done at the rate that they’re comfortable. And they’re systematically checking off all the firsts and catching up to everything we can do and they’re doing it alone because ITAR regulations in the States don’t let them work with the US largely.

And it’s awesome. I think everybody needs to be keeping an eye on what they’re doing. 

Fraser: They’re – I mean this is going to happen this year, but they are in the process of building and launching their third Tangong space station that’s going to be a much larger international space station with partnerships with many other countries. 

So when you look at that checklist, right, they’ve sent space crafts to the moon, they’ve built – they’ve sent astronauts to space. They’ve built space stations. They have – at this point now they’ve done everything but land humans on the moon. And that’s the plan so just keep watching.

Pamela: And, yeah, that’s all I’ve got is they’re rocking it out.

Fraser: Yeah. And then a couple of other missions as well. The solar orbiter is going to be launching some more observations of the sun. Let’s talk about the – oh actually one other – this isn’t exact – this is a robotic mission, but I just want to talk about Star Link, so they’re planning on, I think a launch every two weeks.

Pamela: Which is insane. And we’ve talked about this before, there’s so many mixed emotions about this mission because on one hand social justice says we need to bring internet to the entirety of the world in a way that can only be done with space craft because as Phillip Metzger has pointed out you can’t run fiber optics to every tiny island in the Pacific. You can’t run cables to every farmhouse in the American Midwest. 

All of these remote individuals, whether they be hunters in Canada or just – there’s so many different things. The only way we’re getting them internet is satellite internet. And power constraints, technology constraints means we can’t do it with geosync satellites right now, if you want to do it affordably.

And so, at this point in time we need Star Link, but Star Link wrecks ground based images requiring more images than were previously needed to be taken to accomplish the same science. 

So, we are slowing our ability to accomplish science in the name of getting internet to rural populations and all the mixed emotions. All of them.

Fraser: So, if it does – I think I’ve hammered this regularly. If Star Link delivers on the promise of getting internet to people across the world and helps everybody be a part of the global community, because really if you’re not on the internet today, you’re not part of the modern economy.

Pamela: It’s true.

Fraser: You don’t get – so there’s a digital divide of the haves and the have nots, and you will be a have not because you can’t sell your goods, you can’t buy goods, you can’t educate your children in the new technologies. It is – it’s absolutely required to be a part of the modern society or just not. 

So, it’s this digital divide. So if Star Link helps that happen then the price we will pay is that we will lose some of our access to the sky. Access to the sky will be more difficult. But if Star Link is used to ruin the skies and it’s there to make bankers rich then it’s going to be a catastrophe. An absolute insult. So, let’s hope that the folks at Space X and Musk stand up and do the right thing. Or I’m going to get really mad.

Pamela: It’s true. It’s true.

Fraser: So, let’s talk about human space flight for 2020.

Pamela: So, here again, all the mixed fields.

Fraser: I bet you if you go back and listen to this part it’s going to sound very similar to what we did a year ago.

Pamela: Exactly. It’s one of these things where I visited Kennedy a couple of weeks ago. Kennedy Space Center down in Florida. Along with Suzie our producer and Annie, one of my co-hosts over in Cosmo Quest [inaudible] [27:57] Twitch. Hi Twitch.

We scheduled it thinking we’d be able to see CRX 19 up to the international space station as well as the Star Liner test and possibly the Space X support test. 

We scheduled our trip back in August which means we actually saw zero launches at Kennedy, but we went to Disney World and we saw a lot of launches there they were just more fictional.

But while we were at Kennedy and we did the standard tour they have at the facility, one of the things that really got me was how much they’re plugging Star Liner and Artemis as American-made American-industry, American, American. 

And there was only a side mention of Space X. And I need to do more research to try to understand why Space X isn’t getting branded the same way as an American ship, because one of the lines that keeps coming up in the standard NASA broadcasts with Star Liner is we’re going to be retuning American astronauts from American soil on an American made space ship and they ended it with before the decade is out. Except now the decade is out and they haven’t done it. 

Fraser: Wait a second, does the decade end in 2019 or does the decade end in 2020?

Pamela: I guess it depends on who you talk to, but – 

Fraser: If you start from year one – 

Pamela: But if you start from year zero.

Fraser: Who does?

Pamela: I does.

Fraser: Do you? I mean as a programmer sure, but do you think that humankind started the calendar at year zero or did they call it year one?

Pamela: Well it should. Now, admittedly I don’t think there’s a year zero CE common era. But anyways, anyways, I really think that it’s a bit concerning on how much emphasis is being put on Star Liner first. Because Star Liner recently had a not quite healthy test.

They didn’t make it to the international space station. And we’ve heard a lot of folks, even NASA administrators coming out and saying, well we don’t think Boeing needs to do a second test because the rocket worked fine, and everything that went wrong with the capsule an astronaut could have handled.

And this, we don’t need to do another test is very different from where you see Space X casually blowing things up now and then, and saying, okay we’re just going to repeat this until we get it right. And I’m much more a fan of test until it consistently works, and they use it with the people than rushed production.

And so, I really hope that we get human beings launching from American soil so that it saves us money that can get used for other stuff in the near future. 

I don’t care if it’s Space X or Space Launch Systems or Boeing. I do care about whether messaging makes it ahead of trial and proof of concept.

Fraser: I’m sure this whole thing has something to do with money; has something to do with lobbyists; has something to do with the establishment, and this is just momentum and yet, there’s only so long you can handle the withering hail of progress from Space X before you just start going under.

So, if Space X needs to out compete the established launch providers then that’s what they’re going to do. Like when you compare the capabilities and just how far ahead Space X with their Crew Dragon already is, to the steps that Boeing is taking with the Star Liner and yet you compare the amount of money that Boeing has charged, it’s far more than what they charged for the Space X for the Crew Dragon. Neither reviewed fairly recently on that.

Pamela: It’s worse than that. Let’s back it up half a step and just look at the scenery. We have Space X has designed their Crew Dragon to launch on their Falcon 9 trying and true technology.

They were originally designing their Ryan capsule to launch on Space Launch Systems which is by Launch Alliance which is a consortium of companies that includes Boeing and Lockheed. So far Space Launch Systems is years and years behind development and billions of dollars over budget.

Fairly recently in the grand scheme of space craft innovation a switch was made where they decided to fund Boeing to develop a star liner which would launch on the tried and true Atlas Rocket, which is kind of like your go-to it’s going to work rocket. 

And so you see this step sideways and backwards with Star Liner which is okay what can we build that will actually fit on this rocket that we already have. And this wasn’t where we thought we were going to be.

We thought we were going to be just a few years ago with Space Launch Systems versus Space X to rocket suites, the Falcon Series, the SLS series, and now we have – because it was recognized Space Launch Systems is so far behind the game and they don’t want to have just one space craft, we’ve made that mistake before with the shuttle series where we only had one thing we could rely on. They want to have more than one thing we can rely on. 

Fraser: And that’s wise for sure.

Pamela: It is. And Blue Origins is behind the game. There’s no one else as far along, but Star Liner is the next big hub coming along the far distant horizon. Star Ship is – sorry I got that backwards. Star Liner is the Boeing which is up on the horizon. Star Ship is far future coming from Space X still being innovated.

Space Launch Systems which should already be flying, isn’t, and it’s all very confusing and I hate them all.

Fraser: So I mean Space Launch, in theory, we will see the first flight of the Space Launch System at the end of 2020. That’s currently still on the docket, so we should see, this year, we should see Crew Dragon take humans to the international space station.

We might see Star Liner take humans to the international space station assuming they get these problems figured out with the launch last week. 

We should see the Space Launch System do its first launch at the end of 2020, un-crewed. And then as the back drop to this whole thing we should theoretically see tests of the Star Ship, of the spaceship Star Ship do something orbital this year, although remember we had the big reveal back in September and NASA said it’s going to be launching, it’s going to be doing its 20 kilometer hop in a couple of months.

A couple of months went by – we’re three months past and one of their starships kind of exploded so – 

Pamela: It was fabulous.

Fraser: So, it could be that we’re still going to wait many months, maybe even years for the next starship to actually do its pop and maybe years until it goes orbital.

Pamela: I, yeah, I suspect that it will take them a long time to get it human rated. I suspect we will see – because they’re doing rapid prototyping across multiple sites – and this is the big difference between Space X, Boeing, and Space Launch Systems, and as near as I can tell all the other people.

Is Space X does rapid prototyping recognizing some of their prototypes are going to fail spectacularly and that’s okay. For them, failure is an option as long as you learn from it. And I have so much respect for that.

Fraser: So, it’s – I think – so place your bets then. What do you think is going to happen this year in human space flight? So, does SOS fly?

Pamela: No.

Fraser: Okay. Does Starship fly?

Pamela: I suspect it will fly. I am deeply concerned it will fly with humans before they do another test run.

Fraser: But we won’t see another starship fly this year with humans onboard? Not Star Liner, Starship.

Pamela: Star Liner. Starship we will not see humans fly with this year. We will probably see more testing of it.

Fraser: Do you think it will go orbital?

Pamela: I don’t know. They got the Falcon Heavy to work and they can use a lot of the same tech. So, I can see them doing a low earth orbit.

Fraser: Okay. I – who knows. Who knows what the future holds but I am super skeptical that they’ll do low earth orbit. They will successfully return a starship from low earth orbit, but who knows. So, then getting Crew Dragon carries astronauts to the space station?

Pamela: I do.

Fraser: You think Star Liner does?

Pamela: No.

Fraser: Really?

Pamela: Wait, wait, Star Liner is Boeing isn’t it?

Fraser: Yes.

Pamela: Star Liner versus Star Ship are going to break me. Do not name your products this closely together people, do not do that. Do not do this. 

Fraser: We can call it the CST 100 if you’d like and we can call it the Super Heavy.

Pamela: I think Boeing will launch people on the top of an atlas, I’m concerned that they will do it without more testing.

Fraser: Yeah, I think we’ll see it right by the end of the year. I think we’ll see like a year from now we’ll see a CST. There you go, a CST 100 launched to the space station with humans on board. 

And I think we’ll see Crew Dragon go in a couple of months from now. April, May.

Pamela: That kind of matches what I am thinking.

Fraser: Yup. Awesome. Well, it’s exciting though. I mean there’s a ton, a ton, a ton of stuff happening this year both astronomically, robotically, and human space explorational-ly. So, no matter what this is an incredible time to be watching this. I can’t think of a time where there has been more going on.

We casually mentioned 24 launches of satellites, carrying telecommunication satellites to the entire planet. It’s going to be a crazy year. I can’t wait.

Pamela: It’s going to be an awesome year.

Fraser: I can’t wait to catalog it and watch it and report on it for this entire year with you, all of our friends, all of the streams that we do. Here’s to a great 2020.

Pamela: And we will be coming to you next from the AAS meeting in Hawaii where we’re going to be working to bring you all the science. All of it.

Fraser: We fly out in like five days.

Pamela: Yeah, yeah, so I believe we are going to be skipping next week just because AAS prep is going to eat us alive, but there will be a lot more to come, including photos of the two of us together in one place.

Fraser: You heard it here. Before we go are there any names this week?

Pamela: There are. Our show wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the generous contributions of so many of you through our Patrion program. If you would like to become a supporter of the show please consider helping us out at patrion.com/astronomycast. This is how we pay Suzie, this is how we pay our hosting bills. And this is also how we get you more content.

So, this week I would like to thank Jordan Young, Bernie Gowin, Freda Tenabaugh, Rumji Amathu, and Andrew Paleska. David Trug, Brian Kegle, the Giant Nothing, Laura Kettleson, Robert Plasma, Corey Devallie, Paul Garmen, Les Howard, Jess Cunningham, Emily Patterson and a blip in the universe.

Fraser: Excellent, all right, we’ll see you next week Pamela.

Pamela: See you later. Bye bye.

Computer: Thank you for listening to Astronomy Cast, a nonprofit resource provided by the Planetary Science Institute. Frazier Cane, and Dr. Pamela Gay. You can find show notes and transcripts for every episode at Astronomy Cast. You can email us at info@astronomycast.com. Tweet us @astronomycast. Like us on Facebook and watch us on YouTube. We record our show live on YouTube every Friday at 3 PM EST, 12 PM PST, or 1900 UTC. Our intro music was provided by David Joseph Wesley the outro music is by Travis Sorrow and the show was edited by Suzie Murph.

[End of Audio]

Duration: 42 minutes

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