The Cosmic Controversy Podcast
Episode 39 — What NASA’s Perseverance Rover Is Teaching The Rest Of Us.

Episode 39 — What NASA’s Perseverance Rover Is Teaching The Rest Of Us.

February 26, 2021

NASA’s Rob Manning, JPL’s Chief Engineer, discusses management, logistics, innovation and the future of robotic Mars exploration in this unique episode.  With this week’s successful landing of the Perseverance rover on an ancient river delta, NASA ups its game at a time when the rest of the country badly needs some encouraging news.  Manning talks about how JPL keeps itself on track when finessing complicated billion-dollar initiatives. 

Episode 38 — The Trouble With Dark Energy

Episode 38 — The Trouble With Dark Energy

February 19, 2021

Nearly 25 years after its discovery, the mystery at the core of dark energy persists.  Astronomers are no closer to understanding what’s behind this cosmic repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the cosmos to expand at an accelerating rate than when it was first discovered in 1998.  Guest Alexei Filippenko is a member of the Nobel Prize-winning team that detected dark energy via supernovae surveys. He gives us the inside scoop on how dark energy was detected; what it means for our existence and the prospects for unmasking this bizarre force of nature that makes up some 70 percent of the observable universe.   

Episode 37 — Is Oumuamua, Our Solar System’s 1st Identified Interstellar Asteroid, Actually An Alien Probe?

Episode 37 — Is Oumuamua, Our Solar System’s 1st Identified Interstellar Asteroid, Actually An Alien Probe?

February 12, 2021

Did an alien lightsail traverse our solar system in 2017?  Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb thinks so.  In today’s episode, I welcome Loeb to discuss his bestselling book --- “Extraterrestrial:  The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.”  We chat about why he thinks this object, Oumuamua, is likely to be artificial and why the scientific community at large remains so unreceptive to progressive scientific thinking when it comes to the subject of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Episode 36 — NASA Aims For The Geophysical Heart Of Mars

Episode 36 — NASA Aims For The Geophysical Heart Of Mars

February 5, 2021

I welcome Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator for NASA’s Mars InSight lander, which has been operating on the Martian surface for two years now.  Although it’s had some technical issues, it’s offered a sea change in how geophysicists are interpreting the dynamics and makeup of the Martian core.  In this episode, we talk about what we currently understand about Mars’ geophysical makeup and, among other things, whether it ever had plate tectonics which was so crucial for the evolution of sentient life here on Earth.

Episode 35 —America’s Heroic World War II Air Raid On Ploesti — The ‘Taproot’ Of Nazi Oil

Episode 35 —America’s Heroic World War II Air Raid On Ploesti — The ‘Taproot’ Of Nazi Oil

January 30, 2021

Few if any of you will have ever heard of Ploesti.  But it’s a Romanian city that was what Winston Churchill called the taproot of Nazi might due to its many oil high-quality oil refineries overtaken by Germany during World War II.  Because of its strategic importance, in 1943, the U.S Army Air Force at the time launched a daring, heroic, and ultimately very costly low-level bombing raid on these refineries.  Using some 160 B-24 Liberator medium-range bombers, the Americans were met with heavy anti-aircraft resistance.  Today’s guest Jay A. Stout, author of “Fortress Ploesti:  The Campaign to Destroy Hitler’s Oil Supply,” provides unique insight into this historic chapter of aviation history. 

Episode 34 — Why Geology Is Crucial To Unlocking The Mysteries Of Our Solar System

Episode 34 — Why Geology Is Crucial To Unlocking The Mysteries Of Our Solar System

January 22, 2021

Planetary geophysicist Erik Asphaug of the University of Arizona discusses what we really know about our solar system; its age; its formation; and its evolution. Asphaug also addresses some major puzzles. Is our solar system truly anomalous? Is the composition and spacing of our eight planets also anomalous? And what we need to do to further planetary science.

Episode 33 — How Pan Am Changed The World

Episode 33 — How Pan Am Changed The World

January 14, 2021

The spectacular rise and fall of Pan Am from flying boats to 747s.  International best-selling author and former Pan Am captain Robert Gandt gives me the inside scoop on Pan American World Airways, from its humble beginnings to global empire. 

Episode 32 — How Deep Space Navigation Is Revolutionizing Planetary Science

Episode 32 — How Deep Space Navigation Is Revolutionizing Planetary Science

January 8, 2021

Deep space navigator Coralie Adam explains the tricky navigation needed to guide NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on its flyby of the Pluto system in 2015.  The spacecraft continues operation today.  Meanwhile, Adam and colleagues are awaiting the arrival of a touch-and-go sample garnered from the asteroid Bennu which is expected back at Earth in 2023.  We discuss how deep space navigation is facilitating the precise exploration of the solar system. 

Episode 31 — Interstellar Propulsion — What We Need to Make Star Trek Real

Episode 31 — Interstellar Propulsion — What We Need to Make Star Trek Real

January 1, 2021

Propulsion physicist Marc Millis talks about the prospects for fast, efficient interstellar travel.  Millis was head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Program at Glenn Research Center outside Cleveland for years beginning in the mid-1990s.  We discuss why the problem of traveling to the stars is so difficult and what would need to happen to help such dreams become a reality.  It’s a lively and irreverent discussion! 

Episode 30 — Uranus and Neptune — Our Solar System’s Mysterious Ice Giants

Episode 30 — Uranus and Neptune — Our Solar System’s Mysterious Ice Giants

December 23, 2020

Renowned planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel and I chat about our solar system’s mysterious ice giant planets, Uranus and Neptune.  There’s only been one flyby of these giant planets by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft back in the late 1980s.  Hammel, who was part of the Voyager 2 science team, explains what that mission taught us about these objects and why we need to go back.   

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