The 9pm Purpose of Space and the Gravity of the Situation with Dr Alice Gorman and Rami Mandow

Left: Dr Alice Gorman. (Photo: Simon Royal/ABC) Right: Rami Mandow. (Photo: Supplied; Post-processing: Stilgherrian)

Today we look back at the year in space. My special guests are space archaeologist Dr Alice Gorman aka Dr Space Junk from Flinders University, and astrophysicist and founder of Rami Mandow.

In this episode we talk about the annoying name given to Australia’s first moon rover, why Jupiter is both friend and foe, India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission to the Moon, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu, some huge news about gravitational waves, and of course an all-time favourite, black holes.

We even ask whether going into space was a good idea. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t.

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Both of today’s guests have been on the podcast before. Do check out the previous episodes with Dr Alice Gorman and Rami Mandow.

Episode Links

  • Alice Gorman (born 1964) FSA is an Australian archaeologist, heritage consultant, and lecturer, who is best known for pioneering work in the field of space archaeology and her Space Age Archaeology blog.
  • Rami wears a few hats at Space Australia (Founding Director and Editor) and is located in Sydney - covering stories across the city and NSW. 
  • [10 April 2023] As NASA’s Webb telescope scours the universe to find light from the first stars and galaxies, it is also capturing the universe like never before. Scott Pelley got an inside look at Webb’s new discoveries.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy. As the largest optical telescope in space, its greatly improved infrared resolution and sensitivity allow it to view objects too early, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. This is expected to enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology, such as observation of the first stars and the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets.
  • Mission scientists and engineers demonstrate Webb’s unprecedented capabilities with the telescope’s first collection of data and full-color images, previewing the future of infrared astronomy.
  • [6 July 2023] Researchers have discovered the most distant active supermassive black hole to date with the James Webb Space Telescope. The galaxy, CEERS 1019, existed just over 570 million years after the big bang, and its black hole is less massive than any other yet identified in the early universe.
  • [5 December 2023] The brilliant mind who discovered the spacetime solution for rotating black holes claims singularities don't physically exist. Is he right?
  • Interstellar is a 2014 epic science fiction film co-written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan. It stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine. Set in a dystopian future where humanity is embroiled in a catastrophic blight and famine, the film follows a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole near Saturn in search of a new home for humankind.
  • Kip Stephen Thorne (born June 1, 1940) is an American theoretical physicist known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics.
  • OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid. It returned to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023, to drop off material from asteroid Bennu.
  • Panspermia (from Ancient Greek ??? (pan) 'all ', and ?????? (sperma) 'seed') is the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by space dust, meteoroids, asteroids, comets, and planetoids, as well as by spacecraft carrying unintended contamination by microorganisms, known as (directed panspermia). The theory argues that life did not originate on Earth, but instead evolved somewhere else and seeded life as we know it.
  • The Miller–Urey experiment (or Miller experiment) was an experiment in chemical synthesis carried out in 1952 that simulated the conditions thought at the time to be present in the atmosphere of the early, prebiotic Earth. It is seen as one of the first successful experiments demonstrating the synthesis of organic compounds from inorganic constituents in an origin of life scenario.
  • [15 December 2023] The space agency is having to develop new tools to crack open the canister containing bits from asteroid Bennu.
  • [23 August 2023] Chandrayaan 3 Landing Updates: After a 40-day journey starting from the Sathish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 mission has landed successfully. The Chandrayaan 3's Vikram lander should made a soft lunar landing at 6.04 PM IST on August 23.
  • [27 October 2023] The success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission raises even more questions about our already mysterious Moon.
  • Chandrayaan-3 (/?t??ndr??j??n/ CHUN-dr?-YAHN) is the third mission in the Chandrayaan programme, a series of lunar-exploration missions developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The mission consists of a lunar lander named Vikram and a lunar rover named Pragyan, similar to those launched aboard Chandrayaan-2 in 2019.
  • The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a multilateral treaty that forms the basis of international space law. Negotiated and drafted under the auspices of the United Nations, it was opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on 27 January 1967, entering into force on 10 October 1967. As of August 2023, 114 countries are parties to the treaty—including all major spacefaring nations—and another 22 are signatories
  • The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, better known as the Moon Treaty or Moon Agreement, is a multilateral treaty that turns jurisdiction of all celestial bodies (including the orbits around such bodies) over to the participant countries. Thus, all activities would conform to international law, including the United Nations Charter.
  • [6 December 2023] The Australian made rover headed to the moon in a few years’ time now has a name. Thousands voted, with the winning title a tribute to an iconic animal.
  • [6 December 2029] The rover is set to travel to the Moon as part of a NASA mission as early as 2026, where it will attempt to collect lunar soil from which American scientists then hope to extract oxygen — a key element in rocket fuel.
  • [19 December 2023] A report from the Kirby Institute, titled HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia, found there were 93,777 cases of chlamydia, 32,877 cases of gonorrhoea and 6,036 cases of syphilis in Australia last year.
  • [18 December 2023] An annual report on STIs has revealed concerning trends.
  • Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance polymath, active as a mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic canon, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than Earth at its center. In all likelihood, Copernicus developed his model independently of Aristarchus of Samos, an ancient Greek astronomer who had formulated such a model some eighteen centuries earlier.
  • [2 November 2023] Had a conversation about the sun at a Flat Earth Convention and it almost broke us.
  • My God, it's full of stars
  • [17 May 2011] Tracy K. Smith is the author of three collections of poetry: "Life on Mars" (Graywolf Press, 2011); "Duende" (Graywolf, 2007); and "The Body's Question" (Graywolf, 2003), winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. A recipient of a 2004 Rona Jaffe Writers Award and a 2005 Whiting Writer's Prize, Smith is an assistant professor of creative writing at Princeton University.
  • [29 June 2023] Australian astronomers, using CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, have today announced the best evidence yet of the stochastic gravitational wave background, opening up a new chapter into gravitational wave astronomy. As the fourth and final instalment of this series, we spoke with the two scientists leading the Australian papers in this exciting discovery.
  • Hands-On Physical Science Lab Middle School NGSS MS-PS2-4 High School NGSS HS-PS2-4
  • "Buy Jupiter!" is a humorous science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the May 1958 issue of Venture Science Fiction Magazine, and reprinted in the 1975 collection Buy Jupiter and Other Stories... Government officials of the Terrestrial Federation negotiate to sell the planet Jupiter to an energy-based alien race. The beings refuse to reveal their plans for its use and whether or not they are at war with other similar beings. Eventually, the aliens reveal that they wish to suspend letters in Jupiter's atmosphere as an advertising slogan (i.e. Jupiter is to be used as an advertising billboard), to be seen by passing spacecraft.
  • [December 2010] Here, we bring together a summary of all three papers and answer the question: “Is Jupiter a friend or a foe?”
  • The Chicxulub crater (IPA: [t??ik?u?lu?]) is an impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Its center is offshore, but the crater is named after the onshore community of Chicxulub Pueblo. It was formed slightly over 66 million years ago when a large asteroid, about ten kilometers (six miles) in diameter, struck Earth. The crater is estimated to be 180 kilometers (110 miles) in diameter and 20 kilometers (12 miles) in depth. It is the second largest confirmed impact structure on Earth, and the only one whose peak ring is intact and directly accessible for scientific research.
  • [26 June 2016] We're closer than ever to becoming space explorers, building on a rich history of discovery. Does this future inspire you?
  • [5 December 2023] In 1963, six years after the first satellite was launched, editors from the Encyclopaedia Britannica posed a question to five eminent thinkers of the day: “Has man’s conquest of space increased or diminished his stature?” Sixty years later, as the rush to space accelerates, what can we learn from these 20th-century luminaries writing at the dawn of the space age?
  • Hannah Arendt (/???r?nt, ???r-/, US also /??r?nt/, German: [?hana ?a???nt]; born Johanna Arendt; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-born American historian and philosopher. She was one of the most influential political theorists of the 20th century.
  • Arendt’s unique take on space exploration, reproduced in full below, eschews both aggrandizement of science and questions of ethics. Instead, it paints a bleak, albeit majestic, picture of humanity’s march into celestial realms wherein society, perception, and language dissolve.
  • The Limits to Growth (LTG) is a 1972 report that discussed the possibility of exponential economic and population growth with finite supply of resources, studied by computer simulation. The study used the World3 computer model to simulate the consequence of interactions between the Earth and human systems. The model was based on the work of Jay Forrester of MIT,? as described in his book World Dynamics.
  • Our new report shows what the Australian public thinks about Australia’s investment and activities in space and the results are eye opening.

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CONVERSATION TOPICS: Two people who choose to remain anonymous.

THREE TRIGGER WORDS: Dave Gaukroger, John Lindsay, Peter Viertel, Phillip Merrick, and one person who chooses to remain anonymous.

ONE TRIGGER WORD: Andrew B, Andrew Wright, Bernard Walsh, Bic Smith, Bruce Hardie, Christopher Biggs, David Heath, Drew Mayo, Frank Filippone, James Moore, James Moore again, Jamie Morrison, Joanna Forbes, Joanna Forbes again, John Avocado, Karl Sinclair, Katrinas Szetey, Kimberley Heitman, Mark Newton, Michael, Miriam Faye, Paris Lord, Paul Williams, Peter Blakeley, Peter Blakeley again, Peter McCrudden, Rhydwyn, Ric Hayman, Rohan, Roy Brown, Susan Ireland, and five people who choose to remain anonymous.


PERSONALISED AUDIO MESSAGE: Elissa Harris, Jens Hartmann, Karen Purser, Matthew Moyle-Croft, Syl Mobile, Warren McDonald, and two people who chose to remain anonymous.

FOOT SOLDIERS FOR MEDIA FREEDOM who gave a SLIGHTLY LESS BASIC TIP: Brenton Realph , Eric T F Bat, Greg Randolph, James Henstridge, Jim Campbell, Matthew Crawford, Michael Harris, Rohan Pearce, and two people who choose to remain anonymous.

MEDIA FREEDOM CITIZENS who contributed a BASIC TIP: Mark Hollands and Regina Huntington.

And another nine people chose to have no reward, even though some of them were the most generous of all. Thank you all so much.

Series Credits