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The New Space Race and Bobcat Goldthwait: Friday’s Show (September 25, 2015)

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a space race. In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth. The next year, in response, the U.S. established NASA and began the Mercury program. The Soviets put the first man in space. The U.S. was the first to […]

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a space race. In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth. The next year, in response, the U.S. established NASA and began the Mercury program. The Soviets put the first man in space. The U.S. was the first to land on the moon. And so it was for some 20 years, as the two government-funded space programs pursued a variety of goals in space exploration.

Today, there’s a new space race, but it has little to do with exploration. And it’s not between nations, but between private companies, primarily in two states: Texas and Florida. Earlier this month, Blue Origin – a private space enterprise startup created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – announced plans to fly an orbital launch vehicle from Florida. The Sunshine state has been home to much of the commercial space activity of recent years. But it’s facing competition now from the Lone Star state, notably plans from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build a spaceport in Brownsville. Meanwhile, Houston’s Ellington Airport is being established as a commercial spaceport as well.

On this edition of Houston Matters, we discuss this developing 21st century space race with the Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy” Eric Berger, Bob Mitchell from the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, and Dale Ketcham from Space Florida.

Then: We’ll learn about the Houston Spaceport, talk about NASA’s future role in a more commercialized space industry, and contemplate the long, long view of space exploration.

Also this hour: A lot can happen in a week. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it downright ugly. Each Friday, when faced with intriguing developments in the week’s news, we turn to our rotating panel of “non-experts” to parse The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of it all. This week, panelists Kyrie O’Connor, Russ Capper, and Wayne Ashley discuss more data about domestic migration to Texas, efforts to exert pressure on the U.S. and China over a Houstonian arrested and detained by Chinese authorities, and a decision by the Houston Grand Opera to offer free subscription renewals to recently laid-off energy industry employees.

Plus: A conversation with comedian, actor, and director Bobcat Goldthwait. He’s in town through the weekend, performing at Houston’s Improv. His latest film, Call Me Lucky, is a documentary about fellow comedian Barry Crimmins. The film’s warm reception at Sundance adds to a growing reputation for Goldthwait as a filmmaker. (Among other films, he also directed his close friend, the late Robin Williams, in World’s Greatest Dad). Goldthwait long ago set aside the manic, screechy-voiced persona he presented on stage in the 1980s and in Police Academy films. We talk about his career metamorphosis, including his recent appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

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