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Reporters' Roundtable: Space programs (podcast)

Why go to space? And how? Space journalist Miles O'Brien and Commercial Spaceflight Federation president Bretton Alexander talk about how our space program has changed since Apollo, whether we're going back to the moon, and the need for the "Interstate for Space."

Why go to space? And how? This week, two great guests talk about how our space program has changed since Apollo, whether we're going back to the moon or pressing on to Mars, and how we need to build the "Interstate for Space" to get to either of those rocks.

Our first guest is space journalist Miles O'Brien, for 16 years a space and aviation journalist with CNN, and currently chairman of the Education and Outreach Committee for NASA. He produces the podcast, This Week in Space.

We also have with us Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Bretton Alexander. Brett previously served under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as senior policy analyst for space issues, and was author of the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration (PDF), a White House plan to go back to the moon.

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Show notes and talking points

Miles, let's start with you. You've been covering space for around about 20 years. What's changed? How does the U.S. space program look today compared to 1990?

Brett, you've been in the White House, and I take it privy to discussion about space there. What's the mood there been and how has it changed?

What, in your minds, do we get from space? Is it worth the huge cost?

Brett, What is the Commercial Spaceflight Organization? Who's in it, and why?

Overview: What's the U.S. space program about right now? What's the commercial sector doing? Where's the overlap? Where are the gaps?

Talk about the International Space Station and Hubble--what are we getting from them, their futures?

Planetary exploration?

Replacement for Shuttle? Ares? What about the X-37B?

Why stop at the moon? Why not go direct to Mars?

Commercial space: How do we get stuff up there right now? Future vehicles?

What's happening in other countries?

Somebody's sure to ask, so I will: What about the space elevator?

Why push space tourism (like Virgin Galactic)?

What do we have to look forward to in the next 12 months or so? Big events, launches, experements?

Finally: A reflection on the most amazing photo ever taken.

For updates on future show topics and guests, follow me on Twitter (@Rafe).

E-mail comments to, and get all the show notes as well as replays and downloads of the podcast on the blog.