Blue Dot

Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. and Fridays at 6:30 p.m.

Blue Dot, named after Carl Sagan's famous speech about our place in the universe, features interviews with guests from all over the regional, national and worldwide scientific communities. Host Dave Schlom leads discussions about the issues science is helping us address with experts who shed light on climate change, space exploration, astronomy, technology and much more. Dave asks us to remember: from deep space, we all live on a pale, blue dot.

David Grinspoon is a prize winning author and gifted science communicator. He was the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair of Astrobiology. His new book, "Earth in Human Hands: Shaping our Planet’s Future," is a look at how we as a species have been shaping the evolution of our planet and where that may be headed in the future. He also won the Carl Sagan Medal for Science Communication – which is pretty appropriate and cool as you are about to find out on this episode of Blue Dot.  

If there is one thing that really floats my boat it is the history of the U.S. Space Program. Especially the part that I grew up in from when I watched my first broadcast space flights of the Gemini Program in the mid-1960s to the end of the Apollo Moon program in 1972. If you are interested in something, there is probably a YouTube channel for that! And man oh man, is there a cool one for my passion – Vintage Space with Amy Shira Teitel.

It launched from Cape Canaveral in 1997 and entered orbit around Saturn in 2004. Now, after nearly two decades exploring the ringed planet as our most distant scientific outpost, the Cassini orbiter is about to embark on its final journey – a death plunge into Saturn. 

Mars is the most intensively explored planet other than our own. 44 missions have been sent to explore the red planet and 17 have been reasonably successful. The US has been triumphant with the twin Viking Landers in the 1970s, the Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner Rover in the 90s, the twin rovers Spirit and Curiosity in the 2000s and of course Curiosity Rover which is currently exploring Gale Crater. But there is one mission that, for me at least, really stands out as the big science payoff mission. Our guest is Rich Zurek, Project Scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched in 2005 and has been exploring and making important discoveries from above the red planet for the past decade.

Our guest is Mike Massimino. He is the veteran of two space shuttle missions, STS-109 on Columbia in March of 2002 and the STS -125 aboard Atlantis in May of 2009. Both were missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope and the final flight was the one that literally saved the Hubble so that it could make dramatic discoveries about the mysterious existence of Dark Energy and determine the age of the Universe itself. His memoir, Spaceman: an Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock The Secrets of The Universe is out in print and on Audible.  

He was a giant among planetary scientists of the 20th century. He revolutionized our understanding of the role of cosmic impacts in the evolution of the solar system, including Earth. His ashes are on the moon and he has a fascinating connection to the home of this show – Chico, California. Gene Shoemaker has been described as the father of planetary science. Perhaps that title is a bit much for any one person, but he certainly played a central role in our modern understanding of the intersection of astronomy and geology. He was a great person and tremendous teacher, I feel lucky to have briefly known him.

KTB. If you live in Northern California, you’ve likely seen that bumper sticker with the iconic outline of the lake we share with the Nevada border. Keep Tahoe Blue is the message, and it's a worthy goal. The lake’s pristine waters are getting less clear by the year. We look at the science behind the clarity and more – it’s Lake Tahoe – and it’s definitely all new and all blue on Blue Dot!

It’s time for our seasonal weather show with our friends from the National Weather Service in Sacramento. And joining us to talk about it will be Michelle Mead and Brooke Bingaman from the NWS to tell us about a really important topic – being ready for disasters, natural or otherwise.

This week our guest is Adam Nimoy. His recent film For the Love of Spock recounts his father Leonard’s famous Star Trek character but also provides a revealing look at the man, the actor and most importantly, the father of the director.

This week we look at the universe on the grandest scale with the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s scheduled for launch in 2018. We will talk about it with Bonnie Meinke from the Space Telescope Science Institute. Then we will hear from our social media correspondent, Kacey Gardner. She spoke with NASA’s Courtney O’Connor, she is responsible for the social media presence of the Juno spacecraft on Twitter.