Feb. 8, 2023


3:11 chasing balloons around the desert. Was this a peyote thing?  7:50 Mars like terrain  10:02 Is the Earth really flat? 13:08 people thought I was a traitor, because I'd worked with the Soviets so nobody would hire me  15:39 the only...

3:11 chasing balloons around the desert. Was this a peyote thing? 

7:50 Mars like terrain 

10:02 Is the Earth really flat?

13:08 people thought I was a traitor, because I'd worked with the Soviets so nobody would hire me 

15:39 the only thing I've really ever known for sure I wanted to do in life was race cars.   

17:02 spying on American citizens 

19:51 SpaceX and Elon Musk 

29:44  What the fuck do you think that idiot savant is up to? 

41:09 New space

49:53 Phantom space

55:02  "...45km is going to come back within five years... 800 km... you're talking about  100 year lifetime

56:50 reentering and crashing

58:10 Space tourism 

1:00:38 I want to get into TransAm



Unknown Speaker  0:00  
When I was in college I barely made it through college right I was one of the students that was getting by with a 2.5 average and oh and I'm gonna go Lord for the for for one of the big three in Detroit the spying on American citizens I didn't agree with you know, we launched a couple of satellites out of Russian submarine this guy starts talking to me about wanting to show that humanity will be can become a multiplanetary species Elon is up in front of us just tapping away on his computer. What the fuck do you think that idiot savant is up to up there? We went from launching about 30 satellites a year to this year, we'll launch about 1300 or 1400 satellites. We don't know what we can do with the satellites yet.

Unknown Speaker  0:44  
Jeff Sterns connected through cars, if they're big wigs, we'll have him on the show. And yes, we'll talk about cars and everything else. Here he is now. Jeff Sterns.

Jeff Sterns  1:01  
Jeff Sterns connected through cars with my good friend Jim Cantrell. Now, this is a car related show, and Jim does like to drive and you'll hear about that, Jim brings over 30 years experience to his current role as CEO of phantom space. Now, he co founded this in 2019, after leading strat space for more than 15 years. He's also held multiple positions, for example, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the French space agency, C and E. S. And he was the first vice president of bizdev, for SpaceX with Elon Musk, so that's interesting. But he's an avid racer, an avid road racer, and the owner of vintage exotics, competition, engineering, enjoy the show. I said, if you can talk, and I, obviously you can talk. But you know, you're if you're an engineer, you're not supposed to be that interesting.

Unknown Speaker  2:03  
Well, I'm not an engineer, so I just have an engineering degree or two.

Jeff Sterns  2:07  
Well, okay, excuse me. That pardon?

Unknown Speaker  2:12  
Yeah. So I got, I got through eight years of College and a master's degree in mechanical engineering, got into the job. And I'm like, these people were boring. I'm not one of these people. They're not my tribe. So. So I've been fighting that ever since. Oh, you

Jeff Sterns  2:25  
actually. Okay, so I can be less cautious. Right, right. Right. Right. You actually felt that?

Unknown Speaker  2:33  
Oh, yeah. Don't doubt. Yeah, no, my first. So you know, when I was in college, I was doing all these really wacky fun things, you know, with Chase and balloons around the desert, and collaborating with the Soviets and so on. And then, you know, I got a job, I got a job with the French space agency, and it was, you know, designing things and attending meetings and, and, you know, documenting tests and things like that, I found this is boring as hell. So I had to figure a way out of that somehow. And that was, that was the rest of my life was figured out how to stay away from being an engineer

Jeff Sterns  3:11  
chasing balloons around the desert. Can we talk about that a little? I mean, was this a peyote thing, or I was at some kind of science thing.

Unknown Speaker  3:20  
When I was in college. I barely made it through college, right, I was one of the students that was getting by with a 2.5, average, and oh, and they're always gonna put me on probation and things like this. And so I one day, I found I haven't gonna go Lord for the, for one of the big three in Detroit, working on cars. And because that was always my passion was cars. And so I saw this poster to hallway one day, and it was a systems engineering course, Space Systems Engineering course. And it was funded by NASA. And it was taught by this guy named Dr. Frank red. And you had to apply for this because it was a, it was a graduate level course. And they were designing a Mars rover. And it just sort of lit my, my mind on fire. And I thought, you know, hell, this sounds like a lot of fun. I'm kind of a space fan. You know, I mean, it was, I grew up watching Carl Sagan, the cosmos, and that really interested me. That's what kind of got my interest in engineering and science. And so I, you know, went up and applied, you know, for this in person, and knocked on the door. And this is Frank read, who is a retired colonel, he looked me up and down, gave me that, you know, what I was jabbering on and on about how I just build go karts and cars and, and he said, Fine, you know, you're in so so I got in this course. And we were designing, on the one hand, a Mars rover, and then on the other hand, a balloon, so it was kind of a competing thing. At the end of the year, we would go to Washington, DC to present this to NASA and it was a national competition among all big schools, Cal Tech, Georgia Tech, and Rensselaer Polytechnic, and so on, so on. And so we went in, I guess what I won. And the thing that we were finally presenting to NASA was a Mars balloon. And the idea was, you know, Mars has a has a atmosphere. And you can actually put a balloon there. Now it's, it's like 120,000 feet at Earth, it's very, very, very, very thin, made of carbon dioxide. And so you have to make very big balloons, very thin materials, and so on. So as a result of that, winning that I got a internship at JPL. So that's the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That's part of Caltech that that is a NASA lab that has made all the Mars missions and is sent all the stuff to the outer planets, and so forth Voyager and so on. And so, you know, to me, that was a pretty big deal. So I went and did that. And the program they put me on was their own Mars blood program. And what happened that summer, well, it was more than a summer, it was about eight or nine months I was there, we invented something called a mark. And what this was, was a long titanium, sort of flexible rope, if you will, made of overlapping cones, that could drag along the surface at night, and not get stuck in the lava and the rocks and things like that. Whereas the the Soviets and the French that we were unofficially collaborating with, had what I call the Samsonite suitcase approach, that the first time it would come across a hole big enough to swallow it, it would get swollen. So this was sort of a, you know, a small little part of my job down there. But it turned out to have a big consequence. And so we patented it, and the French decided to use it on their mission to Mars. So I went over to Toulouse when I graduated, it was my first job. And what was funny about it was I really didn't want the job. And they kept offering more and more money. And I kept saying no, and they offered, they offered me ridiculous money. And it was about $300,000 in 1989, which is, it's well north of a half a million here, that didn't go as far in France, but still, like straight out of college was a lot of money, I was able to save a lot of money. So I went, I had to say yes, and I went and so part of what what I was I was in charge of the, the snake part of the design, worked with the Soviets, and you know, under the French space agency, and then the Planetary Society was still involved. And they would host these with over and over here in the United States in the Mojave Desert, we would find Mars like terrain to go test these balloons, so, so we had Mars type balloons that were, you know, scaled prototypes, so they can operate in the atmosphere close to the surface, which is much more dense. So there were smaller balloons, with real snakes and real gondolas, and we would just let them go and, you know, in the, in the dunes, and in the lava fields, and one of my jobs was to chase them. So that was the recovery crew, I was in charge of the recovery crew, and I'm telling you, that was probably more fun than I had, ever, you know, we got these big Suburbans from Caltech, with big tires, you know, because they were the geology department, they used to go out in the desert, except they didn't know I was driving them, you know, 50 miles an hour over the dunes. Because what you have to do on the dunes, something that heavy, you have to keep going and if you get the speed just right, you sort of glide down the left side of the dune. And I had these two Soviet guys who were who were very high up in the Soviet space program, sitting in the backseat. And every time we would go over they go blah, laugh their ass off. They just were having like kids, you know, at the French government expense. So this was my you know, my part of my escape from engineering.

Jeff Sterns  9:04  
Nice escape. Nice. Nice. Nice. Get your getting yourself started in life with that nice little nest egg.

Unknown Speaker  9:11  
Yeah, I bought my first house with cash, you know, when I moved back to Utah, so it was it was a nice starting point. That's, yeah.

Jeff Sterns  9:18  
Were you able to afford all the wives in Utah?

Unknown Speaker  9:21  
No, I said. So Mormonism is a sexually transmitted religion, and I never caught it. You can edit that out if you want to keep it

Jeff Sterns  9:31  
might be all we have. How long does it take to get a package like that to Mars?

Unknown Speaker  9:40  
So about the shortest trip is going to be six months? The longest trip can be much, much longer but practically speaking, it's 1214 months, something like that.

Jeff Sterns  9:50  
It's okay. I mean, I'm sure I can look it up. But okay, so I'm just curious about that six to 14 months to get something to Mars. Now here's another because you're involved with this. Is the Earth really flat?

Unknown Speaker  10:05  
Not flat as far as I can tell. So it would, things would orbit around very strangely if it were flat. Yeah.

Jeff Sterns  10:12  
Yeah, no, I, there's some of these guys, these flat earthers that are just absolutely 100% convinced. And NASA is photoshopping, all the pictures. You know, one

Unknown Speaker  10:21  
of my former jobs, I used to get death threats emailed in from those people. And we had to take them seriously. You know, we didn't know which ones are real and which ones weren't? I don't know, what would

Jeff Sterns  10:31  
be the basis of the death threat? What were they that mad about?

Unknown Speaker  10:36  
So one of them was upset that that, you know, we were building rockets. And we were propagating the theory that the earth was round, and that we were, you know, essentially stealing public investor money to do such a thing. And we're obviously crooks and fraudsters and that we needed to be dealt with. Oh, because

Jeff Sterns  10:55  
NASA is only set up to NASA is only set up to take money because of the force of the earth round. All that okay. Correct. Yeah. Have we been to the moon?

Unknown Speaker  11:06  
You know, I personally know three people that have been there. So I believe each one of them.

Jeff Sterns  11:12  
Okay. Well, thank God, I can relax. So now when you thought that you might get a job with the big three and go to Detroit, I'm a Detroit her by the way. Were you in Detroit or at all? Not at

Unknown Speaker  11:27  
all. My wife Shimon Arbor, she went to Michigan for the university. So originally I'm from Okay, mom

Jeff Sterns  11:33  
was very near there in Howell very near NRA go big go.

Unknown Speaker  11:37  
Well go blue, right. Yes. So I'm originally from Los Angeles, I don't tell many people that because I escaped in 1979, I moved to Silicon Valley, when it was really silicon back then. And that was you know, about the time that Apple was kind of coming around and things were really starting to change. And we, we ended up moving to Utah, my last year of high school because the the semiconductor plant that my dad was vice president of they moved it to Utah, and then Ireland. So, so we chose the Mormons over the Irish. And so that's, that's why I went to Utah State. And so I spent a good number of years in Utah. Again, no regrets. It's great school, shitty football team until this year. But, you know, we always we always were in the mood to beat BYU every year because BYU well, they're worth beating. And so So yeah, I went directly from there to the France. And what's kind of interesting is, you know, back then I was, you know, voting for Ronald Reagan, and that sort of thing. And when I decided to come back from France, the, the people thought I was a traitor of sorts, because I'd worked with the Soviets and with the French, and, you know, here I am, so nobody would hire me, literally, nobody would hire me. So I ended up going back to Utah, because my professor Frank read, they ran a little space lab there with about 300 people. And so they he knew I wasn't a traitor. So he hired me back. And it was within about, I think, a month of me coming back, that one of his friends from West Point, who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency. In their discussion, he said, Yeah, a student that just came back. And he worked on a Soviet French mission to Mars. He says, Take me to him. So this guy shows up in my office, and I'm thinking, you know, I'm trying to hide this right. And I'm not talking to anybody about it. Yeah. And he shows up nice, the sun, I'm here, you work with the Soviets? And I said, yeah, yes, sir. I did. And you speak the language as he gets a little bit. And he says, you know, we need your help. Okay, how am I going to help? And that at that time, this was just about a year after the after the attempted coup d'etat in in, in Russia, where Gorbachev was deposed, and Yeltsin came into power. You know, there was there's a lot of brain drain happening. So the Soviet government, the Russian government was no longer paying its people. And so anybody that was working on nuclear weapons, ICBMs, you name it was not getting paid. And so that makes for a nice, dangerous situation when you've got the likes of the Iranians and the North Koreans are willing to pay them a lot. And they want to take care of their families. So So I volunteered to be part of a program where we went back in there and start putting money into into the former Soviet Union. So that's the next six years of my life was spent playing around with the Russians.

Jeff Sterns  14:39  
Very interesting. I'm from the retail automotive space. That's where I spent almost 27 years in three dealerships and one of them was hit. We had exotic cars, rolls, Bentley, Lotus, etc. And one of my great customers and remain friends with them. That I want to have on the show was the fella that put Russia's first mobile phone company and when I want to say Beeline probably rings a bell, yeah,

Unknown Speaker  15:08  
does the I remember when the first mobile phone showed up over there? They were quite the status symbol.

Jeff Sterns  15:15  
Right. And there's a little bit of that still in Russia, you know, the G wagons intended windows, and

Unknown Speaker  15:20  
they have more Mercedes per capita over there than we do for sure.

Jeff Sterns  15:24  
Yes. So I don't want to forget about Russia. But what gave you your passion for space? Of

Unknown Speaker  15:31  
really just, it's problem solving, like building anything and anything that's fast and kind of cool. And, you know, the only thing I've really ever known for sure I wanted to do in life was race cars. And I knew that from a very young age, right, that's, that's all I did, as a kid was build, you know, first little wooden go karts to ride down to we, we grew up on a chicken ranch, and I had a driveway that has a hill and we spend summer days trying to kill ourselves on those contraptions and then figured out how to steal on more engines and make them go faster. And then we graduated to steal, go karts, and race those and nearly killed ourselves. And then it became cars, which we nearly killed ourselves in high school. And so that was like the theme. And then when space came along, it sort of broadened my view that that, you know, there's some cool stuff to do that, that is very worried or way to kill yourself. Yeah, it's less dangerous in general, unless you stand in the flame duct, you know, but yeah, it's really, it's a passion for building things more than it is for space itself. I've come to see space as the next frontier, which I'm all about frontiers, always like that, pushing the edge. So So that's what's really kept me attracted to it. And there's been times when I've not been too attracted to it. You know, back in about 2010, I left the space industry entirely. Because I got sick and tired of working for the government was government dominated, it was boring. They were doing things I was working with the military, they're doing things with, with spying on American citizens I didn't agree with so I became a conscientious objector and walked away. And, you know, I couldn't stand to see the wars anymore, you know, which I originally supported, but then I didn't. And, you know, I'd see my son's friends coming back with body parts missing. And I said, This is wrong. So I left it. And it wasn't until the commercial money started finding its way back in. This was long after SpaceX. Right. So, so Elon and SpaceX made space safe for investment. And once that happened, then all this commercial money started flooding, and that's when it became interesting. So you know, that you had the dynamicism that a lot of industry has where, you know, particularly, you know, in a frontier economy, where, you know, there's, there's money to do interesting things, and people are trying new things out. And so it became, became a place of innovation, it became a place of doing, and you could you could get involved with a company, and in a year cycle, actually see the fruits of your labor, whereas the government programs that could be 510 20 years before you saw your thing, fly. And then if some fool on the team made some mistake, you know, then it then it goes in the in the drink, and there goes that part of your life, and then you're drinking. So an example was this Mars mission I was on over in France, the originally was Mars 92, then was Mars 94. And then was Mars 96, the year, the 9294 96. Being the year they launched fine when they launched in 96. I was well off of it. But it had a failure in the upper stage of the rocket. And it reentered over Bolivia. So all those years of work went went went into a fireball, you know that somebody in Bolivia could say, look, shooting star, you know, so, so the commercial stuff out disheartening. Oh, it is, it's you can't imagine putting that much of your life into something. And not everybody feels this way. But me, I feel like you know, I've only got so many years on the planet, I want to do something that's interesting and worthwhile. And I don't want to I don't want to do something that is just a footnote, and in some textbooks somewhere, and to me, that's where I was going with it with the government stuff. And so, so yeah, I'm back into it in a big way. You know, it's been, it's been very interesting. It's, I had a touch with history with with Elon Musk. And that whole that whole thing where I helped him start SpaceX, and I've come to see that as being a very historic, small robot in a very historic way. You and so I've, I've sought to, you know, put that put that down in terms of the history books, and also to do something with it because there's there's a lot of follow until it's not the only activity and

Jeff Sterns  19:46  
so you just mentioned SpaceX and Elon Musk as if my listener knows that. Jim Cantrell has that background. So do you mind setting that up a little bit talking to little bit about that background, because that's very interesting and may know, they may not know who my next guest is and what he did.

Unknown Speaker  20:07  
Yeah, so sort of interlocking the stories as a result of the work I did in Russia. In the 90s. For the US government, one of the things was we've converted ICBMs to not carry nuclear weapons, but instead carry satellites into orbit. So turning swords into plowshares, if you like. And we, you know, we launched a couple of satellites out of Russian submarines, I'm probably one of the few Americans have been in Murmansk, which is their submarine base in the northern part of Russia. And, you know, we did that with some other ground based ICBMs. So, about 2001, after as well done with the Russians, I get this phone call out of the blue, from a guy that I thought his name was in musk. And I was, it was a Friday afternoon, I was on my way home. And at the top down on the car was a beautiful July afternoon in northern Utah, in the summer is God's country. It's just, it's just fantastic. I imagine Northern Michigan is about the only thing that sort of competes with it. But somebody I'm on my way home only for three months. Exactly. But anyway, it's like just like northern Utah, that same thing, colored in hell the rest of the year. So So you know, this guy starts talking to me about wanting to show that humanity, B can become a multiplanetary species, and all this sort of thing, and that he needed to talk to me because he needed Russian rockets. And I was the guy that he was told could help them buy Russian rockets. So you know, he mentioned the sinkhole Pay Pal, which I'd never heard of, and you know, how he just left there and so forth. And, you know, I said, Look, I'll call you want to get home because I can hardly hear you. And I said, fine. So I got home. I said, Hi, the kids. Now this was early afternoon, went into my study in called him back and you know, it was talking about cell phones. This was a Motorola StarTAC you know, cool phone. So I called him back, and I get the fax machine. And so I'm thinking, okay, he told me, he was a, you know, internet billionaire and all this stuff. And I'm thinking, right, so use a fax machine and make phone calls good. Didn't didn't believe it, you know, so about 20 minutes later, he calls me back. And he's, he's angry. And he wants to know why I didn't call him back. And I explained, and it's like, okay, well, this is my mobile phone. And so he starts in on this whole thing about, you know, sending sending mice to Mars and proving that humans could could transmit the time to Mars in the six to 14 months. And, you know, that he wants to do this mission with his with his own private money. And, you know, he could he could borrow his money, you know, drinking my ties on a beach somewhere, but he rather blow, you know, with, with space missions. And so I, you know, this was not, you might sound this might sound unusual, but it was not an unusual occurrence. And I have these guys with a lot of money at a Silicon Valley wanting to do this, I'd probably fielded, I don't know, six or seven different calls like this over the prior few years. And this was, you know, at the time, the internet bubble was kind of not ready to burst.

Jeff Sterns  23:20  
And Tesla is not,

Unknown Speaker  23:21  
was a thing, but it wasn't his thing. Yet. He was not a founder of Tesla, by the way, that was Martin Eberhard, that founded Tesla. He became an investor later, and then forced Martin out. But that's a whole other story. So at any rate, you know, so I had had, you know, the gross brothers and Idealab. And I'd taken some of these guys to Russia and so forth. And they're always interested in this and they always paid me well, so I, you know, would do the consulting and cast a check and go on my way, buy a car with it or whatever. So, Ilan, you know, it was very insistent, wanted to come fly into our local municipal airport and come visit me in my home on Saturday. And I said, No, you know, because I'm, I got kids, I don't know who this guy is. He can be a nutcase and nutcase with a private aircraft. I don't care if he's wealthy. And so I lied, and I said, Look, you know, I'm busy, but I'll meet you in Salt Lake City, because I've got to fly to Salt Lake City tomorrow or Sunday. And he agreed, so what I figured is he couldn't pack a gun behind security, this is pre 911. So you could go behind security without that actually having to have a ticket and so on. So we rented a conference room and he showed up and that's where we started planning this whole thing and there was a guy named Bob Zubrin who had started the Mars society. And Bob's written a number of books called the case for Mars and so on. All this stuff. So he was he was he was the person whom I knew that had led Elan to me. So Bob showed up as well. And we started this mission right in this So

Jeff Sterns  25:00  
now he showed up, Bob showed up at your invitation or part

Unknown Speaker  25:03  
of VLANs invitation.

Jeff Sterns  25:06  
Okay, and you rented a conference room at the airport. Yeah, it

Unknown Speaker  25:11  
was in the Delta crown room. And so they had a little conference room there. And so, a couple 100 bucks, I rented a conference room. And that's where we had our first meeting, right. And afterwards, I took them out and took them my favorite restaurant in Salt Lake City and, and watch Bob's slop the soup all over the table. And, and then we've made our plans and when, when, when about executing our plans to do this mission. So when the first things I did was gathered a team of people around me, because I had worked with JPL, and knew a lot of guys that did the Mars missions, the Mars Pathfinder that had been recently successful. So I called them and then some others that had been consulting night. You know, there's a bunch of us that didn't want to be part of corporate America. And I'm certainly one of them. And so I had a lot of friends that were like that. So I called them got them involved. So we put a team together. And we started looking at this mission and quickly decided the logistics of sending my son a, you know, million mile journey to Mars and back, had his challenges that we didn't want to face. And I had some friends in Tucson, which I presently live in now. But at the time I didn't, they built the biosphere. And if you don't know what the biosphere is, it's a closed facility where a team of eight spent two years that without any anything coming across the boundaries, it was meant to simulate a trip to Mars, and how a crew could live in a closed ecosystem. So they had designed a plant growth chamber from Mars that NASA wasn't willing to take the risk on. And so we sold Elon on this. And so it became a lander with a plant that we call Mars oasis. So what that design, we went over to Russia to buy the rockets, we there was a couple of launch vehicles that I was familiar with, that would work and so made the arrangements, we made two trips over there. And on the second trip, which was in November of 2001, you know, we tried to actually, you know, put a contract together with these guys. And first, when we went to, we were dismissed, you know, Elon was 20, something guy who dressed poorly, and that's important to the Russians. And these guys didn't care if he had all this internet money they have the Russian said they considered it bullshit. And, you know, they didn't know I spoke Russian. So I, I would let the translator do the work and listen. And there was all sorts of interesting derogatory comments about Elon behind the scenes, call him a little a little boy and things like that. So So we walked out that first one, after having the chief designer of the Design Bureau spit on our shoes, which was sort of a sign of, we really have to get out of here. So we did. And second second group we went to are a little more westernized because they've been working with some of these western aerospace companies. And they also likewise refused. In fact, the one of the guys that was with us, two or three, was Elon, me and a guy named Mike Griffin. Now, Mike, if you look him up, was became the NASA administrator later. At this time, Mike had just he just left the CIA. I knew him from that. And he was just consulting but you know, so he later became the NASA administrator and then Undersecretary of Defense under Trump, you know, so later very important. And so these these guys all bid us farewell, and in one afternoon, so their own fate because we started SpaceX based on this, and SpaceX put all these guys out of business. And at least I have a launch business. So all of all of Russia's commercial launch business has gone because of because of SpaceX. So, you know, we headed back to the airport that afternoon after the sun successful second meeting. And we were on the airplane and Mike and I are sitting in the in behind Elon, a couple of rows. It wasn't very crowded. It was a Delta flight 31 back to New York City. And every time the plane takes off, you know, from Moscow, you feel like you're on sovereign territory again, there's a sense of relief, right? And so Mike and I decided to celebrate with some whiskey. And Elon is up in front of us just tapping away on his computer. And Mike, he was raised by an army colonel, so you can't you can't you can forgive him for speaking this way. But he nudges me with his elbow and he says, What the fuck do you think that idiot savant is up to up there? And I I looked at him and I said, I don't know plan nine to save the earth. And Elon turns around to us he goes, No guys, we can build this rocket ourselves. And and Mike looked at me and I looked at him we rolled our eyes. Mike says, well, Elon, there's a whole graveyard full of dead bodies, you're gonna have to walk over to get to that point. It's like not like, nobody's ever tried this. And there had been a lot of failures, right? So this was not a new aspiration. And he says, But I have a spreadsheet, you know, I said, all my, nobody's ever made a spreadsheet of the rocket. So here, you know, so Elon is like, Fuck you here. Take a look. So he sends his computer back, we we had a look at it. And surely it was it was a pretty good spreadsheet. And so I asked him, I said, where do you figure this out? I know, he had borrowed my college textbooks on launch vehicles and propulsion. But there wasn't really enough in there to do what he had done. And so he, he admitted to me that that he had been hanging around with some of the other guys in the design group that I'd put together. And their hobby, instead of racing cars, or doing something sensible, like that was building rockets in their garage. And, you know, we're talking 30 foot tall rockets and going out into the, into the desert and launching them and having them come down and smash all over the desert floor. So you want to go out and seen one of these flights. And just it was sort of like inside God, you know, and he imagined that, hey, you know what, these guys can do this with beer money. Imagine what I can do with, with with real money that I can raise, right, so that that's what the Lord brought to the table is his ability to raise capital?

Jeff Sterns  31:20  
Can I back you up just a little bit? You said that you'd had six or seven calls over the prior year to have guys that claim that they wanted to do something like this are and it was hard to take them serious, you end up in a conference room with Elon in this delta, you know, airside conference room? How long were you with him? And when did he flip you from you think he interested another one of these phone calls to buying in or wanting to actually take an action with

Unknown Speaker  31:53  
that was with him about two hours on the spinning. And I would say prior to even meeting with him, he kind of had me because of his insistence on doing this now. And that was unusual. So most of these guys had a much more casual pace about them. But you know, it was as if it was as if his his tail end was on fire. And he was trying very hard to put it out. And he was moving fast as a result. And you know, he wanted to come to my house. He called me on Friday night and want to be there Saturday morning with a private jet. And this This was not normal behavior. Like no, yeah. I didn't want him in my house, you know, and it would be a little awkward. You know, now I kind of feel dumb, but you know, at the time, I think it was prudent. But yeah, the the rest of them, you know, like the, the the gross brothers, you know, as part of their business plan. And, you know, we did actually take some trips over there. But you could just tell by their, you know, their sort of way, they talked about things. They weren't very committal, they were interested in exploring what this might do. And, you know, Elon was it was, it wasn't anything about exploring, he's like, Okay, our next step is this, this this, it was very concrete steps that he was taking along the way. And you could just tell he just very determined to do this. My only question is, did he have enough money and I, you know, even to the day I left, I didn't think you have enough money. In fact, I was right. Because they got to the fourth launch of their Falcon one, which was the the original rocket that I saw the spreadsheet design of, and they were down to $137,000 in their bank account. And, but but their fourth one had been successful. And the Google founders wrote him personally a check for several 100 million dollars. And that he invested that back into, into SpaceX Tesla, by the way. And so that's how they that's how they survived that. And then Then what happened on top of that was the shuttle got retired. And nobody saw that one coming. Really, nobody saw the Columbia accident happening. And so NASA had to have a replacement. And so here's SpaceX was so so you know, you say, I'd rather be lucky than good. Well, he's both He's lucky and he's good. And that's worked out very well for him. But you could just tell the smartest guy I've ever, ever dealt with, you know, by far more intelligent than me or you or anybody I know. And an unusually intelligent, it's almost scary how quick he picks up on things. And, you know, as I as I dug into, once I knew his name was in it was Elon, I dug into his past, you know, on Saturday, and I can tell the guy was very, very real. You know, it was this was ppl was his second company he had started so you can tell he had this serial entrepreneur thing and he had yet another thing he called the musk Foundation. Lemmings, he told me that I still haven't forgotten to this day is, you know, explained his life philosophy is, there's three things he wants to accomplish with his life. One is to show humanity could be multiplanetary species. Second is to get humanity off of fossil fuels. And the third is to develop technologies in ways that the tyrants and governments of the world couldn't control the freedom of movement of humans. And so, you know, I, except for the fossil fuel thing I could get behind the other two, the fossil fuel thing, I didn't feel as strongly as he did, but, you know, what you would see is, is, you know, Elon was really, really true to that vision over time, you know, Solar City, and Tesla, and so on. And you could see that in his, in his much Foundation website, you know, and he was funding things. And so I just, it just had the error of real.

Jeff Sterns  35:56  
But one thing he did say, that was a little hurtful already, is, you said that he's smarter than you and smarter than me, I'm sorry, but it's true, you know, you should try me on a couple of things. You can give me an out the door offer on a car, and I can get you to, you know, before tax tag luxury tags, you know, every county option tax even within usually $100 without a calculator,

Unknown Speaker  36:18  
well, that's smart, but this guy, this guy, I don't even know how to describe it, you know, he, he grasps these, these, these, these concepts that are just really takes takes me years to sort of put my fingers on the grass and, and runs with them. You know, it's funny, when I was in college, we were taught something called vector calculus, which is, you know, you've got little arithmetic, and then you've got calculus and the vector calculus, which is three dimensional stuff. And it's incredibly esoteric and hard. And, and I remember my major professor Frank read, he said, it's like, he was a pilot, right? He says, it's like, he says, It's like piloting a plane. And I could start to relate to this, because I had done some flying. He says, when you're when you're flying in formation in the Air Force, you tend to grip the stick really hard. And as a result, your stick, you know, it responds to every little twitch in your body, and, and so forth, and you're going back and forth between the, you know, your, your wing, Nan's plane, and so it's really dangerous. He says, what you have to do is, learn how to put your finger on it and think about where you want to go. And then and then the plane goes, you know, it's that sort of, sort of Zen, right? And, and so Elon could come in to these things that took us years, and we had to develop this Zen, like, understanding of some of these esoteric things was spaceflight. I mean, sometimes it's really hard. Yeah, some of it's really easy, but some it's really hard. And that son of a bitch would just pick it up in a nanosecond. And it was, it was scary how quickly he just intuitively understood it.

Jeff Sterns  37:54  
You get resent how quickly he picked it? I

Unknown Speaker  37:56  
couldn't I never did. I still don't you know, but, you know, some days I wish I didn't have half the intelligence I haven't because make my life easier. You know, I wouldn't see half the things I see. So do you would you go to space, personally, no desire I did when I was younger, but doesn't strike me as anything I particularly want to do. I'd rather go a couple 100 miles an hour and a race car, frankly, if you have the choice.

Jeff Sterns  38:21  
Okay, well, I mean, like, for me, when I watch a movie about space, or I see some footage. I think to myself, Oh, my God, I mean, what an adventure and to see that, and then I just think about, you know, I'm a father. And I think like, what I really pull the trigger and going and I don't know that I would or I don't know, that's how

Unknown Speaker  38:42  
I feel about it. You know, it's, it's a mortality thing, as well, as you know, I don't even like to get on an airplane anymore. To be honest with you, you know, you have to really have to really bribe me to get me in an airplane and go somewhere, you know, first class tickets, not enough, it's got, it's got to be a lot, a lot of good reasons to go let alone get into, you know, a tin can and go into space. It's funny that, you know, the first SpaceX flight that went up, I did a lot of press interviews on that, when they had the private astronauts. And I think there were three of them. And they said, What was the most unexpected thing you think these astronauts will discover? And I said, the toilets? I, I've known a number of people who've been astronauts, and they all say the toilet sock and, you know, not to be gross or anything, but, you know, if you're gonna throw m&ms around, make sure they're not brown m&ms, right. So so things things get loose, and it you know, it's just it's just not a very pleasant thing, right? I've got a very good friend who's bought one of those seats, right? I've been talking to him about this and he's, he's the kind of person that doesn't care for that sort of thing. You know, so I don't know there's just a lot about it that I you know, rate racing is kind of the same way you get it. In fact, the It's a lot, very much the same because you get in the car, you know, people come see it like, oh, wow, that's really cool. We don't do that you get in the car and it's everything's uncomfortable. You're strapped in with a lot of safety gear and you're burning up, you know, you got this Nomex suit on, and it's all for good reason, right? And this helmet, you should claustrophobic man, you're in deep trouble. You know, me, it puts me in a Zen, right for me, I'm just I'm at home, I fall asleep in the in the race car on the grid. But, you know, then you get out on the track. And it's, you either love it or you don't. And it's hard work. And it's gritty, and it's hot, and it's miserable. But at the end of the day, you're so glad you did it. Right and it's in your soul. You've got to be that way with space. You really, really have to want to do that.

Jeff Sterns  40:43  
How about new space? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Unknown Speaker  40:47  
Yeah, so new space is a term that's used to discuss sort of this new commercial market that's come about fueled mainly by investor dollars. So commercial space is not new by any means. Telstar was the very first commercial satellite. And some of you are old enough to remember Telstar was used, I believe, to broadcast the Olympics from somewhere in Europe or was Asia I can't remember which. And that was the first commercially funded satellite. And out of that came a whole generation of commercial, telecommunication, telecommunication satellites. And your typical telecom satellites going to be 100 $200 billion satellite that goes into geostationary orbit, which is to say it's way up there, far enough away from the Earth that it orbits at the same speed that the the Earth turns. So it looks like it's just hanging above the earth. And so so you know, to launch that as another couple 100 million dollars sheet by half a billion to a billion dollar asset, every time that goes up. So you have to in order to raise that kind of money commercially, it has to, it has to be a very conservative business case, which telecommunications is. And even then, you know, they struggle sometimes, but the government's a customer, you know, if you watch Direct TV, that's, that's direct broadcast. If you listen to, you know, Sirius XM, which I do all the time, that's another satellite kind of thing. So what happened in you know, about 2008 2009, was when SpaceX showed the world that, you know, Elon could actually build a rocket with private money. And he went out and found investors, you know, besides the Google founders, he, he, he got Steve Jurvetson, whom I know fairly well put money in put $50 million in his enterprise. Suddenly, it became okay for a few space investments. And as it turns out, I got involved in one called skybox. They were some friends of mine now, the spy satellite agency that came out and said, Hey, why couldn't we build spy satellites for a million dollars? Privately instead of a billion like the government does? And I said, why not? Right? So So I helped him we were off by a little more than a factor of 20. But it was still better than a billion. And we were able to sell the company after we built here, the satellites to Google for half a billion dollars. So that started a whole wave of more investment in this new space. And, you know, I think, I think last year, there was a close to, well, this year, rather, there's close to $20 billion of private investments has gone into space. And it's just growing, right? It's growing every year. And just to calibrate that number, the NASA budget, the entire NASA budgets, about $25 billion. So you look at that much money going in. And I submit to you that that the commercial private space is probably 50 times more efficient than the government, I've got data to back that up, you know, from some of the SpaceX stuff. You know, even if it's only 10 times more efficient, you know, we've got a huge, huge change is a sea change in what's going on. So we went from launching about 30 satellites a year to this year, we'll launch about 1300 or 1400 satellites. And that number is is growing, there's something like 7000 satellites that need to be launched between now and the end of the decade. And this is through phantom space, while phantom space is my company that we're building a rocket to launch the saddle. Okay. All right. Straighten me out. That's all right. There, you know right now, most of them go up on SpaceX, big Falcon rockets. So so it's like a bus bus ride this space there. There are no dedicated rides small enough for the smaller rockets to speak of there's there's there's one company at an age Elan called Rocket Lab this doing it. And I had my hand in that one early on. But SpaceX takes, you know, these, these 50 to 100 satellites up, throws them out, you know, more or less one at a time into orbit. And, but the problem is you go on a bus kind of thing we go where other people want to go when they want to go. So there's a lot of hidden cost to that sort of thing. At phantom space, what our business thesis is, is there's really two economic systems that are competing in launch, just like there are in terrestrial transportation, there's, there's these large vehicles, which are inherently more efficient, just like a bus, you know, per passenger mile, that's more efficient, the bigger the bus. But then again, you have all the logistics issues with, you know, where the bus stops, and where it picks you up, and where it's going, and so forth, and schedules. Whereas, you know, mass manufactured small as the other one. So this is like the personal car. And so Phantom, we're building small rockets that are mass manufactured, using basically Henry Ford's techniques from Detroit, you know, again, I pulled my automotive experience into this, and said, you know, there's no reason why we can't build rockets like cars. And we're also doing the same thing with satellites. So we have a bunch of satellites under contract. And ultimately, yes, we're going to sell the capacity to launch other people's satellites into space for money. But ultimately, our rockets are about what we can do with them, less than it is how much money we can sell them for. Because there's not that many people that can do this. And once you have that capacity to do that, now, all of a sudden, you start thinking about constellations of satellites that do unique things that you can make even more money on. So the value chain and the, the amount of money you can make, gets better and better. Once you get into the, into the data side of things. So in the in the space market, just as an example, there's about 500 billion a year is the market size being spent. And that's in all of, you know, commercial plus government space. And of that about 20 billion a year as lawn services. So you can make a nice business, if you had a quarter of that right, 5 billion new years not, not chicken scratch for revenue couldn't be worse. Yeah. And then 30 billion a year for satellites, same same argument, right. But then 300 billion, is moving bits back and forth around the Earth. So if you could do that in a better way, in a more efficient way, just having a small foothold into that as a far better market. So that's ultimately what Phantom is about, as I call the space applications, to, you know, create enough of this technology so that I can engage with the really smart people that know how to come up with these applications, like our mobile phones, never would have dreamt what we can do with those, we don't know what we can do with the satellites, yet. We know some things we can do with them, but certainly not everything. And so my goal is to do a mass manufacturing make this approachable enough, both financially and technically. So that the these the smart people in the app, kind of thinkers can can bring their innovation. And I have a blank canvas, you know, that's how that's how, that's how a revolution in in an industry happens. That's how it did in computer. I mean, when I was in college, back in the early 80s, you know, I had to get in my car and drive up to campus to use a computer, and wait in line and so forth for mainframes. And, you know, now, I've got more computing power in my cell phone that I carry around in my pocket. So but that that came through, you know, making that technology approachable. You know, websites are an example, right? I used to have to code my own websites. And now you can go out and get, you know, anybody's sign up for a service. And it's just as easy as clicking some pictures and putting them together does it all for you. So that's where we've got to go in this business. It's been many, many years, it's been neglected as a as a nation state kind of business. And, you know, we're just, we're just applying known principles to it. And hopefully we can, we can make a big difference.

Jeff Sterns  49:24  
Okay, so I'd mentioned I'd mentioned phantom space. And then you said, we're talking about SpaceX. And forgive me if I didn't go as deep in my homework as I could have honest to god, no offense. You're involved currently with SpaceX or No,

Unknown Speaker  49:42  
I don't start SpaceX back in 2001. And I left in like 2002. And yeah, that was

Jeff Sterns  49:51  
not involved. Alright, and Phantom space. Can we talk about that started that two years ago. And then before we do Blue Origin I think that relates more to SpaceX. Yes, yes, it does.

Unknown Speaker  50:03  
So there were two people. Yeah, two people early on at SpaceX that, that Elon had me fire that one of them was one of my early mentors. Because he thought that they were charging too much time they were consultants, they went over to Blue Origin. And they started Jeff's Jeff's rocket program. So those of us in the business knew that Jeff had a, I call it the Friday afternoon space club, he would hold court on Fridays, and have people come up and given lectures, presentations on certain things I went up, gosh, it was 2000 232 1003. And give a talk on how you get to Mars, right? And using patch comics, and all these all these astrodynamics approaches. And guy said, like three words. Thank you, Jim. That's all. So you know, we were under strict NDA is not to talk about it at all, even though it was one of the worst kept secrets in the business. So, you know, at least in the aerospace business, we all knew about it. And Jeff, had a different idea, as it turned out, you know, he evolved quite differently than Elon. His idea was that that Earth should be the residence zone, the residential zone, if you will, and space should be the industrial zone. So, you know, his his thought was, we should make space where most of our polluting industry goes, and, you know, return Earth back to its, you know, beautiful, pristine state. And so, so I think, you know, he hasn't taken any investment dollars from anybody, he's been probably a little more fortunate personally on that front. But, you know, as a result of him, really not running the organization, Blue Origin, and letting others run it. And he brought in a bunch of ex NASA guys. It looks a lot kind of like a NASA retirement program, they'll they'll they'll be unhappy with me saying that, but it does to me, and doesn't doesn't have that same sort of fire and brimstone that SpaceX has on me, Elon, see what you like about him, he gets in there. And he, he manages that company on a day to day basis, you know, he gets very involved, and he instills a lot of action in in the people. And Florida just doesn't have that same same sort of zeal.

Jeff Sterns  52:42  
Now, you'd mentioned earlier that SpaceX had like 7000. Satellites scheduled that's,

Unknown Speaker  52:49  
that's in the industry 7000 satellites in the industry.

Jeff Sterns  52:53  
Seven. So the real question is where I'm going didn't matter who, how many can fit up there a lot.

Unknown Speaker  53:01  
So this is a question I get a lot.

Jeff Sterns  53:04  
It sounds like a lot of stuff bumping into each other.

Unknown Speaker  53:07  
Well, at some point it does. I mean, it's not infinite, of course, but it's a lot more than what's up there. So it's important to understand a couple of things. First of all, there once you put something in an orbit, it's in motion. And it seems like a perpetual motion machine that never comes back. But it does. The atmosphere of the Earth extends out even to where the satellites are orbiting. And it's very thin. But it extends out there in such a way that it causes the satellites to decay gradually. I mean, we've, we've all seen, you know, like it was famous in the 70s Skylab or I guess it was the 80s. Skylab re entered. Yeah. And that was the atmosphere that brought that back.

Jeff Sterns  53:50  
And so that had to be early to mid 70s. Well, so

Unknown Speaker  53:53  
they launched it in seven the 72. And they abandoned 76. So it could have been late 70s. Yeah.

Jeff Sterns  54:02  
I just remember playing with a buddy on my street in Michigan. Pretending we are in Skylab. But I left Michigan, you know, like 78. So I knew it had to be

Unknown Speaker  54:12  
okay, that sounds right. Yeah, it could have come back in within a year because it was pretty low. So so the point I was gonna make was the closer you get to Earth, the denser the atmosphere is, and there's an altitude under which you really can't fly in space. So that's, that's about 150 kilometers, or what, what's that about 8090 miles, something like that. It's there's just too much atmosphere. It'll, it'll come back in a couple orbits. But the point I'm making is, is anything that's below about 450 kilometers, which is maybe 300 300 miles up, is going to come back within five years, 510 years. It's above that, you know, if you say up around 800 kilometers or 500 miles, then then you're talking about Do you know maybe 100 year lifetime. So that's the place where you have to worry is up very, very high. And so what's promising to me is that people are starting to think about this. And there will probably be some, at some point, some regulatory requirements for third party liability insurance for satellite operators, for for contact right now, there's no requirement at all, because above 100 kilometers, there's slightly open sea, right. So if if the insurers require that, then then they're going to put a higher premium on lasting longer in space, because it's high risk. So you know, where we come in, and Phantom for example is, is if we're going to make it easier for you to replace your satellite, select your phone, and you get a new phone every couple of years. If we make it easier to replace the satellites, then people are going to think differently about it. Now, they want to launch them closer to the earth, the reason you launch them higher, is not because of the performance, generally, the performance degrades, because the physics is such that the further we away from the Earth, that you know, the lower the signal, the lowest resolution, your cameras have all that stuff. And so you really want to operate close to the Earth. But then if you're too close, then then the atmosphere drags it down. And you have to replace these things often. But if we make it easy and cheap to replace them, suddenly we have, you know, sort of self cleaning mode. So I think between all these things, it'll it'll solve itself. There's a lot of people out there, trying to put business cases together, of you know, going out and zapping stuff in orbit and bringing it back. And I have no faith whatsoever in those but then again, I had no faith in the Internet to produce commerce. So why the hell do I know?

Jeff Sterns  56:48  
What about these things reentering in crashing? Or do they burn up so much? There's not enough to worry about generally burn up?

Unknown Speaker  56:55  
Yeah, so So some things, you know, like titanium valves and things like really dense stuff, and sometimes make it to the surface, stainless steel tanks, and so on. So, generally, when you get us, at least in the United States, when you get a satellite operator license through US government, if your commercial, they go through debris analysis of your of your satellite to make sure that stuff won't survive, you know, it's like circuit boards, and that there's this thing called the ballistic coefficients, so they just kind of float like paper. Yeah, because they've got a very high ballistic coefficient. But, you know, rocks and chunks of metals tend to survive.

Jeff Sterns  57:35  
Okay, I was thinking about that. I'm thinking about the 7000 satellites on deck. And then I'm thinking isn't just gonna be raining this shit. One day, you know,

Unknown Speaker  57:45  
we're a long ways from that we're probably at least 50 years from a major problem. That's not to say the satellites aren't colliding already. I worked on the Iridium telephone constellation, where we lost one, you know, number of years ago to an old Soviet booster that's been in orbit forever. And these things happen. It's rare that it happens.

Jeff Sterns  58:07  
What about tourism? Space tourism? Is it going to be like this? Schwarzenegger movie? What was it when he was Oh,

Unknown Speaker  58:15  
yeah. What was that called? Total Recall, Total Recall? Yeah. One of my favorite movies. Actually, I thought that was fantastic. You know, I think that's, you know, Elon, his vision of Mars, frankly, is something like Total Recall. If anybody's gonna make that a reality, he will provide a live long enough to make it a reality because it's gonna take a long time. But space tourism, you know, the idea of paying to go up and get a ride. It's alive. And well, you know, we saw last Saturday at another one of Bezos rockets went up. I in fact, knew two other people that flew on it was a very good friend. And, you know, people are willing to pay a couple million dollars arrived for that. And, you know, that's kind of a novelty income still. So I don't see it being a big industry in the near term in the long term in might, if people figure out how to do it cheaply enough. And maybe starship, we'll do that at SpaceX is latest huge rocket. So you know, who knows, I don't think, however, that there's enough people on the earth that really want to pay the price of their house to go see the Earth from space. On this face guy, I don't even want to do it. So maybe maybe that affects

Jeff Sterns  59:35  
Why didn't think it was ever going to be those people anyway. All right, if it starts relating to the cost of their house, I mean, it might start relating to their annual or six month jet fuel bill.

Unknown Speaker  59:45  
Yeah, those kinds of people will do that. Right. And they can go to their cocktail parties and talk about it, or their astronaut wings on their, you know, on their hotel and all that sort of thing, but the average person doesn't really give a crap, to be honest with you.

Jeff Sterns  1:00:00  
All right, so let's, let's go back to racing this shows called Jeff Sterns connected through cars. And, you know, we'd met through our connections are heavily car skewed, if not, you know, almost all and then your background of course, we're talking about it and it's just unbelievably interesting. But a car racing, so you fancy yourself eraser. So any professional competition or is it all amateur? And what are you raising?

Unknown Speaker  1:00:33  
Yeah, I've done some professional, I want to get into TransAm, which is a professional series. But that takes time that I do not have at the moment. And as I aged, I still have a lot of friends that are in, you know, in their 60s and 70s that are racing TransAm. So there's, I'm not, I'm not there yet, but mostly amateur to this point. So you know, I've been racing go karts since I was a kid. And I drag raced a lot when I was younger, and through my 30s got into road racing, you know, in earnest, probably about 15 years ago, and started with SCCA, which is a Sports Car Club of America. And then I then I found endurance racing, which has truly gathered my heart and endurance racing is typically three hours to even 25 hours, I think it's the longest race in the US. And this, this is a team sport, where you have more than one driver, typically, and you have to have a pit crew and you have to think about the longevity of your car, you have to think about preparation. You know, the wind goes to those who are most prepared, and who have done a lot of practice and are a well oiled machine as a team as much as the car itself and the drivers so so that is what I've really enjoyed. I have done twice the 25 hours of Thunderhill. I did the 24 Hours of Daytona classic, which we beat Brian Redmond who was a Formula One champion he had, I forget who the other driver was a pro. I was very proud of that. And he beat Bobby Ray Hall on that one. Then then I've, you know, done a lot of national championships and SCCA and, you know, any of these, any of these endurance races, the W world Racing League series, we run into proteins out there and you know, for example, at 25 hours of Thunderhill the last time I did it, there were three LeMans teams and two NASCAR teams out there they were they were tough competition you know they've got mega dollars and they've got guys who do this as a living and you know, here we're out with our with our silly little Porsche going up against these LeMans prototypes and it can be it can it can be an experience but still it's an experience worth doing you know, so we do it within our budget size and it's always been it's always been a lot of fun

Unknown Speaker  1:03:20  
oh, I haven't gotten around to watching that last race. It's it's, it's on my DVR.

Jeff Sterns  1:03:26  
Thank you very, very much, Jim. I really enjoyed you.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:29  
My pleasure. My pleasure.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:34  
This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Jim CantrellProfile Photo

Jim Cantrell

CEO & Co-Founder

Jim Cantrell is the CEO & Co-Founder of Phantom Space, a company democratizing access to space by building mass-manufactured rockets, satellites, and space propulsion systems.

Prior to Phantom, Jim was a founding team member and Vice President of Business at SpaceX, with internet pioneer Elon Musk, where he helped develop technical concepts, markets, and overall corporate and product development strategy. His career also includes assignments at the French Space Agency CNES, the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and includes the founding of several entrepreneurial space startups and teams, such as Moon Express, StratSpace, and Vintage Exotics Competition Engineering. StratSpace worked on nearly 50 successful space missions and satellite programs, and as acquired by Phantom.

Jim received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Utah State University, he also worked as a research engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Here, he worked on Mars exploration technologies, including several Mars rover missions.