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What to expect from this episode:
What will space travel be like with Space Perspective? 🪐
Jane Poynter describes to Ed what one could expect when traveling on their spaceship, Space Neptune, and it is something quite unique. Something that may sound familiar to standard airline travel.
Discovering how many people have been to space 🚀
There are an elite number of only 650 people that have traveled to space. Space Perspective is on a mission to send thousands of people to space to be able to explore space in a new way.
Why Space Perspective is using hydrogen for its balloon 🎈
The controversial idea of using hydrogen gets an explanation from Jane that explains how hydrogen is a better lift gas and would also be deemed a safer gas than others for this purpose.
“As a business, I don’t think it’s our job to tell people what to think. What I do think is our job is to give them the experience that allows them to open up to this extraordinary transformation that astronauts talk about”
If given the chance to go to space, would you take it? Most of us share a curiosity of the unknown when it comes to our universe and the wonders that lie outside of planet Earth. For a long time, the idea of space tourism seemed unrealistic and something only available to highly-trained individuals like astronauts. That is, until now…
In this episode, Ed Bernardon interviews Jane Poynter, co-founder and co-CEO of Space Perspective, a company whose aim it is to bring regular individuals to the edge of space, using cutting-edge technology and a spaceship that’s very different from what we imagine when we think of space travel.
In today’s episode, Jane tells us about Space Perspective, the inspiration behind it, and the company’s overall goal. She also provides some interesting details about their spaceship, Space Neptune, and what people can expect to experience when they take a trip in it.
Some Questions Asked:
- What is the key thing that space perspective hopes to be the first of? (1:28)
- What’s the size of the capsule? (17:03)
- How do you see this as a new opportunity for scientists? (21:16)
- What are your thoughts on these different approaches people are taking to open up space travel to the masses? (27:32)
- What happens if something does go wrong? (41:10)
- When do you think we’ll have that first biosphere on Mars? (52:54)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The number of people who have been to space (1:56)
- What a trip on Space Perspective’s spaceship, Space Neptune, will be like (14:55)
- Why Space Perspective has decided to use hydrogen for its balloon (37:24)
- About the Red Bull space jump that Jane was involved with (43:42)
Connect with Jane Poynter/Space Perspective:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
[00:00:00] Ed Bernardon: On The Future Car podcast, we touch on many aspects of our future mobility, such as autonomous and electric cars, as well as other modes of transportation, air taxis, and electric boats. But today we’re going to take a look at yet another form of our future mobility: traveling to space. In recent years, space travel has changed from something that only a few could experience to becoming more accessible with many commercial companies jumping into the space travel business. With us today is the founder and CEO of one of those companies, Jane Poynter of Space Perspective, where they’ve developed the world’s first carbon-neutral way to travel to the edge of space propelled by a balloon with a goal to change people’s view and perception of earth. Jane, welcome to The Future Car podcast.
[00:01:03] Jane Poynter: Hello. How fun to be here.
[00:01:06] Ed Bernardon: I want to start right away and ask you about the Explorers Club, which you are a member of. And that is a group of members that are responsible for the famous firsts of humankind: the first to the top of Mount Everest, the first in the north and south pole, the first to the moon’s surface. So tell me, what is the key thing that Space Perspective hopes to be the first of?
[00:01:34] Jane Poynter: Oh, love it! What we’re really about is completely changing the paradigm of space. I mean, you said it right at the beginning that really today space has really been for the few. We are wanting to completely change that so that we can have thousands of people going to space. Remember, to date, only 650 people have ever been to space, fewer than that number. I mean, that’s a minuscule number of people. We’re wanting to be the first to take thousands and thousands of people to space every year.
[00:02:13] Ed Bernardon: One of the things when I first heard about you is a completely carbon-neutral way to get to space, and you think, “Oh, how could that be possible?” I see these rockets going up into space, all this smoke, and everything going on. Sustainability is a big part of what you’re trying to do. How was that an inspiration? How did it play a key part in what you’re doing at Space Perspective?
[00:02:36] Jane Poynter: It’s actually core to the business, and it actually goes all the way back to my days in Biosphere 2. So, my co-founder, Taber MacCallum, and I were involved in a project back in the early ‘90s. Actually, we were on the design team in the ‘80s and then lived in it in the early ‘90s for two years and 20 minutes — though, who’s counting? Just to remind us all what Biosphere 2 was, it, at the time, was sealed tighter than the International Space Station. It was the very first time that we, humanity, attempted to build the world’s first human-made biosphere. It was called Biosphere 2 because the idea being the planet Earth our biosphere on the planet is Biosphere 1. So we lived inside there, and all of our oxygen was coming from the plants around us; we knew moment to moment that all the CO2 was going out to grow our food. We could see the edges of our world with that glass and steel structure around us. It was really interesting. So I went into the Biosphere thinking that this was the closest thing that I’m ever get to going to Mars. I went there because I thought it was about going to space. And when I went in, I realized it was also about discovering a planetary biosphere that we all inhabit together, and it turns out that that is a very akin experience to that which astronauts have when they see earth from space. And what it does is when astronauts see Earth in space, they see that thin blue line of our atmosphere, they see the Earth against the blackness of space, and they get this visceral understanding that we live together as a human family on planet Earth. So this experience actually creates a response that makes one actively, proactively want to solve the grand challenges of today. So it is absolutely at the core of what we’re doing at Space Perspective, wanting to take thousands of people off to have that experience and do something amazing with that experience.
[00:04:46] Ed Bernardon: This effect that you talk about, and astronauts have it, your passengers on your spacecraft are going to have it, is called the Overview Effect. So you’re up there, and now suddenly, it’s not you’re from a particular country or anything anymore; you’re from Earth. I think maybe what you’re saying is Biosphere 1 is the Earth, Biosphere 2 was, “Oh, wait a minute, this is like our mini world here.” So you’ve experienced this firsthand. Tell us about this Overview Effect. So what is it like? You’re up there, and suddenly, you forget about the country that you’re from? Why is that?
[00:05:26] Jane Poynter: Yeah, I can’t speak personally yet from seeing Earth from space. Next year maybe, that’s what I’m aiming for.
[00:05:34] Ed Bernardon: Are you going up on the first one?
[00:05:36] Jane Poynter: Certainly, on one of the first, you’ve got to believe it, Ed. Oh, yeah. Well, for one thing, I have to know that this experience that we’re offering people is as good as we say it’s going to be. So I have to fall on the sword; I will test it myself. So when you talk to astronauts about their experience of seeing Earth in space, they really do talk about it as this visceral experience. For example, I’ve spoken to a bunch of astronauts about this experience, and this is a different component. Definitely, it’s seeing that thin blue line. When we’re down here on the ground, we look up through the atmosphere, that incredible blue sky, it looks like it goes on forever. No, it’s 20 miles thick, that’s it. Spaceship Neptune is floating on top of the atmosphere. I mean, it’s wild to think about that. So when you’re in space, you see this tenuously thin blue line. You also don’t see boundaries, you don’t see any of those borders, the national borders, those just disappear, and it becomes supremely evident that we are all on this planet together hurtling through space. And what tends to happen is when astronauts come back from space, they get more involved in social and environmental causes than before they left. So it really does have a very tangible effect on people. And one of the things is that it’s been really fun chatting with different astronauts who have been to space, and they all have different stories about their experiences. And certainly, some of the common threads are seeing something you recognize from space.
[00:07:14] Jane Poynter: One person told me about seeing the farm they grew up on. For us, we’re going to be taking people off over the peninsula of Florida, which is going to be supremely recognizable to all Americans. And because you recognize it and you know how big that thing is you’re looking at, it suddenly becomes apparent how big Earth is, and the ubiquitous comment is “Earth is not that big.” It’s fascinating. So it’s going to be really exciting for us to take people to have that experience. I can’t wait to hear all their stories about what it’s like for them, personally, to see Earth from that vantage point.
[00:07:55] Ed Bernardon: Like you said, Earth is not that big. And in fact, it seems like it shrinks Earth down so that you can actually call Earth home. My home is not the United States, Europe, or China: it’s that blue thing.
[00:08:10] Jane Poynter: I think it’s both right. I don’t think you ever stop being American or Australian or whatever country you come from and you call home. But it certainly expands it now to include all of the planet and really understand how interconnected the planet is. That’s one of the key takeaways.
[00:08:33] Ed Bernardon: You gave a talk. It was a TED Talk about your time in Biosphere. To tie it back to that a little bit, one of the things you mentioned in that talk is when we breathe, we could be breathing carbon from a dinosaur, Julius Caesar, or our great, great, great, great-grandchildren. And, in effect, I think what you’re saying here is when you see the planet without borders, we’re sharing carbon from everything that’s lived on Earth that exudes carbon. But you’re also now sharing this commonplace that we all have, and you start to think of it more as one or something that’s shared by all of us.
[00:09:13] Jane Poynter: I think that’s exactly right. I think what becomes supremely apparent is really the only border that counts is the border of that thin blue line of our atmosphere against the vacuum of space. That suddenly becomes supremely apparent that that black vacuum is not hospitable to life but here on planet Earth, it is our oasis, and that is what becomes so apparent.
[00:09:42] Ed Bernardon: So what if we could take the right group of people, political leaders from Earth, and bring them up into your Spaceship Neptune, as it’s called, do you think that could be a way we could solve some of Earth’s problems?
[00:09:57] Jane Poynter: I love that question because, yes, I do. And I think that, for us at Space Perspective, we want to take people of all sorts to space. So we want to take artists, scientists, leaders, everyone because they’re all going to go to space and have their own experience, and come back and communicate it in ways that haven’t been communicated differently. I think decisions around climate change would be so much easier if we all really, viscerally, at our core, understand that we are part of a biosphere, and we are completely reliant on it as, frankly, it is on us at this point.
[00:10:45] Ed Bernardon: Oh, absolutely. It’s the collective us, all of us. Well, let’s imagine that you could put together the right set of people to take up there. So, a two-part question, who would you bring up to solve the world’s problems? But more importantly, there’s going to be that moment. And I bet you could probably look at people’s faces and say, “Oh, they’re having it. They’re having the Overview Effect.” What would you say to them? What question would you pose to them at that moment to get them talking about the right things?
[00:11:17] Jane Poynter: I think it is a super, super interesting question. I don’t know that I have the answer for you, Ed. One of the things we talk a lot about with Spaceship Neptune is it doesn’t really require training. It’s a very gentle experience and a very accessible experience. If you can get on a commercial airline, you can get on Spaceship Neptune. That’s what this space balloon affords us. But now, that means we can take anyone to space but they need to be prepared for it.
[00:11:50] Ed Bernardon: Prepared mentally?
[00:11:51] Jane Poynter: Yes, exactly, prepared mentally. I’ve talked with people who have been on the Blue Origin flights and they’re like, “Oh, I have to really prepare because I’ve only got a couple of minutes in space and I literally have to practice what I’m going to do.” We don’t have to do any of that. But what we should do is go with some amount of intentionality; what do I want to experience? And it’s really interesting. So, our customers fall into two general camps, one is, “I’m going there to really bond with Earth. This is going to be a very meditative experience. I’m sharing it with my family. I’m sharing it with my loved ones. We’re going all together.” Then on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got the “Yeah, I’m going to celebrate! Woohoo! Party in space.” So, great, both are awesome.
[00:12:37] Ed Bernardon: Are they going to both be together? It seems like that’d be like two different crowds.
[00:12:39] Jane Poynter: That’s like having a cocktail party or a dinner where you’ve invited all the wrong people — oh, no. Thankfully, 50% of our tickets have been purchased as full flights. So, that becomes a little easier; people have self-organized, but we still do need to help the rest to make sure that the right people go together, for sure. That’s part of curating the experience. But I think making sure people really are prepared for this profound experience that so many have talked about of seeing Earth in space is really paramount.
[00:13:13] Ed Bernardon: So now you have these world leaders, you don’t have to name them, but if you could say one thing to them, “I would like to prepare you. Because once we get up there, I want you to think about this or talk about this.” I guess what I’m really looking for is you’re going to have this great moment where this Overview Effect takes effect. Now, that’s your chance. What should we really be talking about?
[00:13:39] Jane Poynter: This may sound like I’m ducking the question a little bit, but I don’t think so, because as a business, I don’t think it’s our job to tell people what to think. What I do think is our job is to give them the experience that allows them to open up to this extraordinary transformation that astronauts talk about.
[00:14:00] Ed Bernardon: There you go. So getting the experience is probably enough. If they can’t take it from there, that’s their problem. You’ve done everything.
[00:14:06] Jane Poynter: Here’s what I will say; what we are conscious of is that a lot of people, when they’ve had profound experiences, they have all this energy that they want to do something with, and they don’t necessarily know what to do with it. So we are beginning to develop partnerships with different groups so that we have some curated list of things that people can get involved with if they want afterward but certainly don’t have to. I mean, a lot of people have the things that they’re already doing and we’re hoping that they’re just going to go for it even more.
[00:14:39] Ed Bernardon: There you go. And I think you gave that example when astronauts come back to Earth, and they tend to want to work on these causes more. Let’s describe to our listeners the spaceship, describe what’s it going to be like. I get in, and then what happens?
[00:14:55] Jane Poynter: So, imagine it’s early morning, it’s dark out. You step out onto the deck of this beautiful marine spaceport and you get into this incredibly comfortable space lounge that’s inside the capsule of Spaceship Neptune, there’s a bar there, there’s a loo there, there’s Wi-Fi, there’s the super comfy chair, you get to sit down. You will be asked to strap in for the first 15 minutes, the pilot will tell you that you’re about to lift off, and you will feel the spaceship being taken up to space by the space balloon incredibly gently. It’s going to be very smooth. So you’re rising up, and for about two hours, you will be going up to space. Now imagine you’re seeing the Sun come up over the limb of the earth. And I’ve seen a video of a sunrise from that altitude, it’s madness, it is astonishingly beautiful. And it starts before sunrise. So, first, you all, of course, see the incredible starscape without the Sun — so you’ll have no light pollution, it’ll just be amazing. And then you will start to see the Sun, and if you’re seeing a sunrise, you’ll see these crazy rainbows that come across the planet, and then you’ll see the Sun against the deep dark blackness of space. And when you talk to people who have seen this, they talk about the colors being like something they’ve never seen before, like the black is the deepest black you’ve ever seen, which is crazy, actually. And so you’ll see that, you’ll be up there for a couple of hours, and then it’ll take you another two hours to come back down. The capsule splashes gently in the water. Fast boats come over, wave to everybody inside, the ship comes up, picks the capsule, puts it on the deck of the ship, and within about 15 minutes or so of a splash, you’ll be on the deck of the ship and being brought ashore again and having a great celebration of everything you’ve just experienced.
[00:17:02] Ed Bernardon: What’s the size of the capsule, the size of the balloon?
[00:17:07] Jane Poynter: It seats eight explorers, as we call our customers, and a captain. Mind you, the captain does not have a whole lot to do. So the vehicle can fly itself, it can be flown from mission control on the ground, and then there’s another mission control on the ship. So really, the captain is just to make sure everybody is super comfortable and got everything they need and curating this experience. So it is 16 feet in diameter, so it’s roomy; you can get up, walk around, go stand on the bar, you can cheer in the middle.
[00:17:43] Ed Bernardon: No seatbelts required for lift-off?
[00:17:46] Jane Poynter: Not during the majority of the flight, exactly. I mean, that’s the beauty of this thing, it’s so incredibly smooth. Yes, that’s exactly right. And by the way, you’re looking at the largest windows ever flown to space. One of my parameters was that one of our board members is well over six feet tall and I promised him he was going to be able to stand in the window without ducking. I think we’ve made it.
[00:18:10] Ed Bernardon: The first thing that comes to mind when I hear this is you see these images of the astronauts when they’re going up into space; they’re in their spacesuits; they’re shaking and rattling, and the rockets, it sounds like you’re just floating up like you’d be in a hot air balloon, pretty much. Is that probably the feeling?
[00:18:28] Jane Poynter: You’re right; this is exactly the opposite of how we normally think of spaceflight. That’s the unlock here, that’s what’s really making this so accessible. And then we’re also adding on our own reimagined way of experience base on top of that. So the capsule itself, you don’t have high G’s, you don’t need to be wearing a fancy spacesuit or do all the training or any of that. This is absolutely gentle. You’re in a pressurized capsule with your beverage of choice and your loved ones, and you’re hanging in space. It is just a completely different experience. And then the way we designed the interior actually took a huge amount of work. We originally thought, “Oh, we’re taking everybody to space to see the Earth on space. So we’re going to sit everybody in front of their own window and stare out at the world.” And then all of a sudden, when we set that up in a mockup, I wanted to talk to people and I was looking over my shoulder, I’m like, “Oh, we just made this a completely solitary experience.” So we flipped it around and now we’ve got this very social space lounge, as we call it, because we also want it to be incredibly inviting and relaxing for people. So there’s a space lounge for people to look out at earth. So, it’s as much a shared, relaxed experience as it is understanding our place in the universe as we look out at our beautiful planet from that vantage point.
[00:19:55] Ed Bernardon: This whole idea of sharing, it seems like it’s through the whole thing that’s like a big theme. And I liked the term, “explorer.” I have to admit I first learned about you at CES; you were in the Siemens booth, and I said, “Oh, my god, this is really interesting.” And one of your explorers was there, and I started to talk to him, and that’s when he said he was an explorer. And he started to describe your lounge, and I’m thinking, “What kind of an explorer is that?” Explorer, luxury, a lounge, it seems like that usually doesn’t go hand in hand. I don’t see why it shouldn’t, but it’s something new.
[00:20:30] Jane Poynter: So, for us, it’s about discovery. People are going to space to discover something new, and in this instance, it is a completely different perspective. It’s a space perspective. That’s why we called the company Space Perspective. That, ultimately, is what we’re offering people. And we want people to go into this with that stance of exploration, discovery.
[00:20:55] Ed Bernardon: I certainly can see right away for, let’s just say, the average person that wants to experience Earth in a new way, space travel and space station, pretty much every time we’ve gone up into space has been tended towards being scientists that want to run experiments, and you’ve created experiments that have gone up into space station and all that. How do you see this as a new opportunity for scientists?
[00:21:21] Jane Poynter: We absolutely are taking science payloads on every flight, actually. So we already took science payloads on our early test flights. So one of the huge advantages of what we’re doing for science is repeat flights to an area that people have hardly ever gone and studied. It’s a very difficult place to get to; technically, it’s called the stratosphere. And it is really important for understanding aspects of climate change, for example, upper atmospheric science. There is additional science we can do also that is fairly traditionally done with these kinds of balloons, which is with Helio Physics, Astronomy, and Astrophysics because you can fly these huge telescopes. But for us, what’s really valuable for scientists is that they don’t generally get to do multiple flights — one or two maybe, maybe three if they’re super lucky. What we’re going to be able to offer is repeat flights because we’re going to be flying so much. And what’s exciting, we’re actually already in discussions with a number of really valuable organizations whose names you would recognize, to fly payloads as part of spaceship Neptune that fly on every flight because it then goes what’s called a transect; we’re doing the transect up through the atmosphere and back down. So you’re constantly taking data about the atmosphere, different parts of the atmosphere, different atmospheric species, temperature, humidity, and all of those kinds of things and other gases as well, that have not yet to date been studied at the degree that we are, and also in the locations. Remember, we’re going to be out over the ocean, which is difficult to get to as well, all around the world, eventually. So we’re super excited about what we can do. And let’s also talk about kids. I’m super excited that we actually got to take kids’ experiments. So on our first flight, it was precious. We ran a competition and we had kids compete to fly their science payloads. The two winners happened to be both girls. And watching the videos of them and hearing that they had won, it was priceless. There was screaming, they were so excited about it. So we also get to take kids along on this journey as well, which is so important, and we also flew kid’s art. We’re big proponents of STEAM, not just STEM but STEAM.
[00:23:57] Ed Bernardon: Engineering and art together?
[00:23:59] Jane Poynter: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:24:01] Ed Bernardon: The whole idea of perspective, if there’s any group of people on Earth that have a different perspective, it’s young kids. “Going up into space and seeing the thin blue line is something everybody does. I’ve been doing it all my life.” How do you think their perspective would be different?
[00:24:17] Jane Poynter: Oh, my goodness. Can you imagine? Sadly, initially, we’re not going to be able to take small kids.
[00:24:24] Ed Bernardon: Test it out first. Make sure it works.
[00:24:25] Jane Poynter: Yeah, no, I think the FAA allows us to take people 18 and older. What we can do is involve them though. I don’t know about you, but I remember at that age, I was really wanting to explore the world. So I think it’s just going to be completely mind-blowing for some of these kids. I’m really hoping it is because what a precious experience for them.
[00:24:50] Ed Bernardon: I want to go back a little bit; you’re talking about a unique capability of people be able to go over and over again, which makes sense. You go up the first time, and then you land, and you say, “Oh if only I would have tried this or would have tried that,” and you have some time to think about it. But there are balloons now without people in them that go up to these heights and come back down. The fact that you have people in the capsule that’s attached to a balloon like that, how does that provide an advantage? Or what can you do with that that you cannot do with just a balloon going to the same altitudes and taking measurements, say, with instruments?
[00:25:29] Jane Poynter: So, there are several things there. One is that, actually, not very many space balloons are flown every year. So, a scientist is able to send an instrument up on a space balloon currently, but it may be another couple of years or five years before they get to do it again. Whereas, what we’re offering them, even without flying with their instrument, is to integrate the instrument into the vehicle so the vehicle is flying repeatedly, which is just getting much more data. That’s what’s needed, not just a one-off dataset but multiple data sets. So that already is hugely important. I think it’d be super exciting to think about actually having a laboratory in space. I think that’s super exciting. What’s interesting, as we think about spaceflight, normally, we think about having to spend a lot of time, money, and effort in automating our instruments. So now, if you can send a human with their instrument, you don’t have to automate; you can really, actually, make decisions on the fly whilst you’re up there. The human becomes part of actually enacting that research program in space. There’s a lot of research that doesn’t require a person to be involved, but definitely, there is. I think it’s a super exciting opportunity for researchers around the world, actually.
[00:26:48] Ed Bernardon: There are other companies—Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic—all taking slightly different approaches in terms of how high they go. Blue Origin is somewhat conventional; you’re strapped to a rocket ship, and it lasts a few minutes. You’re on the other end of the spectrum: a six-hour flight, relax. Virgin Galactic, I think, is somewhere in between, it’s a little bit less time but it’s not the full rocket feeling. And then there are costs too. Although not everyone has announced their price as you have, I think it’s $125k. Could you talk a little bit about how you compare to these other approaches, pluses or minuses? Maybe they complement each other. What are your thoughts on these different approaches people are taking to open up space travel to the masses?
[00:27:39] Jane Poynter: So I think maybe the first thing to say is that demand for this is huge. What is actually limiting the number of people that are going to space is by no means in demand, it is how many operators there are. So, because there are so few operators, this is going to be supply-side limited for many years to come, which is actually a great place for us as a business to be in. So the way we think about it is that the rising tide floats all boats. We are not in competition with Blue Origin or Virgin, and certainly not at CME or SpaceX. It’s a very different experience. In many ways, we think of ourselves as a gateway for them. So, for example, think about people going up on a rocket flight and you’ve literally got five or six G’s as you’re launching or as you’re descending. What that feels like, apparently, is an elephant sitting on your chest, not that I’ve ever had an elephant sitting on my chest.
[00:28:36] Ed Bernardon: It’s a good thing to avoid, I heard.
[00:28:38] Jane Poynter: I think it is significant, let’s put it that way, not for everyone. I have one person tell me that they’ve actually gone to one of these centrifuges to train with these high G’s several times so that by the time they get to their flight, they’re truly prepared for it. So, for the right person, that’s an incredible experience, “It’s the right stuff. I’m going up in a rocket, man.” Well, what we wanted to do was eliminate all of those, for many people, are barriers. When I talk to people about what we’re doing, they often say, “I don’t think I could actually go up in a rocket. It’s a bit scary; I can definitely do your thing because it’s the opposite,” as we were talking about earlier. So, just to break it down specifically, Blue Origin is roughly just over 10 minutes of a flight: go out with a rocket; there’s a parabola at the top, you have a couple of minutes at the top to float around, look out the window, and then you’re coming back down again. It’s not a published ticket price. I understand it’s somewhere between one and two million per person. Then Virgin Galactic, their published price is $450,000. That’s the space plane; you drop off the bottom of White Knight, the spaceship fires its rockets, and now you’re zooming up to space. So again, it is that rocket flight experience where you’ve got high G’s on both ends and then you’ve got a few minutes at the top to look out the window and float around in the cabin. What we are doing is completely focusing on the experience of seeing Earth in space. For many people, that zero-G portion is actually disconcerting, so we have eliminated that as well. So it’s a full 1G, you can walk around with your glass of champagne, or your cup of coffee, or whatever.
[00:30:32] Ed Bernardon: The champagne stays in the glass.
[00:30:34] Jane Poynter: You do not need a sippy cup. The champagne stays in the glass. So we just eliminated all that because we wanted to really lower the barrier to entry for people so that’s just really accessible to a lot of people. Just a very different experience. And we actually are partnered with some of those other companies I talked about; what they’re finding is that if somebody wants to go on their flight. And then they want to take their family on something like our flight, just very different. Now, let’s just talk about the altitude. You did mention the altitude.
[00:31:10] Ed Bernardon: Yes, exactly. You took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to ask you, what is space, exactly?
[00:31:17] Jane Poynter: Oh, Ed, there’s no ubiquitous definition of space, let’s say that. So, from an experience point of view, whether you’re going to 300,000 feet or 100,000 feet, which is where we are, you really are not going to see anything different. You’d have to have a straight edge to be able to tell the difference in the curvature. All of them, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and us, we all are what’s called a suborbital flight; you essentially have the same view out the window. And the way to think about what is space, if you think that we are floating above 99-point-something percent of the atmosphere, depending on what time of year it is, the last 1% goes out well beyond the International Space Station. We call ourselves going to the edge of space, so we’re also in space.
[00:32:14] Ed Bernardon: Well, there’s this thing called The Karman Line, it seems a little arbitrary.
[00:32:19] Jane Poynter: Yeah, a little bit. There is a technical definition about what it is and why it’s there. The confusion is that a professional astronaut gets a wing when they’ve been over the Karman line.
[00:32:35] Ed Bernardon: Okay, but it’s not really official. I guess we’ve never really come to an agreement.
[00:32:42] Jane Poynter: No, there really is not a universally agreed upon definition of space. We’re regulated by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
[00:32:52] Ed Bernardon: Now, this is separate from NASA, I would imagine.
[00:32:57] Jane Poynter: Yeah, so it’s part of FAA. So we’re all regulated by the FAA.
[00:33:00] Ed Bernardon: How old is that organization? How long has that been around?
[00:33:03] Jane Poynter: Oh, that’s a good question. It’s been around a while, at least 10 years or more than that. I don’t actually know the answer to that, Ed. Oh, now I’m going to have to get on my phone and look, but it’s been around a while.
[00:33:16] Ed Bernardon: Well, that’s actually a good thing, I would imagine. Because it seems that sometimes those organizations that, for instance, with electric and autonomous cars, it seems like the electric autonomous cars are already running around, especially on the autonomous side, before the government said, “Oh, we better start coming up with some regulations,” which they have. But here, it sounds like they were anticipating it ahead of time.
[00:33:36] Jane Poynter: Absolutely. Yes, that’s exactly right.
[00:33:39] Ed Bernardon: I want to go back to the cost: $125,000. So, the first thing I did is, I wonder what is the most expensive airline ticket you could buy. And what I found was that for $30,000, I think it’s an airline from the Middle East, you can have your own mini apartment with a shower, I suppose it’s on a 747 or a very large, wide-body aircraft. So, you’re getting close. I mean, it’s a factor of four, not a factor of 10 or 100 compared to the most expensive airline ticket that’s out there. What do you think has to happen to get that $125,000 down to like a ticket from London to LA or something like a business class seat, or get it down to $10k or $5k?
[00:34:34] Jane Poynter: I think you’re raising all kinds of interesting points. So first of all, when we set the ticket price, we actually looked a lot at what’s happening in the luxury travel industry. So people go on these beautiful safaris, you go to the Antarctic, go on a plane flight around the world, that’s all in the area of $100,000 to $200,000. So we’re right in there with what you might call the luxury travel industry. So,the way we think about it, how exciting it would be for people to be sitting around the dining room table thinking “Well, are we going to go to on another Safari? Are we going to go see the Northern Lights? Or are we going to go to space?” So, we’ve, in many ways, created a new destination for people to think about going to. So that’s incredibly exciting. And the demand is so huge, Ed, that it is likely that the ticket prices are going to go up before they’re going to go down. However, having said that, we are, obviously, of course, thinking about what it would take over the long run to bring prices down. And eventually, they will come down; we’re thinking about tiered products. I don’t know that the higher-end one will go away. But it’s about scale, it’s about getting a lot of people flying. When you’re only flying a handful of people a year, as it’s is really currently happening, it’s going to be very difficult to get the prices down. But once we got thousands of people flying to space, that’s when you’re going to start seeing the prices really rocket down. They’ve already come down a lot over the last few years if you think about just the price of rocket launches. I’m not talking necessarily space travel, per se, but rocket launches, and then the same thing will happen just with efficiency of scale as we start flying more and more people in space.
[00:36:23] Ed Bernardon: Do you think there could be more Neptunes? Or could it be that maybe you have a capsule that’s the size of a 747 and have 100 people in? Maybe both. Have you thought much about how that will evolve?
[00:36:35] Jane Poynter: Yeah, honestly, we’re very focused on getting Spaceship Neptune flying. But yeah, something like that.
[00:36:42] Ed Bernardon: Something along those lines. The other thing is that I thought of it—again, these are the thoughts that came to my mind when I first heard about this—I said, “Wow, a big hydrogen balloon.” And I’m sure people have mentioned this to you, but the first thing I thought about was the Hindenburg; I said, “Oh, my god, whenever somebody uses hydrogen in a balloon it’s not a good thing.”
[00:37:03] Jane Poynter: Hydrogen has gotten such a bad rap because of that.
[00:37:05] Ed Bernardon: Here comes the Hindenburg question. I’m sure, especially if you’re going to be taking the first trip up, or one of the first, that you’re doing everything you can about safety. First of all, why not helium instead of hydrogen? Since you’ve gone with hydrogen, what do you have to do to make it safe?
[00:37:25] Jane Poynter: So, helium is completely unobtainium. It is in very, very short supply. And in fact, it is in such short supply that if we were to use it, we would literally be competing with hospitals for their MRIs; that’s how bad it is.
[00:37:41] Ed Bernardon: Could you have done it with helium because it is a little bit heavier?
[00:37:44] Jane Poynter: We could have done it with helium, but you’re right, hydrogen is a better lift gas. It is actually a better gas to be using. So now let’s talk about the Hindenburg question, which is obviously what pops into people’s minds who have heard about the Hindenburg. So Hindenburg was not a balloon, and that’s actually critically important. It was not designed for hydrogen; it was designed for helium, which is also important. And actually, the hydrogen is not what caught it on fire. So I could go into all of the gory details of what happened, but remember, it was over 85 years ago. Now, let’s talk about balloons. So balloons have been flying with hydrogen since the 1700s, and thousands of them have been flown around the world. It’s used in sports balloons now, actually, all over the world. And thousands of them have been flown with hydrogen, there is not a single recorded incident that involves hydrogen.
[00:38:45] Ed Bernardon: So, what has technology done to make hydrogen safe?
[00:38:49] Jane Poynter: So, there’s just been a lot of people working on it. There are so many ways to think about it. Cars use gasoline; if you get air and the fumes from gas mixing, now you’ve got a highly volatile mixture that could ignite if you’ve got a spark. So, with hydrogen, it takes a lot of work to catch it on fire, you need to have it mixed with air, and then you need an ignition source. And we don’t have any of that. You just don’t have that with balloons. Remember, when you’re launching, you’re going up through, if anything is coming out of the balloon, it’s just going out into the atmosphere, it’s not mixing in a container with air. It just doesn’t happen. So you’ve got, essentially, the hydrogen is a pure hydrogen mix inside the balloon, so there’s nothing for it to ignite with. And then when you’re in space, there’s nothing even outside the balloon. So, it just doesn’t happen. They have been flown thousands and thousands of times without an incident and it’s very safe. There’s a reason we have the hydrogen economy that’s emerging. Hydrogen is used all over the world in many, many different processes, including making some of our food. That’s how you ubiquitous using hydrogen is. It’s just sadly what a tragedy the Hindenburg was, but that is what sticks in everybody’s mind. But honestly, it is pretty irrelevant at this moment in time.
[00:40:25] Ed Bernardon: And I think it’s something that people have to get used to: hydrogen. Like you said, it’s used in sporting balloons, I think you mentioned that. It’s also being used as a potential source of power in cars, as well.
[00:40:37] Jane Poynter: Cars, trucks, ships, planes, a lot of things. You’re going to see it more and more.
[00:40:43] Ed Bernardon: But you are going into space. So you’re safe with the hydrogen, it’s a technology that’s become quite mature, it’s not a lot of issues with it. But in the capsule itself, you said there’s a pilot; for the most part, the pilot is going to be able to enjoy himself. Hopefully, he’s not drinking too much champagne. But things can go wrong. I would imagine you have ground control of some kind. What are they doing? There are some remote monitoring control going on? And what happens if something does go wrong?
[00:41:13] Jane Poynter: So it is a lot in there. Safety, obviously, is absolutely critical. This is a really safe way of going to space. So, let’s break that down. The balloon is the primary flight system, that’s what’s carrying the capsule to space and then safely returning it to Earth. The balloon itself is the kind of balloon that NASA has flown over 1000 times, ESA, our team has flown it many times. It’s a very well-understood technology. Then, between the balloon and the capsule is a set of four parachute systems, and they’re only used in an off-nominal scenario because the capsule goes up onto the balloon and back down onto the balloon, which also means it’s a very seamless experience because you don’t ever transfer from one kind of flight system to another, that also means you get rid of all of that complexity so you’re just going up and down. It’s pretty straightforward. But the parachutes are there just in case. There are four of them, and you don’t need all of them to work. You’ve even got redundancy within the parachutes. And then the capsule itself, that’s the thing I’ve been working on most of my career is working on those kinds of systems in our team, and there are lots of redundancies within the capsule as well, as we talked about a really simple example; it’s just the operations. It can be operated from the ground, it can be operated automatically, and then it can also be operated by the captain. So, there are just redundancies built into everything.
[00:42:44] Ed Bernardon: When you say “operated,” is there steering going on?
[00:42:48] Jane Poynter: You’re right. It’s not operated in the way that we think of flying an airplane. Things don’t happen very quickly in a balloon. Operated is, we’ve got to make sure we’re watching what’s happening with our environmental control inside the capsule, or when we start to descend, make sure that we start that at the right time, those kinds of things. So you’re right; there really isn’t that much.
[00:43:14] Ed Bernardon: And you said it’s like a parabola, so you go up and you come down. How far away are you from where you started when you get back down?
[00:43:20] Jane Poynter: Roughly, 50-75 miles, it depends on the time of year.
[00:43:25] Ed Bernardon: So it’s not a lot of wind when you get 18 miles up, I think, something like that.
[00:43:32] Jane Poynter: Yeah, it’s almost 20 miles up. That’s exactly right.
[00:43:34] Ed Bernardon: You mentioned, in your career, you’ve built these environments and suits for people. And I was reading about the Red Bull space jump that Alan Eustace did, and one of the things I found fascinating about that is you were involved in the design of that suit, I believe. Is that correct?
[00:43:55] Jane Poynter: Yeah, our team was. It was part of a former company that Taber and I co-founded called Paragon Space Development Corporation, that’s now run by our third co-founder. And that, actually, technically, that company is what did the StratEx jump. We broke the Red Bull Stratros jump. Paragon built the spacesuit. Believe it or not, it was the first new spacesuit built, tested, and flown in America in 40 years when we flew it.
[00:44:25] Ed Bernardon: And what year was that?
[00:44:27] Jane Poynter: We broke the record in 2014.
[00:44:29] Ed Bernardon: So, for people that may not be familiar, 136,000 feet up, and how many miles is that?
[00:44:36] Jane Poynter: People probably wouldn’t be familiar. So everyone would remember the Felix Baumgartner jump because that was heavily promoted. And in fact, they broke the internet with it at the time. Their head of content for that is now our head of content as well. He’s the one who brought you those incredible iconic images of Felix standing on the threshold looking out dramatically over the planet. And then he just throws himself out. It’s mad to watch. I was one of the 10 million people watching real-time. So, that was done in 2012, and he went to 128,000 feet. He was actually taken up in a capsule, and he had to step out of the capsule. It turns out it’s much simpler and counter-intuitively safer for this particular application. To take in this instance, Alan Eustace, who was at the time a Google executive up in a spacesuit, literally just hanging on to the balloon. So, he was connected to the balloon. We took him up for just over two hours; it took him to get up to 136,000 feet; you’re right. Then we intentionally dropped him. He free-fell for almost five minutes; he broke the speed of sound. And then he opened his parachute and came in for a safe landing. It was incredibly exciting. And the reason that you wouldn’t have heard about it is because we didn’t want it, Google didn’t want it, Alan didn’t want any press to speak of. So we had just a smidgen; we had a New York Times reporter at the final record jump, just because if it’s not in the press at all, it didn’t happen.
[00:46:04] Ed Bernardon: Well, what I found interesting about this and the challenges of developing a suit like this is there were some unique combinations of temperature going up and pressure going down. And I don’t know if this is that much different than a space suit that you would wear for a spacewalk, say, where you go from the environment we’re used to here on earth to the weightlessness and no atmosphere space. But here, sometimes the temperature is going up, the pressure is going down, sometimes it was a reverse. How did that make it more challenging in, say, making a conventional, if there’s such a thing as a conventional spacesuit?
[00:46:38] Jane Poynter: Yeah, it was the number of different kinds of environments that he had to go through. When you’re in a typical spacesuit going on Eva, you’re dealing with one kind of environment, and that’s the vacuum of space. In this instance, he had to go up through the troposphere, which is a thick atmosphere that gets very cold. It’s -90 at one point when you’re going out through it, so you have to deal with this very cold atmosphere. Then, finally, you get up into a vacuum with the sun beating on him. And if he was up there for very long, now he’s going to overheat. So, you have this very interesting environment. And then he’s hurtling back down to space and the aerodynamics are super important. If you’ve ever seen images of his suit, you’ll see that there’s an aerodynamic shell on his front that covers all of his life support systems because he was falling down at the speed of sound, and just very slight changes in the dynamics of what was happening on the front body affected his aerodynamics very significantly. So, there are all these different things. And then, of course, we at one point had a spacesuit with rollerblades on it, which is the only suit you will ever see with rollerblades because for testing, the plane doorway where you jump out was too short for him to stand up, so they literally put him on his chest and pushed him out the back of the plane so that he could test the suit and all of the parachute systems.
[00:48:07] Ed Bernardon: So, it had nothing to do with landing. It wasn’t like landing gear or anything like that.
[00:48:14] Jane Poynter: It was just to get him out and play. It was pretty funny.
[00:48:17] Ed Bernardon: Did you learn anything from the design of the suit?
[00:48:23] Jane Poynter: Oh, absolutely. We learned a huge amount about operating in that environment. It’s the same kind of balloon that we’re using to Spaceship Neptune. So, exactly, we have a deep understanding of operating in that environment because we did all those flights with Alan a number of times going up through this. And subsequently, we’ve flown a lot of balloons since then as well for science. So, there’s lots to learn that has been applied to what we’re doing at Spaceship Neptune.
[00:48:54] Ed Bernardon: What about Biosphere 2? What did you learn from that that’s impacting what you’re doing on Space Perspectives?
[00:49:01] Jane Poynter: Oh, my gosh, how long do you have? Fundamentally, what we learned that is directly applicable to what we’re doing is really what I talked about right at the beginning, which is that experience of being part of our biosphere. That set Taber and me off on this course, on this life’s journey to take us all to space. That is really where that desire and that passion was ignited for us, was inside Biosphere 2. So, as we think about what we’re doing today with Spaceship Neptune at Space Perspective, it really is the culmination of everything we have done through our careers leading to this moment, starting all the way back at our time in Biosphere 2.
[00:49:48] Ed Bernardon: It’s more than an inspiration that’s lived on after that.
[00:49:54] Jane Poynter: Yeah, we’re not using biospheres, per se. I will say that the thing that we really learned there is total systems thinking, meaning to say, you have to think of things in their interconnected nature, not as individual pieces. Because individual pieces, when they’re interacting with other individual pieces, there are these emergent properties that occur. So, certainly, that absolutely fed forward into what we’re doing today.
[00:50:23] Ed Bernardon: For the last part of our talk, I want to talk a little bit about the future of space travel and pick up right here with Biosphere. One thing we haven’t talked about, at least with respect to Biosphere, I think it was two years or a long period of time, what about the mental aspects of being with the same seven or eight people for all that time? I mean, it could be good, could be bad; but too bad, you’re stuck.
[00:50:52] Jane Poynter: Ed, you’ve got to read my book about it. We all went completely mad. My book is called The Human Experiment for a reason.
[00:50:58] Ed Bernardon: Oh, does that not bode well for future space travel, you think?
[00:51:03] Jane Poynter: I think, as humans, we are generally pretty resilient. So it does take resilience, for sure, that’s one of the key attributes for people going on something like this. It was the most incredible thing to be involved with, it was the hardest thing I ever done. It was eight of us sealed inside, talk about Cabin Fever. It’s Cabin Fever, just blown out of proportion. Turns out that there is a constellation of symptoms that tend to occur with people in isolated, confined environments, as it’s called, so it happens to people in the Antarctic, if they’re a long time on a submarine, and there are different aspects of it. One of them is you tend to break into warring factions, which is what we did. We had eight people in there. It turns out that eight is the worst number.
[00:51:55] Ed Bernardon: You needed an odd number.
[00:51:58] Jane Poynter: Yes, you need an odd—not three; three is even worse because you get two on one. But other than that, you need an odd number. Otherwise, you get four on four, and it’s really stable, and that’s what happened to us.
[00:52:10] Ed Bernardon: What do you think the right number is? Nine?
[00:52:12] Jane Poynter: Well, it completely depends on what it’s for.
[00:52:15] Ed Bernardon: Like a biosphere, Biosphere 3, let’s call it.
[00:52:17] Jane Poynter: Yeah, if we had been seven or nine, it would have been better.
[00:52:21] Ed Bernardon: There you go; gotta get that deciding vote.
[00:52:24] Jane Poynter: Yeah, because it also just makes it more dynamic. We just got in these two clicks that would not break down.
[00:52:32] Ed Bernardon: Yeah, a lesson is learned there. You’re not signing up for Biosphere 3, I imagine.
[00:52:38] Jane Poynter: Sure. If there was a reason to do it, I’ll do that. I’m a little busy right now though. I’m a little busy getting us all to space. But once we’ve done that, if there is a good reason, you bet.
[00:52:52] Ed Bernardon: Speaking of getting to space and biospheres, when do you think we’ll have that first biosphere on Mars? Let’s do Moon and then Mars.
[00:53:04] Jane Poynter: So I think Moon is super interesting. There have been so many debates over the years: “Oh, we’ve got to do Moon. We’re gonna do Mars first.” I think Moon is super interesting because it’s close because I want us all to be going. I don’t want it to just to be for the few scientists, for the few astronauts, that eventually we’re going to have hotels, we’re going to have people living on the Moon, and that’s super exciting. And that is going to happen before we have people really living long-term on Mars simply because it’s so far away and difficult to get to. And I think that’s super exciting, not because I want us to be leaving planet Earth but because I think these explorations, these outposts, they bring us things that otherwise could not happen here on Earth. There’s a reason why the great navigators explored our world, initially, our planet, that seemed so huge initially. Now, our solar system seems so huge. Now imagine if we’re going out and all of those people will be looking back at us and having that space perspective in an increasing amount, the further you get away, you get a little tiny experience with the pale blue dot the Carl Sagan spoke about when he took that image of Earth from the edge of our solar system in the ‘90s, that was an iconic image. I think it’s very exciting and will definitely happen. Can I tell you when? Probably not.
[00:54:39] Ed Bernardon: You think 10 years, maybe, possibly on the Moon?
[00:54:43] Jane Poynter: I don’t think people will be living on the Moon in 10 years.
[00:54:45] Ed Bernardon: But visiting maybe for six days or something.
[00:54:48] Jane Poynter: Yeah, we’ll be routinely going, 100%, yes.
[00:54:51] Ed Bernardon: It’s interesting, the pale blue dot, for those that haven’t, if you look it up, I think you can find it. I think it was the Voyager turned around and it took a picture of what was behind it, and it was a little blue dot. I would imagine, someday, space travelers from Earth will be coming back, “Oh, there’s a little blue dot, we’ll be home in no time.”
[00:55:09] Jane Poynter: Yes, exactly.
[00:55:10] Ed Bernardon: And is it really that much different than the days of the explorers when they were crossing the Pacific or the Atlantic? And they said, “Oh, God, who knows what’s out there.” And then, suddenly, they see some trees on land, and they drop people. But at the time, it seems like an insurmountable challenge.
[00:55:28] Jane Poynter: Exactly. 100% agree with that. It’s in our DNA. I think some of us just are driven to explore.
[00:55:34] Ed Bernardon: What do you think is the biggest difference between an environment on the Moon or on Mars, let’s just say, wherever outside of Earth? The difference between an environment that holds you just for a short visit, say, for six days, versus one where people could live there permanently born, live out their life in this new place. What’s the biggest difference between those two environments?
[00:55:59] Jane Poynter: I think about that a lot because it’s the difference between camping and going home. When you go camping, you’re very happy to sleep on the ground. Well, a lot of people are very happy to sleep on the ground.
[00:56:12] Ed Bernardon: Except the glampers, the people that glamp.
[00:56:14] Jane Poynter: Okay, fair point. So, there are different levels. But even with glamping, I don’t know that you’re going to necessarily want to live like that all the time. That’s the difference is that when you see bases that are currently designed for people to live on the Moon or Mars, it really feels like something that you could go for a while, but I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel like it’s somewhere where I would feel like is home. We need to be building for the long term, we need to be building places that feel like home. And that doesn’t just mean, “Oh, I’m gonna have a more comfortable chair to sit on when I’m on the Moon,” or Mars, it’s like, “Oh, we need to take our biosphere with us.” You’ll see we have like a little smidgen nod to that in Spaceship Neptune; we have some plants inside Spaceship Neptune because it is a nod to the fact that we don’t thrive without other life with us. So going to somewhere like the Moon or eventually Mars, we have to take that with us, we have to take our biosphere with us in many ways, and put the human experience at the center of it. It’s not of the same way when you think about space travel as the way we’ve mostly thought about it, it’s the right stuff that’s like, “I’m going to put up with the discomfort. It’s hero stuff.” Well, there are only so many of us that are born to be heroes. Let’s just face it; if we’re going to go live there, we have to change the paradigm of that so that it really does feel like home and somewhere we could not just survive but thrive.
[00:57:46] Ed Bernardon: And thriving is a great word to use to describe this because we naturally think about all the systems you had, like in the biosphere: we have water, air, food, and all that. But it is also another opportunity. I’m going to leave this as our last serious question, at least, is now, suddenly, and I would imagine if you had a place like this on the Moon or Mars, you’re going to have people from all the places on Earth. It probably gives you a new opportunity to figure out, “Well, what are our rules? Or how are we going to live together? What are the laws we’re going to have?” Because now, we’ve got a chance to do it all over again, based on thousands and thousands of years. Almost an impossible question to answer, and it wasn’t on the list that I gave you, but do you have any thoughts on how would you do it differently?
[00:58:38] Jane Poynter: Yeah, it’s a really, really difficult question to answer. If we look at the International Space Station as a model, that’s been pretty awesome over the years. People have come to the station from all over the world. People have been up there whilst there’s even been unrest between the countries that are up there. Represented by the people that are up there, and yet they overcome it, they still are together as human beings. I mean, that’s it, they’re up there as human beings. They are representing their countries, but they’re up there as individuals, and they make serious bonds with the people they’re up there with. And the same is going to happen on the Moon; people will make serious bonds. But to be fair, we don’t have a regulatory environment, we don’t have laws that cover what’s going to happen there, and that’s an area where we’re way behind.
[00:59:36] Ed Bernardon: Well, an adventure in more than one way. Jane, thank you so much for a really, really interesting discussion and opening up our eyes on The Future Car podcast to the future of mobility in a new dimension. Thank you so much.
[00:59:53] Jane Poynter: You bet. It was super fun. Thanks, Ed.
Jane Poynter | Co-Founder of Space Perspective
Jane is co-founder of Space Perspective and is charged with ensuring all Space Explorers have the most meaningful and memorable journey possible. As a member of the Biosphere 2 design team and original crew who lived for two years inside the sealed, self-sustaining habitat, the first prototype space base built and operated. She then co-founded and was President of Paragon Space Development that today has technologies on almost every human spacecraft in operation in the U.S. In partnership with the World Bank and United Nations. She holds a patent for the world’s first self-sustaining habitat used in multiple space programs and bred the first animals to complete multiple life cycles in space.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Initiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning and business development in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership which includes hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously he was a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011, he previously directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at MIT Draper Laboratory. Ed holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
The Future Car Podcast
Transportation plays a big part in our everyday life and with autonomous and electric cars, micro-mobility and air taxis to name a few, mobility is changing at a rate never before seen. On the Siemens Future Car Podcast we interview industry leaders creating our transportation future to inform our listeners in an entertaining way about the evolving mobility landscape and the people that are helping us realize it. Guests range from C-Level OEM executives, mobility startup founders/CEO’s, pioneers in AI law, Formula 1 drivers and engineers, Smart Cities architects, government regulators and many more. Tune in to learn what will be in your mobility future.