Dr David Livingston, host of the Space Show, chats with Out of the Cradle

The Space Show Logo

The logo above has become a very familiar feature in the lives of many space enthusiasts. With its twice weekly broadcasts that bring us conversations with many of the top names in space activities from authors, academics, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and some times just plan folks like me who have a deep interest in space.

Dr. David Livingston is now the host of the nation’s only talk radio show focusing on developing a space-faring society and economy, expanding and broadening space commerce, and developing space tourism. The Space Show is broadcast live on the air and is also streamed over the internet. Every show is archived and you can find all the past programs, along with a list of the upcoming guests, at www.thespaceshow.com.

Livingston earned his BA from the University of Arizona, an MBA in International Business Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, and his Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) at Golden Gate.
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OotC: David, let’s get a bit more background first. Where were you were born, and where did you grow up?

Livingston: I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1946. I remained there until I went to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK for my freshman year. Then I transferred to Chapman in Orange, CA for my sophomore year, and then finally to the U of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona for undergraduate graduation. I have a BA degree with my major in political science and my minor in history.

I still have friends, family, and business interests in Tulsa and try to return for visits and work as often as possible. I like Tulsa and Oklahoma and am totally addicted to Oklahoma football and basketball. Boomer Sooner!!!!!

OotC: If I recall correctly you would have been in your mid to late teens at the time of the Apollo 11 flight. How much did those early NASA years of the 1960’s influence your current space advocacy efforts? Were there other events or life experiences that you would consider equal or stronger influences?

Livingston: In high school, we all “knew” the Soviet Union was ahead of us in math and science. I saw Vanguards blow up on the launch pad, I listened to Sputnik fly overhead on a huge Grundig World shortwave radio console that my parents had, and I always heard press reports about our need to study math and science, to catch up because we were so far behind the Soviets.

I also remember doing duck and cover drills in elementary through high school. I can still hear my teachers telling us that if we were to see a large bright flash outside, we should get under the desk (duck), cover our head and eyes (cover) from the flying glass, and don’t look at the window. As if all this would have made a difference, right? But the Cold War was in full force, neighbors were building backyard bomb shelters all over Tulsa, and the OU football winning streak had been terminated!

Wow, an incredible time to live through!

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Then President Kennedy came along, and we started hearing about how going to the Moon would bring us to the lead again. We were jazzed, excited, thrilled, invigorated, and inspired. All of us in high school talked about space, watched it on TV, could not get enough of the space program, of Walter and Jules and rockets and the Saturn V. It was such an exciting and thrilling time and the space race to the Moon did it all. Wow, an incredible time to live through!

These events, and those that you asked me about, are absolutely responsible for what I do today. I saw the way for excitement, adventure, how to satisfy my curiosity about everything scientific, our origins, purpose, the cosmos, and then much later in life, my spirituality, all by understanding space and our place in it and our relationship as part of it. The burning passion, love, all of it: it has never left me and today it guides me and it also frustrates me.

The meaning and relevance of it all changes as I go through life, get older, watch my kids grow up, see the world we live in, experience the greatness of humanity and the worst of it, all at the same time. It was important for me to discover how to channel all of what I have just described into more than a dream, more than an intellectual experience or even a sort of consciousness that is hard to define, especially in terms of our typical reality. I wanted to take what I intuitively and academically knew and was experiencing about space and make it work for me as well as others in our world today. Figuring out how to focus the incredible power of space, to work toward becoming space-faring to improve our human condition on Earth, this is what was driving me about space.

The Space Show helps this along by being reality based, drawing upon all our dreams, the dreams of listeners and guests, showing and hopefully leading the way to making the dreams become our reality. It may sound a bit corny or even a lot like New Age gibberish, but the fact is space remains the only activity on Earth where mankind has always worked for mutual betterment. No wars, no destruction, no hate. Think about it, in the midst of the Cold War when I was doing duck and cover drills and being scared daily by the news, the government, the USSR, hydrogen bombs, how dangerously behind the Soviets we were in the US, and how advanced the USSR was in critical areas, maybe even to the point of attacking us if we did not attack them first, we were also making treaties to use space peacefully, to rescue all astronauts in trouble regardless of nationality, to assure some liability protection arising from space related activities that hurt nations and people, and to keep weapons out of space. We even found a way to join USSR and American astronauts together in space. Space shows us the way. We need to pay attention.

OotC: From those early days you went to University of Arizona, garnering a BA degree, and went on to Golden Gate University in San Francisco first gaining an MBA and then a DBA, which you wrapped up with a doctoral dissertation that was titled Outer Space Commerce: Its History and Prospects.

Was space always lurking in the back of your mind during your studies or at what point did the idea for that dissertation subject come to you?

Livingston: No, space was just my interest, my love. I never associated it with academic studies or anything like that. My academic interest developed much later, long after I had finished all my academic class work and comprehensive exams. Due to circumstances in my life, I put the DBA program and my dissertation aside to focus on family and career issues. Years after finishing my class work and orals for my doctorate, I chose to write my doctoral dissertation, but by the time I got my final letter to write it or get out of the program so much of life had come and gone, it was hard for me to even think about traditional business school dissertation topics. Plus, I really had no interest in researching the traditional and usual subjects.

…my second son was born with cystic fibrosis shortly after I completed my comprehensives… so I tabled my dissertation work…(then) I received the “put up or quit” letter from my school…

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You see, my second son was born with cystic fibrosis shortly after I completed my comprehensives, and he had a rough beginning to life so I tabled my dissertation work and had actually forgotten about it. He was about ten at the time that I received the “put up or quit” letter from my school, and having faced some real important challenges in life, circumstances, experiences, and new realities had changed my perspective and my interests. I decided that I would only write my doctoral dissertation if I could choose and develop my own topic, even if it was considered weird by academic standards.

Space was it for me. As unconventional as space might be in any business school, it was really unconventional for my conservative, small San Francisco business school, Golden Gate University. Expanding space commerce including space tourism was the topic I chose. It’s been an interesting and rewarding path ever since I made that choice.

OotC: Even today, that is not a typical Business Administration topic, was it much of a struggle to get it approved?

Livingston: An amazing, challenging, and very difficult struggle! When I took my idea to the dean of the department, he thought that, for the most part, I was a nut case. But he was open minded enough to allow me 90 days to get two DBA committee members from GGU, plus at least one other committee member from GGU or another accredited school, or someone with academic credentials in the business world. He thought I would fail, but he gave me the room to either do it or not do it.

I started by going to my very favorite MBA and DBA professor who was by then retired, Dr. Homan. We had always had a great relationship and his classes in economics and international finance were my favorites. Though he knew nothing about space, he thought my idea was interesting. He agreed to support me, and chair my DBA committee – but I had to find the other committee members on my own.

I started searching among all the Golden Gate DBA professors I had known from graduate school, or met since. Several politely told me they had no time and wished me luck. However, my proposal interested a great marketing professor who I had met, but never had as a teacher. He agreed to do it given Dr. Homan was heading my committee. Thus, Dr. Pruden joined the team.


My approval was by just one vote! One vote! I want to repeat that. One vote!

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Next, while driving one day to an early morning appointment, I heard an NPR special on the old Mars Underground, and it referenced a professor from Stanford University. As I reside in the Bay Area, contacting someone at Stanford was at least geographically easy to do. I tracked this professor down, and he invited me to come meet him. Dr. Bruce Lusignan gave me a two hour lecture on space tourism in his office. I took notes faster than I ever had done in college, and we got along really well. He gave me people to contact, etc. I then asked if he would help with my proposal, and although he was an engineering professor and not from the business school, he agreed to help, and later joined my DBA committee. He also introduced me to Dr. Harvey Willenberg at Boeing Commercial Space, and Harvey joined my team as well.

I wrote my proposal with guidance from these four professors, Drs. Homan and Pruden from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, Dr. Bruce Lusignan from Stanford, and Dr. Harvey Willenberg from Boeing. At Golden Gate, I had to defend my proposal for acceptance before a faculty hearing. Trust me when I tell you that I did not face a supportive group. Most thought my topic was too undignified for a serious business school. However, with the support of my four professor committee and the way I handled their questions and objections, my proposal was accepted and I was authorized to write the dissertation. My approval was by just one vote! One vote! I want to repeat that. One vote!

When I finished my dissertation in 2002, the school gave me a champagne celebration. All the professors who had been at my proposal defense were there, including those who had voted against me. They now applauded my work, because space tourism had by then become mainstream – the subject had been on the cover of Newsweek. Mars pictures were streaming back to Earth from our orbiting cameras and there was new enthusiasm for space.

Golden Gate University had the nation’s cutting edge business school published doctoral dissertation on these subjects, all thanks to me. The very people that had voted against me were my biggest champions at that celebration. I was later sending them email links to great Mars pictures, reputable and serious space tourism articles, and more. My, the world had changed over that 4 – 5 year period. It was great to be part of that change, but I never noticed it until I went to that champagne reception. And it was all made possible by just one vote. Had I not found the incredible team to support me and join my committee, and had I not been able to defend my ideas at that hearing, my dissertation would not have happened, and most likely The Space Show would never have been created. It’s interesting how sometimes a future is determined by a narrow margin of one!

I applaud Golden Gate for its willingness to go way outside their box.

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I want to make one last point about all this, but it is a major one: Though people did not initially believe in the topic I chose, the one thing Golden Gate University did that was very special was to believe in me, their student. They went after my topic, not me. They gave me the opportunity to be successful. Thinking back on all of it, I applaud Golden Gate for its willingness to go way outside their box. They gave me the chance to show that I could make what was then an unorthodox topic work. Academia is often criticized for being close minded and narrow – and it often is just that – but hats off to Golden Gate. Despite their own preferences and prejudices, they allowed me to follow my path, do or die. It’s a great school and in my case it did what it was supposed to do. I would not have wanted to do my doctoral studies anyplace else, or to work with another committee. My dissertation experience was a gift and I treasure it daily. The experience also pays off daily with countless benefits. I know anything is possible and that one can create something from what appears to be nothing.

OotC: So, with all that under your belt, you provide business consulting, strategic planning and financial advice, you guest lecture, you are guest instructing at the University of North Dakota and you are actively involved with several space advocacy groups.

When exactly was it that you had yourself cloned?

Livingston: I’ve never been cloned, but I wish I could have cloned my recently departed Siberian Husky, Biscuit.

The Space Show and my space activities are now full time and I seldom engage in terrestrial business consulting. A few times a year I will do so but truthfully, it’s boring. I have, however, engaged in business consulting for space startups. The fact is there is no difference from a terrestrial company, other than that the space company has a product, service, or activity that takes place in space. There is no separate spreadsheet for space. Assumptions still need grounding. Computing an ROI or doing a pro forma requires the same accounting, math, and financial rules. I have actually been stressing this lately on the show and in my lectures because somehow many alt.space types think that having a space company means they get to have space rules, not business rules.

Anyway, back to your question: I am not cloned, though I do manage to keep busy. But as a one person everything, often it takes me longer to do something than if I had a staff. I also am very close with my kids though one is out of college now and the other is still at UCSB. I take care of my 98 year old mom who is a massive stroke victim in a nursing home. Relevant to your question, I was recently with Dr. Robert Zubrin, and we were talking about his new play about Benedict Arnold which I am trying to arrange to do on The Space Show this summer. I asked Bob how he finds time to do all of what he does. He told me one could do quite a bit if they don’t watch television. I do confess that I watch television but still, one can do quite a bit by prioritizing, scheduling, and staying focused. I can’t go the extra mile as Bob has done, there are too many things that I still like on TV, but I do work hard to get my projects done and move on to the next one. Clearly, there is no shortage of ideas, certainly not for The Space Show.

OotC: Yet you still find the time to produce and host “The Space Show,” your space related radio talk show. The program appears twice a week, (live, on Tuesday evenings 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm and on Sundays from noon – 1:30 pm Pacific time.) and often with special editions on other dates.

People don’t sit around watching the TV and suddenly decide, “I think I’ll do a radio talk-show program.” How did the concept of the program come about? Did someone approach you with the idea or was it something you developed on your own?

Livingston: First, some news: The Space Show has added new programming. Starting next year, I will be routinely adding Friday mornings to the schedule, 9:30AM-11AM Pacific Time. Additional weeknight or weekday shows will also be added from time to time, but not routinely. The Friday show will be routine starting in January.

As for starting the program, I was approached by a station in Phoenix to do a business consulting show. The Phoenix station found out about me when I spoke at an all-day Cato Institute seminar on space. I agreed to do the Phoenix business consulting show for three to six months, in an effort to improve my public speaking, thinking it would be a plus for lectures and conferences. I started out with the program known as Business Without Boundaries (BWB) and I focused on interviewing business consulting people once a week. The show was OK, so-so enjoyable for me. I did enjoy the guests and the topics but it was not a passion. However, I was enjoying doing a radio show. About two months into BWB, I decided to get my friend Dr. Patrick Collins from Japan on the show regarding space tourism. Patrick did the show with me and after that I changed its format to only space subjects. The feedback was immediate. Lots of good comments by e-mail, plus, I now had the “fire in the belly” passion for BWB and radio. For business reasons, I eventually left the Phoenix station and moved to KKNW in Seattle. I changed the name to The Space Show and continued with the space themed programming.

Starting next year, I will be routinely adding Friday mornings to the schedule, 9:30AM-11AM Pacific Time.

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I stumbled into this by accident and fell in love with it. I still completely enjoy and love it, and the internet and satellites have made the show available to so many people around the world. When SpaceShipOne was flying, I had reporters on the scene and I did a four hour broadcast, nonstop, of all events with those flights. I got thousands and thousands of emails from around the world, with people telling me that The Space Show was the only source for information. Dads sent me notes from Australia, where it was around 2 AM, and they were keeping their 3 and 4 year old kids up to hear The Space Show, thinking this was as historically significant as the Wright Brothers’ flight.

When our servers were crashing due to the popularity of the Space Ship One events and I put out the word for people to use another site furnished by Pioneer Radio in the UK, within 15 minutes I had unlimited bandwidth mirror sites springing up to carry our broadcast. These sites were all over Europe, Canada, Asia, the U.S. and Australia. Bringing SpaceShipOne live to people around the world was something I had not thought of, it was a side benefit for having decided to do the full event coverage. Space is a powerful uniting force, I have seen it, witnessed it, participated in it. I am glad I stumbled into it. Serendipity I guess.

OotC: The first hour of your 90 minute (plus) program is broadcast live by a Seattle radio station, what’s the story behind that association? How did you get hooked up with them?

Livingston: When I realized I needed to leave the Phoenix station, I looked for a good station in a good market that followed decent business practices. As I buy my air time, costs were critical and still are. KKNW was one of the stations that made it to the top of my short list. I checked references, flew to Seattle to meet their people, see their facilities and equipment, talk to their engineers, etc. At the time, the show was just one hour but over time as guests kept going over the 60 minute period and since I was streaming the show anyway, it did not matter. Thus, I let the show evolve to 90 minutes. Some guests still go over and that’s fine with me. Also, I have done and will continue to do many two hour programs. KKNW is only Tuesday evening, 7-8 PM Pacific. My next stop though is satellite transmission and an expansion to a much broader on air network. I am working on this with new Space Show plans which I hope to be able to announce by the end of this year, certainly the first of next year.

OotC: Your program is heard in over 50 countries, with iTunes-compatible podcast, mp3 archives – listening options that go on and on, and continue to grow every time we turn around. So, did you start out with just the radio broadcast program and then the stream-casting on the internet came along later, or were both those options with you from the get-go?

Livingston: I started out with just the 60 minute radio broadcast in Phoenix. The Phoenix station was supposed to stream the show but they were not reliable and that is putting it kindly. I added my own stream service with Live365.com as it was just too frustrating to be dependent on the Phoenix station. KKNW streams the first hour and replays the show and stream on Saturdays, but now I stream it on multiple streaming services. Streaming, podcasting, archives: they are probably reaching far more people than the one hour live Seattle broadcast.

To run a program like The Space Show, you need to be reliable so I have multiple computers, backups, streaming services, lots of broadcasting equipment, phone lines, hybrids, etc. However, I have three areas of vulnerability which concern me for without these services I can’t do a show. These are the cable high-speed internet connection, phone service, and electrical power. So far I have not had outages during a show and I hope it stays that way.

OotC: You’ve shown no fear in your endeavors with The Space Show, including live on the spot broadcasts of the SpaceShipOne flights. Those programs even featured field reporters with you at the controls back home.

Did I hear correctly that you might try another remote show, from a conference or convention, in the near future?

Livingston: I (actually) did the three Space Ship One flights: Both the X-Prize flights and the test flight in June. I also did a remote show from the Space Access Conference in Phoenix this past April. I am working on doing a live remote from the coming ISDC NSS Conference in May 2006 from Los Angles. Stay tuned for details.

I have also thought of taking the show on the road, firstly to a couple of hi tech San Francisco internet cafes. I intend to interview the highly educated, affluent, and upwardly mobile young men and women there about their thoughts on space. They are the type of innovative, thinking, and “can do” crowd that can take us to space – but I bet they know very little about it, and don’t care that much. I want to wake them up to it, and I think my plan might do it.

It’s a big deal, requiring some heavy-duty equipment: a stable hi bandwidth internet connection for streaming, multiple computers for recording the show, and more. Still, I would like to try it. With time and funding, I will launch this program in 2006. When the arrangements are in place, I will announce it on the show and on the website newsletter. It will start in the Bay Area and we will see what happens after a few tests.

OotC: Broadcasting The Space Show since June of 2001, your guest list reads like the who’s who of alt.space and space in general. With such a broad spectrum of viewpoints you must have come across some strongly opposing philosophies on how to do what, when and where, yet each show the only thing that comes through from you is your enthusiasm for the subject.

Without naming names, have there been times you’d just like to reach through the phone lines and throttle a guest, or have you had a guest so surprise you with a response you are at a loss for words?

Livingston: Most of the desire to do what you suggest comes from those that pay no attention to reality and “drink the Kool-Aid”. Not paying attention to reality is a problem. Alt.space and space development in general is fragile enough due to funding, safety and regulatory issues, and probably more so, on the margins because of the Kool-Aid crowd. However, Kool-Aid reality denial, even on the margins, has the potential to be more damaging to a developing industry than a mature or thriving industry.

The listeners are the ultimate jury with any guest or topic.

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I never want to throttle a guest, but what I do like doing is asking questions that reveal to the listeners the true nature, condition, or state of reality of the guest. I have confidence in the listeners that with their own discernment and discretion, they can tell what is real or not. They don’t need me to spell it out for them. My goal on the show is to facilitate the guest in being what the guest wants to be: Either a true expert in the field or the biggest fool ever in the field. I will help the guest achieve either goal and I will do it respectfully and politely. Again, I trust Space Show listeners in their discernment and discretion. The listeners are the ultimate jury with any guest or topic.

OotC: What space development activities, either current or in the foreseeable future, tickle your fancy the most? Space Tourism, whether it is sub-orbital flights, trips to a Bigelow-style hotel-habitat, lunar activities such as resource utilization manned or robotic, manned Mars missions, other robotic-planetary exploration or “fill-in-the-blank” other?

Livingston: I relish the thought of space tourism. I am a big believer in it and want to see it happen safely, routinely, and commercially as soon as possible. I also want to see a manned permanence on the Moon and humans to Mars. There are so many answers I want about Mars that only people present on the ground there can provide. These are my most desired space projects, but space exploration, both manned and robotic, is also important and vital. So is the development of space transportation and finding ways to reduce the cost and difficulty of leaving Earth’s gravity field.

But it’s important to realize that without our ability to cost-effectively leave Earth’s gravity well, both with people and cargo, we are not going to be able to go very far in space or be able to do very much. We must find the path to low cost space access – it’s fundamental to becoming space-faring. Since The Space Show has started its Deep Space Communication Project, perhaps one of the questions I will send to deep space is a request to have the manual on low cost space access sent to me from out there someplace, by any entity that knows the answer to achieving low cost space access from a heavy duty and very penalizing gravity well planet.

OotC: If I were to look at your night stand or on the end table beside your favorite reading chair what might I see that you are currently reading? A peek in your library of reading material would show what percentage of fiction to non-fiction?

Livingston: I’m currently reading management text books to use in my Space Management class for the spring 2006 semester at UND. I like to read everything from history, classics, fine literature, science, etc. I read lots of weekly and monthly magazines and journals and online materials. You might see a stack of online articles printed out, maybe eight inches high. They also go in my travel backpack which I often save and read when I travel. I read various newspapers as well: local, state, national, and space-related. I like to read. I took lots of speed reading classes when I was younger and can read very fast with decent comprehension. I know when to slow down to absorb more but in general, knowing how to read fast, how to speed read, has been one of the best tools I ever learned, developed, and used.

Reading makes us part of the world and society, not just a space organization or an engineering professional group.

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I urge space fans to read and read and read. Not just space, science, engineering, or sci-fi books, though: read literature, read the classics, read Harry Potter, books on politics, history, poetry, anything. Remember, we talk and think space and we want to make the case for space to people who are outside the space community. We need to communicate with them, not lecture them. We need to hear what they have to say. I mean really listen and hear, not go through the motions. Our society consists of teachers, plumbers, carpenters, contractors, office workers, medical personnel, artists, writers and so much more. They are all important and we need them to understand with us why space is a must. We are not always talking to scientists, engineers, or advocates. We need to be in the world at large and reading takes us there. This is important because it enables us to expand how we see space and relate it to others. It expands our vocabulary, how we can describe things, how we can connect with people. Maybe it will be through art or poetic metaphor or blue collar common sense. Reading makes us part of the world and society, not just a space organization or an engineering professional group. We humanize ourselves through reading, the humanities, and science, and then how we related with others. So I say read everything, listen to everything, all points of view. By doing this, one develops their discernment and discretion skills to a high state of usefulness. This is really important in space development.

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about The Space Show. Lots of new things are going to be happening with the program and energy behind it for 2006. Stay tuned for details.

We at Out of the Cradle would also like to thank Dr. David Livingston for taking the time to chat with us and give us a sense of what it takes to get a project like The Space Show off the ground and for the personal peek into the life of one of the voices coming from the box, called radio.

For more information on how you can contribute to the funding needed to keep The Space Show on the air, check it out HERE.

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