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With a new administration about to take power in Washington, many in the space industry wonder what this means for NASA’s exploration plans. Jeff Foust reports that, despite criticism of some aspects of Constellation, NASA’s exploration leaders are confident about their efforts.
Still looking for a holiday gift? Dwayne Day offers a recommendation for anyone interested in space history in the form a unique calendar.
Mojave Air and Space Port has become a center of activity for the NewSpace industry in recent years, to the point where many liken it to a space version of Silicon Valley. Jeff Foust looks at the parallels between Mojave and the Valley and what sets the desert airport apart.
Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin may not be the biggest fan of NASA, but in his latest book he assumes the agency will still be around a century from now. Taylor Dinerman offers other insights for future Martian settlers from that book.
Problems with some space programs have less to do with cutting-edge technology than people and management issues. Wayne Eleazer offers a historical example of the problems that well-intentioned but poorly-executed government reform can cause.
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft triggered an unusually strong emotional reaction when its mission ended last month, in large part because of the connection the spacecraft made with the public through the Internet. Jeff Foust examines the implications of these connections, particularly for human space exploration.
The producers of the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, as a publicity stunt, transmitted the film last week towards the nearby star Alpha Centauri. James Oberg explains why, if there’s anyone there, they have no chance of actually watching the film.
When rockets fail, they often do so in the most spectacular of ways. Dwayne Day recounts one such particularly dramatic failure from the mid-1980s.
A new report warns of the dangers of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Taylor Dinerman notes that the real danger is not with the weapons themselves, but the missiles that are also developed to deliver them—missiles that can also serve as space launch systems.
When Mike Griffin became NASA administrator in 2005, many in the space industry expected him to focus in particular on commercialization of some of the agency’s activities. Jeff Foust reports on a recent speech where Griffin examined what the agency has done to promote commercial space efforts during his tenure.
Indian and Germany are two countries that would not seem to have much in common when it comes to space ventures. Dwayne Day describes how the space efforts in these two countries do share some common characteristics.
Last week’s decision by NASA to delay the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory mission two years is the latest cost and schedule problem to strike a major aerospace program. Taylor Dinerman argues that the root cause of such problems is a lack of talented technical leadership.
What makes for effective propaganda? Dwayne Day explains that it’s probably not one particular, mysterious pamphlet produced by an aerospace company during the height of the Space Race.
The critical role of advanced technology investments in preventing spaceflight program cost overruns
One of NASA’s major problems has been significant cost overruns on many programs, an issue that has recently been described as a “cancer” on the agency. John Mankins explains how this cancer can be prevented through more investment in advanced technology research and development.
NASA isn’t the only space agency anticipating change: Canada has a new president of its space agency and a new cabinet minister. Seven young Canadian space advocates argue that now is the time to revisit the role Canada should have in global space exploration.
A new European space policy calls for a greater military role for civilian space entities like ESA. Taylor Dinerman states that this puts Europe at odds with nations that seek to differentiate civil and military space activities.
A new administration and a new Congress are raising hopes in the space industry that long-awaited export control reform may be in the offing. Jeff Foust reports that some are more skeptical about the prospects for major changes.
NASA continues to do great things, but hasn’t captured public imagination in the same way it did decades ago. Alan Stern argues that the agency needs to combine its exploration efforts with new initiatives in Earth sciences, aeronautics, and commercialization to become more interesting and relevant.
A fire earlier this month in California threatened a couple artifacts from the Apollo program. Dwayne Day describes the fiery intersection of aerospace history and the entertainment industry.
Earlier this year several organizations partnered to sponsor a contest for videos about the future of American human spaceflight. Greg Zsidisin discusses the results of, and lessons learned from, the contest, and shows the winning videos.
Space solar power has attracted the interest of parts of the US military, who see it as a way to get energy to remote bases. Taylor Dinerman describes how the same technology can similarly help poor landlocked countries who are dependent on other nations for access to energy supplies.
While the Saturn 5 is one of the most famous rockets ever developed, its smaller sibling is often overlooked. Jeff Foust reviews a book that, at least from a technical perspective, tries to give this rocket its fair share of attention.
The recent success of India’s first lunar mission has catapulted the country into the ranks of the elite spacefaring nations. Taylor Dinerman sees this as an opportunity to include them on the ISS project as a way of injecting new ideas and resources for the endeavor.
While President-Elect Obama stated during the campaign his support for the key goals of the Vision for Space Exploration, many people are offering the incoming administration advice on new approaches. Jeff Foust reports on two new reports that offer alternatives that would slow down the push to send humans back to the Moon.
Does the rebounding Russian economy mean that the country will take a bigger role in space projects? Nader Elhefnawy looks at just how strong the Russian economy is and will become in the near future, and how that may translate to increased space activities.
Space exploration is more than about launch vehicles and spacecraft; it also includes the broader implications to society of a spacefaring civilization. Jeff Foust reviews a book that tries to tackle this wide-ranging and weighty topic.
Change was a major theme of the 2008 presidential campaign, and President-Elect Barack Obama will presumably be bringing some change to space policy as his administration takes office. Jeff Foust examines some elements of the Obama campaign’s space policy that themselves could use a bit of change as they’re implemented.
It sounds like a broken record: once again, major US military space programs are facing cost overruns and delays. Dwayne Day reviews the problems with milspace efforts and what causes are at their roots.
A change in administrations means a change in the leaders of most Cabinet-level agencies. Taylor Dinerman warns that one potential candidate to become the next transportation secretary could have ominous implications for the nascent space tourism industry.
Russia is bouncing back, both politically and economically, from the post-Soviet collapse of the 1990s, as was vividly demonstrated this summer with its invasion of Georgia. In the first of a two-part article, Nader Elhefnawy examines what this resurgence means for Russia’s space program.
Long before the ISS and the Shuttle-Mir program, NASA got its first experience with long-duration spaceflight with Skylab. Jeff Foust reviews the authorized biography of the commander of the final and longest mission to America’s first space station.
The current economic crisis has led to calls for a new stimulus package to revive the American economy. Taylor Dinerman explains why it’s important that a little bit of any such initiative include some additional funding for NASA.
Whomever is elected president this week will face some tough choices upon taking office, including their approach to space. Eric Hedman argues for the need to refine NASA’s current exploration vision to be more effective and sustainable.
Entrepreneurial “NewSpace” and established “OldSpace” companies don’t interact much, and have differing perspectives on emerging markets and their development. Jeff Foust reports on these contrasting viewpoints as discussed as a recent conference, as well as some NewSpace developments that were discussed at the event.
A collection images from the second and final day of the 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
What’s it like to experience weightlessness? Gregory Cecil provides a first-person account from a recent flight on a Zero Gravity Corp. plane.
Last year Armadillo Aerospace came close to winning the Lunar Lander Challenge but was stymied by technical glitches. Jeff Foust reports from this year’s event to see if Armadillo could outmaneuver Murphy’s Law and finally win the prize.
A collection images from the first day of the 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
Space has been a realm almost exclusively for professionals over the last half-century. Andrew Tubbiolo explains why it will be important for amateurs to become more involved developing technology for space settlement, and how it can be done.
The Island One space colony concept was one of the few space settlement projects with detailed development cost estimates. Nader Elhefnawy goes back and examines those costs and assumptions more than 30 years later and examines what needs to change to make space colonization happen.
This month marked the 50th anniversary of the final mission of a high-altitude balloon project that sent people to the edge of space. John Keel reviews the history of Project Manhigh and its significance at the beginning of the Space Age.
The ongoing turmoil that has rocked financial markets around the world has some asking what this crisis means for the space industry. Jeff Foust looks at some potential implications to government and big aerospace efforts, as well as how entrepreneurial ventures hope to weather the storm.
A small satellite launched with China’s latest manned mission has raised speculation that it might have been used to test ASAT technology. Brian Weeden examines the information known about the satellite and argues that such appearances might be in the eye of the beholder.
A number of launch vehicle failures over the years have been linked to the same problems that caused failures years or even decades ago. Wayne Eleazer discusses some examples of this trend and its implications for the future.
Just before Sputnik inaugurated the Space Age, science writer Willy Ley discussed the status of America’s missile programs. Dwayne Day looks back on this essay as a window into the culture of an era just before spaceflight began.
After Apollo 11 successfully landed humans on the Moon, some claimed that there had been no race to the Moon at all between the United States and the Soviet Union. Taylor Dinerman looks at the reasons behind those claims and what significance they have today.
The space race at the beginning of the space age greatly accelerated the development of human spaceflight, raising the question of what would have happened without that competition. Dwayne Day examines the current state of Indian and Chinese human spaceflight planning to see what a more “normal” development might be like—if there is such a thing.
The Rocket Racing League was created three years ago to combine elements of the aerospace and racing industries into a new entertainment experience. The league still hasn’t started competitive races, Jeff Foust notes, but it has helped contributed to the development of two NewSpace companies.
The recent financial crisis has demonstrated the problems with public-private partnerships, at least in the United States. Taylor Dinerman examines the problems with such partnerships in the space arena, and why Europe has been more successful with such efforts.
One market of interest to entrepreneurial space companies is sounding rocket flights of various experiments. John Jurist crunches the numbers and proposes one way to help make the business case for reusable sounding rockets close.
If large-scale human spaceflight programs are difficult to sustain and maintain public interest in, what is the alternative? Claude Lafleur argues that the search for life, and worlds that can sustain it, is a worthy alternative.
Richard Garriott’s flight to the ISS later this month is a another step forward for more than just space tourism. Taylor Dinerman explains how the flight may help clear the way for commercial research and other work on the station.
The retirement of the shuttle, a change of presidents, and other factors all put the future of space exploration in question in the US. In the first of a two-part essay, Claude Lafleur reviews the lessons that spaceflight advocates have—or at least should have—learned over the last few decades.
The delay in receiving signals from Explorer 1, America’s first satellite, as it completed its first orbit has been seized upon by at least one person as evidence of new physics. Stuart Harris looks back at the mission and discusses why that delay can be explained with conventional orbital mechanics.
Solar sails have been a promising space transportation technology that has been just around the corner for decades. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines how solar sails work and what missions they could be used for, if they’re ever successfully flown.
In the four years since SpaceShipOne captured the X Prize, the fledgling NewSpace industry has been looking for another major milestone to demonstrate its progress. As Jeff Foust writes, that next step may have taken place Sunday night with the successful Falcon 1 launch.
The government is pressing ahead with plans to purchase and operate a pair of medium-resolution imagery satellites for defense and intelligence applications. Thomas Snitch argues that government, industry, and taxpayers would all be better served by procuring those images from existing commercial providers.
Advocates of space commercialization and settlement have argued that space-based resources are key to helping solve problems on Earth. Nader Elhefnawy explains why instead solving problems on Earth in the short term is key to being able to access those resources at all.
A French space policy expert has recently proposed creating an international consortium to manage to exploration of the Moon. Taylor Dinerman discusses why this approach, while sounding more efficient, may be less effective than continued international and commercial competition.
During this election season many have been curious about what the next president will do in the realm of space policy. Anthony Young reviews a classic book that explains why presidents have relatively limited influence in crafting space policy.
Last week the defense and intelligence communities agreed to procure a pair of medium-resolution imagery satellites despite the existence of similar commercial systems and a national policy that places a priority on procuring such imagery from commercial providers. Taylor Dinerman examines why this program is going forward and what it means for the remote sensing industry.
What roles will entrepreneurs play in opening the space frontier? Bob Clarebrough examines the roles of profit and passion in entrepreneurs’ efforts to create new space markets.
Mike Okuda is best known as a longtime graphic designer for Star Trek, but he has also designed logos and patches for NASA. Dwayne Day interviews Okuda about his work in both the worlds of fiction and reality.
One of the biggest worries in the space industry today is whether there will be enough people to fill positions vacated by retiring scientists and engineers. Jeff Foust reviews a book that could help address that problem by better explaining to the general public exactly what scientists do.
The US Air Force has come under scrutiny in recent months for neglecting its nuclear forces. Retired general James Armor argues the Air Force has also been neglecting its space mission, something that could have potentially serious consequences for national security in the future.
Some have proposed developing space-based missile defense systems to strike missiles in their earliest phases of flight. Brian Weeden explains why such an approach suffers from technical and political problems.
Dwayne Day talks with an artist who spent much of his career working at NASA illustrating aviation and space projects.
Developing space solar power requires billions of dollars and years of work. However, Jeff Foust reports that some progress can be made in just a few months and with a much smaller amount of money, so long as you don’t mind a little made-for-TV drama.
Space solar power has been billed as a way to meet the growing energy demands of the world. Taylor Dinerman notes that SSP can also serve as a means of avoiding potential future conflicts about energy.
There has been no shortage of speculation about what Barack Obama would do in the arena of space policy if elected President this November. Adrian Brown offers some advice from the past for Obama.
Last month SpaceX suffered another failure of its Falcon 1 launch vehicle. Jeff Foust reports, though, that the company is not only confident that they’ve identified and resolved the problem that caused the most recent failure, they’re continuing to make ambitious plans for the long term.
An air show might not be the most exciting thing for a hardcore “space junkie”, but then the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh is no ordinary air show. Eric Hedman recounts some of the highlights of the event from the perspective of a space enthusiast.
Relatively crude ballistic missiles, like the Scuds Iraq used in the first Gulf War, are thought to have relatively little military value. However, Taylor Dinerman explains how they can boost the morale of the countries that use them, making missile defense, including space-based systems, all the more important.
Anthony Young recalls a special moment nearly 40 years ago and why it’s important for the future as well.
The concept of commercial human spaceflight has gone from science fiction to the cusp of reality in recent years, thanks to the work of a number of visionaries. Patricia Hynes recognizes those people and highlights an upcoming conference on the subject.
Deep sea explorers are often dismissive or disparaging of space exploration. However, Dwayne Day explains how the two fields, which initially took different paths, are starting to look like, and influence, each other.
Geopolitical tensions have created concern that US astronauts may not be able to access the International Space Station after the shuttle is retired in 2010. Taylor Dinerman reviews the alternatives for getting people to and from the station, from commercial developments to extending the life of the shuttle.
Did the hydrazine fuel tank on the USA 193 spacecraft really pose a risk to people and property, as the US government claimed when it made the decision to intercept the satellite before reentry? Yousaf Butt discusses some newly-released studies that suggest that the tank would have broken up in the atmosphere harmlessly.
Many people have all but given up on governments to explore and develop space, putting their hopes instead on entrepreneurs. Nader Elhefnawy warns that this could be a bad strategy, given the risks and long wait for returns associated with space ventures.
The common perception of Britain when it comes to space is one of apathy. Andrew Weston argues that there is considerable public interest in space in the UK, waiting to be harnessed by the British government in the form of a coherent policy.
Mission patches can provide a window into the world of classified space programs. Roger Guillemette and Dwayne A. Day return to a subject they previously explored here by looking at another set of patches from classified missions and launches.
Last week marked the 15th anniversary of the first flight of the DC-X, a vehicle that promised to help revolutionize access to space. Jeff Foust reports on a conference that brought together veterans of that program to both look back on the program and look ahead to the future of space transportation.
The intercept of USA 193 has gotten some recent attention again with new analyses of the risks the spacecraft and its tank of hydrazine posed. James Oberg talks with some of the key people involved in the decision to bring down the satellite and how they judged the risks it posed.
At the Mars Society conference earlier this month, society members chose an innovative small satellite mission as the organization’s next major project. Tom Hill and Alex Kirk describe how their project will advance the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars.
The recent US-Poland missile defense deal is only the beginning of changes in European missile defense and related areas. Taylor Dinerman describes how those changes will affect, among other things, European military space efforts.
The last couple of weeks has seen a flurry of activity on space policy issues from the two major presidential candidates. Jeff Foust reports on the policy statements made by both campaigns as well as a recent debate on space issues by representatives of the campaigns.
Many commercial space ventures have grandiose visions and broad aims. Bob Clarebrough explains why these companies might be better off developing a much narrower focus that is easier to explain to and convince investors and to achieve market success.
Finding compelling rationales for government human spaceflight programs can be difficult. Greg Anderson argues that one explanation that might work is that, without such efforts, governments might be able to exercise little authority over private human expeditions and settlements beyond Earth.
Astronomers have discovered objects that appear to be from the distant Oort Cloud in orbits that come closer to the Sun than Neptune. Taylor Dinerman describes how NASA and partners could use those objects mount a mission to explore those distant icy bodies.
Last month NASA released a study which concluded the current Constellation architecture was superior to an alternative, DIRECT, that has been developed by some current and former NASA engineers. Stephen Metschan responds to that study and argues time is short to prevent the destruction of shuttle infrastructure that could be used by DIRECT.
When Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said earlier this month that he would not delay NASA’s Constellation program by five years if elected, it was seen as a major shift in policy. However, Jeff Foust notes, that statement was more of a reconciliation of contradictory statements the campaign had issued on the topic since the end of last year than a new development.
In a speech in Florida earlier this month, presidential candidate Barack Obama proposed re-establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Council. Ferris Valyn explains how a new council could help redefine national space policy and tap into the broader space community.
In an essay in a French newspaper last week, the honorary president of Arianespace made the case for additional government funding to upgrade the company’s Ariane 5 booster. Taylor Dinerman wonders why, given the company’s success in the commercial launch market, it needs to seek government help.
Later this week the Applied Physics Lab will host a conference on how a planet should be defined. Jeff Foust reports that, two years after the IAU approved an official definition for the term, some scientists are still clamoring for a change.
A collection of photos from the unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo aircraft in Mojave, California on July 28.
Last week Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites unveiled WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft that will be used to launch SpaceShipTwo. Jeff Foust reports on the event, including the emphasis on applications beyond space tourism for that unique airplane.
Last week NASA administrator Mike Griffin marked the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the law that created the space agency by appearing at the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Eric Hedman reviews what Griffin had to say about issues with the exploration architecture and Griffin’s plans for the future.
One hundred years ago, Americans were exploring a new frontier: the Arctic. Michael Robinson notes that then, as now, there needs to be a discussion of not just how to explore, but also why.
An animated film about three flies who stow away on Apollo 11 might sound like a recipe for cinematic disaster. However, Taylor Dinerman notes, the film is a sign that space exploration is still a topic of interest for filmmakers and the general public alike.
NASA has decided to focus the COTS program on vehicles that can deliver only cargo to the ISS, not people. However, Jeff Foust reports that many in the industry and Congress think that a COTS crewed capability is essential to not only the long-term success of the program but for also the Vision for Space Exploration.
France is leading an effort to create a unified European Union space policy. Taylor Dinerman examines the reasons why the EU desires a more robust space policy and its implications for cooperation with the US and other nations.
The Constellation program has come under criticism from several quarters for its cost, schedule, and potential technical issues. David L. Christensen argues that what’s needed is a more robust approach that makes better use of shuttle and EELV hardware.
MirCorp had an audacious, if ultimately unsuccessful, business plan: commercialize the Russian space station Mir. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary that tells the story of, and dispels some myths about, that effort.
Amitai Etzioni responds to a recent essay on the space policies of Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy by arguing for the importance of “near space” versus human space exploration.
Many of the arguments constructed in support of spaceflight focus on the importance of exploration. Rand Simberg questions that focus and argues that it would be more effective to find other, more compelling arguments.
Both civil and commercial spaceflight appears to be approaching a turning point, thanks to events ranging from the retirement of the shuttle to the development of commercial suborbital vehicles. Jeff Foust reports that what remains unclear is the direction and magnitude of the impending changes.
What will the next four years bring to military space policy in the US and elsewhere? Taylor Dinerman predicts little in the way of major upheavals, but still some opportunities for the next administration to affect change.
While Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has been compared to John F. Kennedy, Obama has been far less supportive of human spaceflight today than Kennedy was nearly 50 years ago. Michael Huang makes the case for Obama to change course.
A number of efforts are underway around the world to get students involved with the design and assembly of satellites. Taylor Dinerman notes that these efforts are critical to the development of the next generation of the aerospace workforce.
Energy policy has become a hot topic in this presidential election year, and the candidates have often invoked the Apollo program when describing their proposals. Jeff Foust argues that, while this may seem flattering, new energy programs could pose a fiscal threat to government space exploration efforts.
Winning political support for long-term space exploration projects is difficult, but there are historical precedents for successfully garnering continued support for major government programs. Greg Anderson looks at how those programs provide lessons for space advocates today.
Spacecraft returning to Earth require descent and landing systems that can be complex, heavy, and prone to failure. James McLane describes a proposal for an innovative alternative that puts the burden of landing on the ground.
When suborbital and orbital space tourism finally takes off, how will customers prepare for their flights? Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the potential training regimes for these flights in great detail.
Four years after SpaceShipOne soared into space, the promise of a vibrant suborbital space tourism industry remains unrealized as vehicle development plans are delayed or fail outright. Jeff Foust studies the current state of the industry and looks for common factors that could explain the delays.
The French government recently released a new military space policy that calls for the development of new spacecraft and other resources. Taylor Dinerman explores the policy and concludes that it is really just a continuation of existing policy that puts geopolitical strategy over operational priorities.
Dwayne Day provides a photoessay of the NASA pavilion at the just-concluded Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington.
Jeff Foust reviews two new books, one a star-studded look at the history of the universe, and the other an overview of an unconventional proposal for reaching orbit.
In an experiment in short fiction, Dwayne Day examines a what-if: had the Apollo landings been staged, what would happen now that NASA plans to return to the Moon?