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The new NASA authorization act directs the space agency to develop a massive heavy-lift launch vehicle in the next six years. Lou Friedman warns that without a specific mission and corresponding requirements for the vehicle, the project is destined to fail.
Last month NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope will require more money and more time before it will be ready to launch. Todd Neff notes that cost and schedule overruns are as old as the Space Age itself, a consequence of working on cutting-edge projects.
Orbital debris, satellite collisions, and ASAT tests have increased the awareness of the need of measures to preserve the safety of operations in Earth orbit. Jeff Foust reports on some potential and proposed measures the US and other countries can take in the near term to enhance space security.
The TV series Defying Gravity went off the air after less than a season, leaving interested viewers wondering what would have happened next on this near future space exploration show. Dwayne Day discusses what the series creator had in store if the show had lived on.
The controversy over the “demotion” of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet is now over four years old, but new viewpoints on the subject continue to emerge. Jeff Foust reviews a new book by the astronomer whose discoveries of icy worlds in the outer solar system triggered the eventual reclassification of the former ninth planet.
A year ago commercial crew transportation was treated skeptically, at best, in the space community; now it’s a part of national policy with the support of companies large and small. Jeff Foust reports on how last week’s successful flight of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft may help secure the long-term future for commercial human spaceflight.
Some still question the utility of mounting human missions to near Earth asteroids. Lou Friedman discusses not only why such missions are important, but also why the timetable for them should be accelerated.
Fifty years ago this week NASA wrapped up a largely unsuccessful series of missions to send a spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. Andrew LePage recalls the origins and unlucky fates of the Pioneer lunar orbiters.
Last week’s successful Falcon 9/Dragon launch was certainly a major milestone for the space industry, but it got little attention in some sectors of the mainstream media. Anthony Young examines this state of affairs.
Some people read astronaut memoirs to learn more about life as an astronaut, while others may read them to provide insights to motivate them to achieve their own goals. Jeff Foust reviews one such book that is a better fit for those in the latter category.
For decades after the Apollo program, many have argued for similar approaches for returning humans to the Moon. Travis Senor makes the case for a very different, long-term approach to human exploration of the solar system.
Just how would a spy satellite been incorporated into an Apollo mission to take high-resolution images of the lunar surface? Dwayne Day follows up last week’s piece on the Lunar Mapping and Survey System with additional insights and illustrations.
Last week’s announcement of the discovery of a microbe that can incorporate arsenic, instead of phosphorus, into its DNA widens the prospects for life on other worlds. Lou Friedman argues that the search for extraterrestrial life, in particular intelligent life, would benefit from having a firmer strategy.
Everyone agrees that orbital debris is a major problem, but how big of a problem does it have to become before we take more action to resolve it? Jeff Foust reviews a new study that compares orbital debris with a wide range of other problems that have gone through similar cycles of action.
As part of preparations for the Apollo landings, NASA needed to get detailed imagery of potential landing sites. Dwayne Day reveals a partnership between NASA and NRO that proposed using Apollo spacecraft equipped with reconnaissance satellite cameras to provide those images.
While most of the recent attention NASA has received has been on its human spaceflight programs, its robotic missions also are noteworthy. Lou Friedman contrasts the impending milestones for the agency’s missions with the fiscal issues some of those programs face.
Space settlement has long been a core tenet of space advocates, who have offered a range of scenarios about how it would work. John Hickman examines these proposals and highlights the flaws in their historical analogies.
Last month the president signed into law a NASA authorization bill that reoriented the agency’s human spaceflight efforts. However, as Jeff Foust reports, budget delays and implementation questions keep NASA’s future plans uncertain.
As we complete the International Space Station and debate future plans for human space exploration, a key question remains: how can we maintain support for this endeavor? In the first in a new series, Lou Friedman examines the issue and the consequences for not answering that question.
Much of the debate over the last year regarding human spaceflight has been where humans should go next: the Moon, near Earth objects, or some place else. Jeff Foust reports on a recent panel session that looked at the question of where to go first from the point of view of accessing space resources.
Asteroid impact threats have become a staple of both major motion pictures and made-for-TV sci-fi movies in recent years. Dwayne Day discovers that the theme also was the subject of an obscure Italian movie from the late 1950s.
For fifty years astronomers have been searching for signals from alien civilizations, without success; is it time to give up? Andre Bormanis reviews a book by a leading SETI researcher that could convince the skeptical that the search is worth the effort.
There’s been a growing number of efforts by amateurs to fly balloons high into the atmosphere and take “pictures of space”, or even claim to have flown in space. Jeff Foust examines how how this phenomenon, and especially the media coverage of it, could have a detrimental effect on actual spaceflight.
Future long-duration human spaceflight will require technologies that can sustain life while reusing and recycling as much as possible. Kit Martin argues that the same technologies can also be essential to sustaining life on Earth.
How can we take advantage of the virtually boundless energy and material resources in the solar system? Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a series of proposals to accelerate humanity’s expansion into and utilization of space.
The same day that commercial spaceflight supporters were celebrating the development of Spaceport America, a new study concluded that suborbital flights that facility will host could alter the planet’s climate. Jeff Foust examines the latest research and some of the issues associated with the study.
Thirty years ago this week Voyager 1 made the first close flyby of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and one of the most intriguing worlds in the solar system. Andrew LePage recounts the research into Titan and the planning that led up to that encounter.
As the United States and India seek closer ties, should space-based solar power be on the agenda? Jeff Foust reports on developments in that field, including a new joint initiative supported by a former Indian president.
On the first KH-9 reconnaissance satellite mission, one of its reentry capsules missed its midair capture and plummeted to the bottom of the Pacific. Dwayne Day recounts the effort by the US Navy to recover that capsule.
For over a decade Bigelow Aerospace has been quietly working on inflatable habitat modules for use on commercial space stations. Jeff Foust reports on how, as the company’s profile grows, so do its ambitions.
The movie Capricorn One hardly put NASA in a good light, yet the movie uses props like a lunar lander replica. Dwayne Day examines how the movie producers got access to that hardware.
Mars is now written into law as the the long-term objective for NASA’s human spaceflight plans, but how will the agency manage to get there? Jeff Foust reviews a book that studies the issues of sending humans to the Red Planet.
Last week Virgin Galactic and the state of New Mexico dedicated the runway at Spaceport America, the state’s new commercial spaceport. Jeff Foust reports on how the event was designed to demonstrate to the industry and to local citizens the progress being made on the remote facility.
In the 1970s, the NRO and the Air Force discovered that reentering spysats did not burn up in the atmosphere the way they expected. Dwayne Day discusses the research those organizations performed to better understand such reentries in order to keep key technologies out of the hands of the Soviets.
In recent years Pluto has been the subject of a number of books about whether or not it should be classified as a planet. Jeff Foust reviews the book with a very different angle on the distant world: a historical novel about its discovery 80 years ago.
While the debate in recent months about space policy in the US has been focused on its effects on the country’s space capabilities, those changes also have an effect on NASA’s international partners. Jeff Foust reports that European and Japanese partners see new opportunities for perhaps an expanded role in human space exploration.
Buzz Aldrin was back in the news late last week when an article indicated that the Apollo 11 moonwalker had changed his mind and was now in favor of developing a lunar base before going to Mars. Dwayne Day cautions that there’s less to that report than meets the eye.
The search for extrasolar planets, in particular Earth-like worlds, has become one of the hottest areas of astronomy in recent years. However, Philip Horzempa warns that a recent report could threaten the future of a long-awaited mission designed to search for other Earths.
For hundreds of years astronomers have been moving the Earth from the center of the universe to just one world among many billions. Jeff Foust reviews a book where Stephen Hawking makes the ultimate extension of that transition while explaining why the laws of physics seem so fine-tuned for life.
Fifty years ago this month the era of planetary exploration began with the first attempts by the Soviet Union to launch probes to Mars. Andrew LePage recounts the ultimately failed attempts by the Soviets to send spacecraft to the Red Planet.
The US space industry has raised its hopes in the last year about the prospects for improving export control given initiatives by the Obama Administration to reform the overall process. Jeff Foust reports that some advocates of reform, though, are skeptical that this effort will result in significant change.
After a nine-year hiatus, the Space Studies Institute will be holding its latest conference on space manufacturing and space settlement later this month in California. Lee Valentine and Douglas Messier discuss the background behind this conference and why now, more than ever, it’s relevant to humanity’s future in space.
Fifty-three years after the Space Age began with the launch of Sputnik, NASA finds itself in transition as it moves away from the Vision for Space Exploration towards a new program of human spaceflight. Jeff Foust recounts the recent events that have shaped this transition and the prospects of success for the new plan now endorsed by Congress.
The Augustine Committee introduced the concept of “Flexible Path” exploration last year, and NASA is taking steps to implement that approach. Frank Stratford examines what approaches NASA is considering as well as some alternative concepts for near Earth asteroid and other missions.
Six years ago today, SpaceShipOne took to the skies one final time to win the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE and help open the door to suborbital space tourism. Jeff Foust reviews a book that describes how space tourism has been enabled by a network of individuals whose roots date back long before that historic flight.
Robert Truax, one of the pioneers of rocketry, passed away earlier this month. Dwayne Day discusses Truax’s role in the early history of American space efforts.
The Augustine Committee introduced the concept of “Flexible Path” exploration last year, and NASA is taking steps to implement that approach. Jeff Foust examines what approaches NASA is considering as well as some alternative concepts for near Earth asteroid and other missions.
The Obama Administration is often criticized for policies that, to some, are synonymous with socialism. Jonathan Coopersmith argues that such critics need to pay closer attention to the administration’s space program, which hardly fits that categorization.
While obscure to many people outside the field, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has revolutionized much of astronomy. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts the struggles involved in building the telescope and the rewards astronomers got for their efforts.
As the National Reconnaissance Office marks its 50th anniversary, it appears to be preparing to declassify some of its secret satellite programs. Dwayne Day examines what may be, and what is likely not to be, revealed in the coming months.
Last week Boeing and Space Adventures announced an agreement to market seats on Boeing’s proposed commercial crew capsule to private customers, aka “space tourists”. That deal, Jeff Foust reports, may also play a role in influencing the ongoing debate about commercial crew programs on Capitol Hill.
As NASA’s EPOXI mission, using the spacecraft from the earlier Deep Impact mission, prepares for an upcoming cometary encounter, it’s been 25 years since the first spacecraft made a close approach to a comet. Andrew LePage recounts the history of ICE, itself a “recycled” spacecraft.
Forty years after Apollo, what more can be said about this legendary program? Jeff Foust reviews a book that tries to come up with new angles to retell the story of the Moon landing missions and more.
Congress returns to work this week with a NASA authorization bill among the many items up for consideration. Jeff Foust reports on the continued debate about what should be in that legislation, which will shape the future direction of NASA’s human spaceflight program.
As the space shuttle programs winds down, some wonder if the entire program was something of a mistake. Paul Torrance argues the real errors were in the agency’s inability to learn from past experience to prevent accidents.
While people frequently refer to space exploration, few think about what exactly it means to explore space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that uses one of the most successful robotic spaceflight missions in history to examine space exploration in a historical context.
As the debate over commercial crew development continues in Washington, NASA and industry are taking initial steps on such efforts. Jeff Foust discusses some of the ongoing efforts and planning that continue despite political uncertainty.
For every mission that actually flies, many more never make it beyond the proposal stage. Dwayne Day looks at the efforts companies and organizations put into such proposals, including one novel radar satellite system.
An advanced electric propulsion concept known as VASIMR has won support from some, including NASA leadership, for its potential to greatly reduce the travel times for human Mars missions. Jeff Foust reports that some Mars advocates are skeptical, at best, of the ability of this system to match expectations.
Earlier this month two Chinese satellites made a close approach to, and perhaps even made contact with, each other. Brian Weeden examines the facts about this event and its implications for space security.
This week NASA and ATK are scheduled to perform the second test-firing of a five-segment solid rocket motor originally developed for the Ares 1. Jeff Foust describes the planning for the test and its significance given the uncertain future of NASA’s human spaceflight plans.
This month marked the 50th anniversary of the first successful CORONA reconnaissance satellite mission. Dwayne Day reviews a recent book that examines the early history of CORONA and related efforts to track what was going on in the Soviet Union.
Fifty years after the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) started, efforts have yielded no evidence of other civilizations, but the search continues. Jeff Foust reports on the past and future of SETI as discussed at a recent event.
Last week the Defense Department released its latest version of a report on the military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China. Dwayne Day examines what the report includes, and what it does not, about China’s military space projects.
Who should go into space, and why? Bob Clarebrough makes the case for broader participation in space exploration by people who can communicate the experience in a myriad of ways.
How does it all end: life, the universe, and everything? Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astronomer who explains how it all will, or at least could, end for humans, the universe, and everything in between.
All eyes are on SpaceX as it seeks to lower the cost of space access and open up new markets. Stewart Money argues that the company’s most important innovation may not be its launch vehicles or spacecraft but a rocket engine that could be for space what another engine was for the automotive industry.
The quest to land one of the space shuttles upon their retirement continues, pitting museums across the country against once another. Jeff Foust pays a visit to a pair of Ohio museums, one a leading candidate for a shuttle and one simply struggling to stay alive.
The UK is reconsidering its approach to space exploration with a new government and the formation of a space agency. Andrew Weston examines how the country’s rich aerospace heritage might provide the support for a reinvigorated space program.
Human spaceflight involves dealing with a wide range of physiological and psychological issues, some of which can be a little, well, delicate. Jeff Foust reviews a book that doesn’t shy away from discussing these topics, and even puts an entertaining spin on them.
Mike Griffin spent nearly four years in charge of NASA building up an exploration architecture that the administration now wants to dismantle in favor of a new approach to human space exploration. Jeff Foust reports on what Griffin said about that new direction, and what is a “real” space program, in a speech last week.
In June Japan’s IKAROS spacecraft because the first to successfully deploy a solar sail in orbit, a long-awaited achievement for the small community of solar sailing exports. Kieran Carroll provides an overview of that achievement and the current state of solar sailing as discussed at a recent conference.
It’s challenging enough to measure the popularity of sports; is it possible to do the same with space? Drew Hagquist examines some metrics that can try to quantify public support for spaceflight.
Astronomy is the subject some of the biggest and most fundamental questions about out existence. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines some of these big questions, including both those that have been resolved and those still unanswered.
What exactly does “exploration” mean as a rationale for spaceflight? Stephen Pyne examines the history of exploration on Earth as a means of better understanding the significance of the exploration of space.
Since the release of the new national space policy just over a month ago, many people have analyzed the policy, scrutinizing the language in search of an underlying message. Jeff Foust reports on what people both inside and outside the administration are saying about the policy’s meaning and intent.
One of the most popular activities for astronauts in orbit is to gaze down on the Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astronaut that includes photography from a stint on the International Space Station, coupled with a religious message.
One of the most controversial elements of the White House’s plan for NASA, commercial crew, has suffered setbacks in Congress in recent weeks. Jeff Foust reports on how proponents of commercial crew believe that the effort’s long-term success may hinge on resetting the terms of the debate about it.
If radically reshaping and even breaking apart NASA is out of the question, what else can be done to reinvigorate the space agency? Bob Clarebrough examines the critical requirements for any successful effort to reform the agency.
Space artist Robert McCall passed away on February 26th of this year. Bob Mahoney recounts how a particular painting by McCall inspired him into the space industry and ponders, in light of recent developments, when the artist’s grand vistas of a spacefaring civilization might become reality.
As astronomy and physics have become more specialized, the requirements for performing research have become increasingly demanding. Jeff Foust reviews a book that is part review of our state of knowledge in these subjects, and part travelogue to the extreme locations on Earth where this research is performed.
The size of the challenges associated with human exploration beyond Earth orbit is likely beyond what any single space agency is willing to spend to carry out those missions. Andre Bormanis describes the types of partnerships that are critical to making such exploration possible.
NASA found itself embroiled in controversy earlier this month over a comment made by the agency’s administrator in a Middle Eastern television interview. Jeff Foust finds that the real message is not in the administrator’s ill-advised words but in the reaction to them.
As NASA and other space agencies seek evidence of past or present life on Mars and elsewhere, there’s the risk such exploration could contaminate those worlds. Linda Billings discusses the options to prevent such contamination, including even not exploring them at all.
More than 40 years after Apollo 11, it’s worth remembering that sites around the world helped make that mission, and the ones that preceded and followed it, a success. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the role of a little-known tracking station in Australia had on NASA’s early spaceflights and the impact it had on its host town.
Last week came word that Rocketplane has filed for bankruptcy, ending its long but ultimately unsuccessful effort to develop new suborbital and orbital launch vehicles. Jeff Foust examines how the company’s failure can be linked, at least in part, to a gap in financing models for NewSpace companies.
Weather is a frequent cause of launch delays and has been linked to a number of launch failures over the years. Wayne Eleazer examines two such launch failures and what they say about the launch decision process.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of SETI, an effort that has yet to detect evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a critical analysis of SETI and how the effort should be changed to better look for other civilizations in the universe.
Last week the White House released a new national space policy. Jeff Foust reports on how the new policy reflects as much a change in tenor as a change in substance over previous policies.
For the last several months the space community has been gripped by the debate on the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program. Bob Clarebrough argues that it may be better to debate exactly what role NASA should play in a future with expanded commercial space capabilities.
Wayne Eleazer follows up a recent article on the use of suplus ICBMs as launch vehicles by discussing what happened to one class of ICBMs that were particularly desirable as launchers.
A new videogame out today, developed in cooperation with NASA, transports players to a moonbase 15 years from now. Jeff Foust checks out the game and its effectiveness in inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers.
William Radasky and Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the EMP Commission, respond to an article earlier this year that argued that solar storms pose a greater EMP threat than nuclear weapons.