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SpaceShipOne entered the history books with its flight last Monday. Derek Webber describes how last week’s flight opens a new space age very much unlike the old one.
Images from the June 21 flight of SpaceShipOne.
Prizes are gaining greater appreciation in both the public and private sectors, thanks to the Ansari X Prize and the NASA Centennial Challenges program. However, Tom Hill warns, there could be too much of a good thing.
Bill Clinton’s memoirs, published last week, have little to say about space. Dwayne Day notes that this should be no surprise for those who follow presidential politics.
Earlier this month the Aldridge Commission came out with its report calling for wide-ranging changes at NASA if the new exploration vision is to succeed. Sam Dinkin wraps up a two-part report explaining why the commission didn’t go far enough.
The Aldridge Commission proposed a number of significant changes to the way NASA operates. Taylor Dinerman says that the commission’s “go as you pay” philosophy, though, could radically reshape NASA and space exploration.
NASA is one of the most visible government agencies, yet receives a tiny fraction of the federal budget. Anthony Young believes that NASA needs better funding, but also better management.
SpaceShipOne made it into the record books Monday with a flight just beyond the 100-km border of space. Jeff Foust reports on the problems experienced with the flight and how close the vehicle came to an imaginary boundary with very real significance.
On Monday morning SpaceShipOne may enter the history books as the first privately-developed manned vehicle to reach space. Jeff Foust reports on the preflight preparations for the mission in Mojave, California, as well as the flight’s potential historical significance.
There have been numerous efforts to develop a reality TV series focused on space, all of which have failed. Dwayne Day explores why those projects never got off the ground, and how things might be different if SpaceShipOne is a success.
Last week the Aldridge Commission came out with its report calling for wide-ranging changes at NASA if the new exploration vision is to succeed. Sam Dinkin thinks the commission didn’t go far enough, and offers his own recipe for change in the first of a two-part report.
One recommendation of the Aldridge Commission is the creation of a Space Exploration Steering Council that reports to the President. Dwayne Day says that recommendation is unlikely to make a difference given the failures of similar councils in the past.
At the end of June the Cassini spacecraft will finally enter orbit around Saturn, nearly seven years after launch. Taylor Dinerman describes how Cassini is the last mission of its kind, and why that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The use of spy satellites to gather intelligence has been criticized by many who feel a greater emphasis should be placed on human intelligence. Dwayne Day argues that spysats have been unfairly maligned.
With more than 20 companies planning X Prize or similar vehicles, how many of them can actually be supported by the space tourism market? Sam Dinkin says that the magic number is most likely three.
Scientists have much to gain, and to lose, from the new exploration vision. Jeff Foust reports on the issues some scientists have with the vision and their suggestions for improvements.
Future exploration and development of space faces a number of challenges. Gregory Anderson makes the case for increased international cooperation and public-private partnerships to increase the odds of success.
What do you do with an abandoned Air Force base that features a runway over 4,000 meters long? Jeff Foust reports that Oklahoma is trying to convert it into a spaceport.
Taylor Dinerman reflects on the impact the late Ronald Reagan had on military and civil space policy.
One of the biggest challenges RLV companies face is raising the money needed to build their vehicle and jump over all the regulatory hurdles. Sam Dinkin suggests that a co-op of investors/passengers might offer an alternative to conventional fundraising efforts.
The resignation of CIA director George Tenet may reopen the debate on the effectiveness of satellite versus human intelligence gathering techniques. Taylor Dinerman argues that the issue has less to do with the technical limitations of satellites than with how well analysts interpret the data.
NASA’s new exploration vision means an end to its efforts to develop a next-generation reusable launch vehicle. Taylor Dinerman notes that the military and the private sector, however, show considerable promise with their own RLV efforts.
A new generation of orbital and suborbital launch vehicles may be the basis for a new economic boom. Sam Dinkin says that while some of these efforts are backed by people who profited from earlier booms, their success here is not guaranteed.
JP Aerospace has worked on a wide range of projects in recent years, from small rockets to high-altitude balloons. Jeff Foust reports that these efforts are now coalesing into a single audacious effort: developing airships that can travel to orbit.
Proposals by NASA to develop a new heavy-lift launch vehicle have been criticized by some as being unnecessary, given the availability of smaller vehicles. Michael Robel believes that heavy-lift vehicles are necessary but can also be affordable.
NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration has encountered some obstacles in Congress since its introduction in January. Taylor Dinerman outlines the status of the exploration program and its prospects in the months to come.
The man at the center of NASA’s exploration efforts is retired Navy admiral Craig Steidle, the new associate administrator for exploration systems. The Space Review interviews Steidle to get his thoughts on where the program stands and the progress made to date.
How much would you be willing to pay to go to space? What sort of amenities would you be willing to do without? Sam Dinkin studies the tradeoffs that future operators of commercial suborbital and orbital spacecraft will face as they try to maximize their revenue.
NASA is considering developing a new heavy-lift launch vehicle as part of the new exploration initiative. Jeff Foust argues that a variety of other alternatives might prove to be more affordable and sustainable in the long run.
Many have suggested eventually turning over the International Space Station to some kind of private entity. Taylor Dinerman says that privatizing the ISS could encounter some opposition from international partners.
What is the most viable commercial space venture for the foreseeable future? Sam Dinkin makes the case for entertainment, in particular the production of movies in space.
The adventure of the early Space Age instilled a sense of awe and wonder in people, particularly children. Anthony Young describes the need to restore that wonder for a new generation of future space explorers.
One of the first missions of the new exploration plan is Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a large lunar orbiter mission. Jeff Foust makes the case for replacing LRO with a series of smaller missions that could provide benefits beyond science and exploration.
Space commercialization advocates have long argued the need for some kind of private property rights in space that appear to be forbidden by treaty. Sam Dinkin offers a solution that gives the private sector “pseudo” property rights within the constraints of current treaties.
A major focus of the exploration initiative has been its proposed cost. Taylor Dinerman argues that a bigger issue is whether NASA and the nation can afford not to embrace the vision.
XCOR and Scaled Composites have proven that RLV companies can successfully negotiate the launch licensing process. However, Jeff Foust reports that there are still some licensing issues these companies face that could be mitigated in part with new legislation.
Last week a British newspaper published a sensational article about sex in space. Taylor Dinerman suggests that the British media’s fascination with the topic may stem from that country’s lack of a human spaceflight program.
Many have argued whether the stage is set for a new space race between the United States and China. Dwayne Day argues that at least the perception of a space race in China could lead that country to divert resources away from military programs.
One of the early milestones of the new space policy is a lunar orbiter mission scheduled for launch in 2008. Taylor Dinerman discusses the goals of that mission and suggests that the spacecraft required to accomplish those goals will need a larger launch vehicle.
In July the Delta 4 Heavy is scheduled to make its debut as America’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle. Anthony Young describes the development of the rocket and its potential role in the exploration initiative.
The development of single stage to orbit RLVs has been far slower than what most space advocates had hoped for. Jeff Foust reviews a history of SSTO development, with a focus on the DC-X program.
One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be to promote prosperity and stability throughout the developing world. Gregory Anderson describes how the potentially vast resources of the solar system can accomplish this while furthering free enterprise.
On Monday Gravity Probe-B is scheduled to launch after decades of development and years of delays. Dwayne Day recounts the unusual origins of the mission.
What are the fundamental technologies that will be critical for space efforts in the next few decades? Taylor Dinerman reviews a book by one expert that discusses what those technologies could be.
When President Bush unveiled the nation’s new space plan three months ago, one major theme was missing from his speech: the need for American “leadership” in space. Dwayne Day says this is a sign of the growing “feminization” of American space policy, and politics in general.
Great Britain is not known as a major space power, but that country’s military has grown reliant on space-based capabilities like communications satellites. Taylor Dinerman suggests that this dependence may force the UK to develop defensive—or even offensive—space weapons.
Over the last few decades, the development of space stations has largely been motivated by geopolitical reasons, be it competition or cooperation. However, the book Leaving Earth makes the case that such stations have also taken the first steps towards the human exploration of the solar system.
Future human missions to the Moon will likely require something like the rover used on the later Apollo missions. Anthony Young offers a technical review of the Lunar Roving Vehicle and how that design might serve as the basis for future lunar rovers.
NASA and the Air Force don’t have a good track record when it comes to cooperation on space transportation issues. Jeff Foust reports on a Congressional hearing where officials of both agencies suggested they’re willing to try again, under the right conditions.
In an editorial in Space News last week, Alain Dupas argues that the US has developed an overarching plan for “dual space dominance.” Taylor Dinerman counters that the real overall US space policy—if there is one—is headed in another direction.
Spaceflight is a topic generally overlooked by most music genres today. The Space Review takes a look at a new album devoted entirely to songs, folk and otherwise, about space exploration.
The recent discovery of Sedna, a large object in the outer solar system, has revived the question of what should be classified as a planet. Planetary scientist Alan Stern makes the case for one simple definition he calls “Gravity Rules”, one that could increase the number of planets a hundredfold.
The space tourism industry has seen its share of ups and downs in the last few years, and has yet to break out as a true growth industry. Jeff Foust reports on what Eric Anderson, the CEO of space tourism firm Space Adventures, sees as the challenges the industry faces and the prospects for the future.
General Dynamics’ recent acquisition of Spectrum Astro has raised questions about what the giant defense contractor plans to do with the upstart space company. Taylor Dinerman examines what GD should do to make the acquisition a success for all parties.
NASA has raised a few eyebrows by lumping its nuclear propulsion program, Project Prometheus, into Code T alongside the Crew Exploration Vehicle effort, Project Constellation. Taylor Dinerman argues that the technology-driven Prometheus could clash with the operations-driven Constellation, to the ultimate detriment of NASA.
One of the persistent myths surrounding the new exploration initiative is the claim that the plan would cost on the order of $1 trillion. Dwayne Day deconstructs this argument, tracing how this faulty price tag has made its way through the media.
In the last two months NASA has been buffeted by criticism regarding both the new space initiative as well as its decision to cancel the last Hubble servicing mission. Jeff Foust argues that NASA’s problems are partly its own doing because of its reticence to share information and explain its actions.
The concept of space commercialization is nothing new: people have argued the benefits of doing business in space for decades. The Space Review offers a speech by one space commercialization proponent from 1966, when the resources of space seemed to offer limitless opportunities.
As part of the his new space initiative, President Bush established a commission to look at how the plan should be implemented. Jeff Foust reports on some insights into the commission’s task one of the commission members, Neil deGrasse Tyson, provided in a recent discussion in New York.
In the wake of the Space Exploration Initiative NASA studied an alternative concept for human exploration of the Moon at a fraction of SEI’s cost. Dwayne Day offers an overview of First Lunar Outpost and its relevance to the new initiative.
Communications satellites have established a commercial foothold in space, just as frontiersmen eked out a living in the West in the early 19th century. Taylor Dinerman says that for commercial space ventures to take root, we will need the 21st century equivalent of the railroads.
Space exploration and protecting the Earth’s environment need not be mutually exclusive. Charles Cockell and Douglas Messier describe how their foundation fosters both efforts and the cooperation between the two.
NASA’s new Office of Exploration Systems, also known as Code T, faces the challenge of developing a wide range of systems including the Crew Exploration Vehicle and nuclear propulsion. Taylor Dinerman argues that getting the requirements of these systems correct is the biggest initial challenge the office faces.
Although NASA’s decision to cancel the final shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope has proven controversial, the agency has not done a good job communicating the reasons behind the decision. Dwayne Day describes in detail how the decision is linked to increased attention to space shuttle safety after Columbia.
Has NASA actively tried to prevent the growth of private space ventures? That’s the argument made by Greg Klerkx in his book Lost in Space, reviewed by Jeff Foust.
Is there a way to commercialize aspects of the new space initiative, such as robotic missions to the Moon? Jeff Foust explores the possibilities and potential problems with such an approach.
The success of the Mars Exploration Rover missions has been treated as proof that NASA has, at the very least, solved the problems with its Mars exploration program. Dwayne Day cautions that, just as with the shuttle program, those successes could be hiding serious problems.
The United States and the European Union have largely wrapped up an agreement between the GPS and Galileo satellite navigation systems Taylor Dinerman writes that this agreement is a major victory for the US, but combined the two systems can play a major role in solving problems on Earth.
The Space Exploration Initiative was intended to chart a bold new course for NASA, but it failed spectacularly. In the conclusion of a two-part report, Dwayne Day explores the downfall of SEI and how it compares to the new space initiative.
NASA and ESA aren’t the only organizations interested in future Mars exploration. Eric Choi reports on what the president of the Canadian Space Agency believes his nation can do in the way of missions to the Red Planet.
Later this year the United States will inaugurate the first component of a new missile defense system. Taylor Dinerman argues that the next phase of any such system needs to be based not on the ground but in orbit.
Describing how to build an RLV offers interesting engineering insights, but does it also make for good drama? Jeff Foust reviews The Rocket Company, a book that tries for both.
The new Bush space plan has drawn parallels to his father’s infamous Space Exploration Initiative. In the first of a two-part report, Dwayne Day looks at the history of previous proposals for human space exploration leading up to SEI.
People have tried to sell space exploration on its scientific and technological benefits. Taylor Dinerman argues that the primary selling point should be establishing human civilization beyond Earth—before it’s too late.
A year has passed since the Columbia tragedy, enough time for the first significant books on the accident to be published. Jeff Foust reviews two of those books, Comm Check… and High Calling.
We mark the first anniversary of this publication by looking back at its first year and looking ahead at the next year.
Last week, Robert Park and Robert Zubrin, two experts with vastly differing points of view, debated the role of humans in space exploration. Jeff Foust reports that the debate revealed a broader issue: the difficulty developing compelling reasons for human space exploration that will be accepted by the public.
The new Bush space initiative comes 200 years after Lewis and Clark set out on their famous expedition across the North American continent. Jeffrey Brooks explores the parallels between the two.
Has the US become too reliant on satellites to provide intelligence? Taylor Dinerman discusses the roles satellites can and should play as part of an overall intelligence strategy.
NASA’s decision to cancel the last shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope has generated a firestorm of controversy. Jeff Foust argues that NASA largely brought this upon themselves, but that the end of Hubble doesn’t mean the end of good astronomy.
The new Bush space initiative requires NASA, in essence, to give up any plans for developing an RLV for the indefinite future. Taylor Dinerman describes what the government can do to make RLVs a reality.
Do we need a new word to better communicate the concept of living and working in space? Michael Huang thinks so, and offers a suggestion of what that word should be.
The new Bush space initiative is doomed to failure because a multi-decade government program is unsustainable, argues Phil Smith. Instead, the government needs to stoke the engine of commerce in order to create a sustainable human presence in space.
Did President Bush make the right decision in choosing to go back to the Moon first before going to Mars? David Boswell argues that the answer may be no.
The long-running debate of Moon versus Mars has ignored a third option: near Earth asteroids. Jeff Foust reports that some people have made a compelling case for human missions to these surprisingly-accessible bodies.
Europe is weighing what role it can play in the new US space initiative. Taylor Dinerman suggests that the US would be better off limiting any European participation in the program.
For much of last year people complained that NASA lacked a vision. Last week President Bush gave the agency one. Problem solved? Jeff Foust argues that the battle for the future of the space agency has just begun.
Can President Bush follow through on his space initiative? Taylor Dinerman lays out some of the challenges the President and NASA face.
It’s one thing to make bold pronouncements about a return to the Moon, it’s another thing all together to carry those out. Greg Zsidisin proposes some technical approaches that may be required for the plan to succeed.
Without building up an infrastructure, any new space initiative could become just a repeat of Apollo. Tom Hill offers a modest amendment to the Bush plan that could greatly increase the odds of long-term success.
The 2004 presidential campaign is about to enter high gear with the first round of primaries and caucuses. Jeff Foust looks at what positions—if any—the nine Democratic candidates have taken on space issues.
President Kennedy’s famous 1961 speech committing the US to going to the Moon was actually part of a broader speech on “urgent national needs”. Jeff Bingham compares the urgent national needs of 1961 with those of 2004 to see if a new space initiative might work today.
The reasons why, and the means how, the nation decides to return to the Moon will determine the success of any such venture. Rick Tumlinson argues that the best odds of success lie with a reformed NASA working in cooperation with private enterprise.
Tensions were running high in Europe on Christmas morning as Mars Express and Beagle 2, the first European missions to Mars, arrived at their destination. Daniel Fischer provides a behind-the-scenes account of activities at mission control that day.
New Years is the time for the traditional year-in-review articles. Jeff Foust instead looks at the lessons that the events of the past year in the space industry should have taught us.
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has talked about sending a human mission to Mars. Taylor Dinerman argues that such a move could open the door for other candidates to propose more modest ventures.