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Bigelow Aerospace is investing up to $500 million to develop inflatable habitats. Sam Dinkin interviews the corporate counsel, Mike Gold, to assess the promise.
Bigelow Aerospace has taken the torch from the Ansaris. In this backgrounder, Sam Dinkin takes a look at this audacious sponsor of the America’s Space Prize.
Duke University professor Alex Roland is a frequent critic of NASA. Dwayne Day explains why Roland’s criticism should not be taken seriously, and why the media is also to blame.
Space entrepreneurs and activists have been waiting for years for the right circumstances to support the growth of new space companies. Jeff Foust reviews two very different events this year that together could herald a breakthrough for new space ventures.
Last week NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe announced his resignation. Taylor Dinerman examines O’Keefe’s record and legacy at NASA.
The Vision for Space Exploration has been burdened with a number of myths and misunderstandings since its announcement in January. Dwayne Day finds that while the myth of a trillion-dollar cost for the program has faded, another myth lives on.
HR 5382 passed the Senate unanimously at the last minute. Sam Dinkin analyzes this long-sought legislation supporting space adventure travel.
Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye will become the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee in January. Taylor Dinerman wonders if Inouye will use that position to push some of the visions for space exploration espoused by a former Hawaiian senator.
The Vision for Space Exploration has focused on sending humans to the Moon rather than Mars. Donald Barker argues that, for reasons that extend beyond science and education to the future of the US itself, the nation should focus on Mars exploration.
The conventional wisdom pans the Moon. Sam Dinkin offers an alternative approach to lunar exploration that opens the Moon to lunar tourism and settlement.
NASA’s windfall in the final 2005 budget has been credited in large part to the last-minute efforts of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. However, Greg Zsidisin cautions that relying too much on DeLay without building a broader consensus within Congress could cause problems for NASA down the road.
If humans are ever to explore beyond the inner solar system, including journeys to the stars, new propulsion systems will be needed. Anthony Young reviews Centauri Dreams, a book that examines the state of the art in breakthrough propulsion.
Our visions of the universe have been shaped by the work of a handful of scientists through the ages. Taylor Dinerman reviews On The Shoulders of Giants, where one of those people, Stephen Hawking, discusses the work of others.
Space tourism has gained a great deal of credibility in the last few years thanks to SpaceShipOne and other ventures. However, Jeff Foust wonders whether the term itself has connotations that are out of step with the near-term realities of commercial spaceflight.
Orbital debris, while not yet a serious issue, has been an area of concern to some space professionals. Taylor Dinerman describes how a combination of technical innovations and international agreements can minimize the problem.
Our holidays help us rest on our laurels. Sam Dinkin offers a new slate of holidays that look forward to new glory.
The success of the Vision for Space Exploration will depend on a relatively small cadre of talented engineers and managers, as was the case with Apollo. Anthony Young remembers some of those people who guided Apollo to the Moon.
Before the US and the USSR raced to the Moon, the two superpowers raced to launch the first satellite. The Space Review checks out The First Space Race, which offers a concise history of those efforts.
Legislation designed to enhance the regulatory framework for commercial manned suborbital spacecraft is going down to the wire in Congress. Nathan Horsley examines the bill and concludes that, while useful, it is not essential to the future of the industry.
While SpaceShipOne won the X Prize, other teams are continuing efforts to develop their vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on what one of the leading teams, the da Vinci Project, is up to.
The Vision for Space Exploration has put the future of the International Space Station into question. Mark Wessels argues that the station could support the vision by becoming a receiving lab for Mars samples.
The future of the aerospace industry depends on the ability of educators, companies, and the government to develop a new generation of scientists and engineers. Taylor Dinerman notes, though, that popular culture can be a powerful counterforce to those efforts.
We give thanks this week that major colonizing nations faced severe trials like those in the game Rome: Total War. Sam Dinkin plays havoc with the concepts to find the best strategy for space colonization.
The success of the Ansari X Prize has led to consideration of larger government-funded prizes. Douglas Jobes wonders, though, whether Congress is really serious about the idea.
Warming relations between the United States and India has opened the door for space cooperation between the two nations. Taylor Dinerman suggests that India could play an even greater role in space in the future.
While John Kerry’s space policy is now a historical footnote, there is still some interest in how that policy formed. Jeff Foust reports on comments made by one of the people involved in shaping that policy.
After his reelection President Bush has said he plans to spend the political capital he earned in the campaign. Greg Zsidisin discusses whether current events will allow Bush to spend some of that capital on the exploration vision.
The long history of colonization extends from Babylon to Iraq. Sam Dinkin follows the lineage and its implications for space.
After last week’s election, President Bush said he plans to spend the political capital he has earned. Taylor Dinerman argues that if Bush plans to use that capital to promote the Vision for Space Exploration, he has to find a way to keep the public involved.
California voters approved a measure to fund stem cell research last week. Sam Dinkin suggests that a similar approach for funding space exploration could trigger a space race among the states.
The new space hangar at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center features the shuttle Enterprise and a variety of other spacecraft. Dwayne Day explains why a widely-anticipated spysat is missing, however.
In 1962 Wernher von Braun had to make a critical decision: how to send Americans to the Moon. Tom Hill examines historical documents to explain how von Braun reached that decision.
Carl Sagan was not an advocate for human spaceflight for most of his career, but late in life changed mind. Michael Huang believes that the reasons Sagan adopted for supporting humans in space may be the most compelling of all.
Election day is nearly upon us in the US. Sam Dinkin summarizes the key differences between John Kerry and George Bush on space policy.
Democratic space activists face a conundrum: do they vote for their party’s Presidential candidate, or the President who unveiled a new space exploration vision? Greg Zsidisin looks at both history and current events to offer a solution.
Missile defense systems, space-based and otherwise, have been at the center of controversy in this administration and previous ones. Taylor Dinerman compares how George Bush and John Kerry would handle the subject over the next four years.
NASA is pressing ahead with plans for a robotic repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope despite concerns about its cost and complexity. Jeff Foust examines those issues as well as two alternatives that might be more viable.
Alan Shepard earned a place in space history as the first American to fly in space, but his life story had never been fully told. The Space Review checks out Light This Candle, a biography of Shepard that describes his journey from New Hampshire to the Moon.
The success of SpaceShipOne has put Burt Rutan at the center of attention in the space community, curious about his past efforts and future plans. Jeff Foust offers excerpts of a wide-ranging talk Rutan gave just days after winning the Ansari X Prize.
NASA has awarded contracts to a number of companies to develop exploration architectures. Sam Dinkin reviews and critiques what these companies have proposed.
The outcome of next month’s presidential election will have a significant effect on NASA’s exploration plans. Taylor Dinerman examines what the outcome of the election will mean to space exploration and development.
Much of the attention surrounding SpaceShipOne has focused on the technical accomplishments of the vehicle. Vanna Bonta reminds us that its flights also touched us deep in our souls.
Little has been said about space policy during the Presidential campaign. Jeff Foust reports on a debate between representatives of the Bush and Kerry campaigns that offered some new insights on where the candidates stand on space.
Iran has announced plans to launch a small satellite using a rocket that could also be used to deliver nuclear weapons. Taylor Dinerman argues that this development could push the US to develop space-based missile defense systems.
What is the best motivation for promoting space settlement? In the conclusion of a long-running debate, Alan Wasser makes the case for prizes.
What is the best motivation for promoting space settlement? In the conclusion of a long-running debate, Sam Dinkin makes the case for auctions.
The success of SpaceShipOne may open the door for public space travel. Anthony Young draws parallels with the early aviation and automotive industries to measure the prospects for commercial spaceflight.
Getting commercial suborbital service started is a lot like completing a dissertation. Sam Dinkin looks at some of the j’s to dot and x’s and 7’s to cross to get things going.
Export controls may make suborbital space tourism vehicles developed in the US difficult or impossible to send overseas. Taylor Dinerman describes how ITAR and the MTCR could hurt suborbital vehicle developers.
HR 3752 was designed to help suborbital vehicle developers, but a recent change in language could actually do more harm than good. Jeff Foust reports on the problem and efforts by commercial space advocates to salvage the bill.
The Futron-Zogby poll only extrapolated suborbital tourism demand for rich people. Sam Dinkin offers an executive summary for a lottery business plan that would expand demand.
Various methods for promoting the development of space settlements have been proposed and debated. Alan Wasser restates the case for races rather than auctions.
On Monday SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize and, advocates claim, opened the door wide open for space tourism. What happens now? Jeff Foust examines the short- and long-term issues raised by the victory.
Ten million dollars changes hands over the Mojave Desert. Sam Dinkin looks at the significance and implications of this historic event.
A collection of photos from SpaceShipOne’s October 4 X Prize qualification flight.
Wednesday’s SpaceShipOne flight offered a reminder of how risky commercial suborbital spaceflight can be, or at least seem to be. Jeff Foust explores the real and perceived risks and what the industry and regulators are doing to mitigate them.
Entrepreneurs have long sought markets that can drive enough demand for space transportation to stimulate investment in new low-cost vehicles. David Hoerr argues that the issue is not new markets, but creating a large enough supply of space transports.
China is planning a major presence at the International Astronautical Congress this week in Vancouver. Dwayne Day looks at the role such conferences have played and China’s efforts to become a major player there.
Despite problems with the space shuttle and ISS, 2004 is turning out to be a great year for the space industry. Taylor Dinerman celebrates the accomplishments made by the public and private sectors to date.
A collection of photos from SpaceShipOne’s September 29 X Prize qualification flight.
On Wednesday SpaceShipOne completed the first of its two Ansari X Prize qualification flights, but not without a little drama. Jeff Foust reports from Mojave.
Much of the media attention surrounding the Ansari X Prize has focused on personalities like Burt Rutan and Peter Diamandis. Robin Snelson points out the contributions of a pair of lesser-known yet important people, and the role the prize has played in awakening a long-dormant interest in space.
Space advocates and entrepreneurs have long believed that space access costs must, and can, drop dramatically. Jeff Foust reports that some believe that instutional barriers may create an unsatisfactory lower limit on launch costs.
The “Great Galactic Ghoul” long preyed on Mars-bound spacecraft, but recent successes have left this mythical creature without much of a meal. Taylor Dinerman looks at whether the lessons of these successes can be transferred to the exploration vision.
The case for solar satellites, lunar extraction and fusion critically depend on the price of energy rising. Sam Dinkin finds there is still oil, gas, and money to run the economy.
Military officials have recently expressed an interest in “near space”, the realm between the upper atmosphere and low Earth orbit. Taylor Dinerman describes why near space is so interesting and the role suborbital vehicles can play there.
NASA’s new focus on the Vision for Space Exploration means that it has largely abandoned efforts to develop low-cost space access, including revolutionary approaches like the space elevator. Jeff Foust reports on what some experts believes are alternative means for supporting such a project.
Reporters are unlikely to be included in the first human mission to Mars. Gregory Anderson offers an alternative approach that can give the media the means to offer independent reporting of such an expedition.
The SEC definition of who is financially qualified investor has loopholes, as do bank credit-scoring algorithms. Sam Dinkin asks if the sky is the limit for this volatile concoction.
Conventional wisdom has NASA’s new Crew Exploration Vehicle being launched by an EELV. Jeff Foust reports that some people within and outside of NASA are promoting an alternative to the EELV based on an element of the space shuttle program.
Government-supported development of RLVs has all but died off in the last few years. Taylor Dinerman argues that while the business case for RLVs may be weak now, there are strong defense-related reasons to continue their development.
Lunar property rights are a critical ingredient to successful governance of the Moon. Sam Dinkin makes the case for using auctions, rather than races or lotteries, to assign those rights.
Efforts to win greater support for space exploration among the general public have largely failed. Jeff Krukin believes that advocates can do a better job making space relevant to the average person.
A new report by the Congressional Budget Office concludes that the cost of the Vision for Space Exploration will exceed current estimates by tens of billions of dollars. Dwayne Day discusses the report and its effect on NASA’s budget.
A debate has been raging about whether to emphasize the Moon or Mars in future exploration activities. When it comes to colonization, Sam Dinkin concludes that the Moon is far superior on the merits.
With one-sixth the gravity and no atmosphere or weather, the Moon may be less of a technical challenge to build the first space elevator. Sam Dinkin lets the line run out to see how hard the idea fights.
Some property rights advocates have argued that the US should amend or withdraw from the Outer Space Treaty. Alan Wasser offers an alternative that will give the benefits of property rights without the messy treaty complications.
The French government has threatened to force a satellite operator to stop carrying an Arab extremist channel. Taylor Dinerman says that a better approach is to let such channels stay on the air, if for nothing else than to have something to ridicule.
The release of the Aldridge Commission’s final report in June was greeted with widespread approval by the space advocacy community, but at least one organization is dissatisfied with the report. Jeff Foust reports on a debate between the leaders of two organizations with widely differing opinions on the utility of the report.
A new generation of spaced-based surveillance systems is only now starting to overcome years of problems that have slowed their development. Taylor Dinerman describes how these systems can be combined to create an overarching network of satellites that can keep tabs on world events continuously.
Lunar advertising has been postulated for almost 100 years by George Allan England in 1906 and most famously by Robert Anson Heinlein in 1950. Sam Dinkin updates the case for lunar advertising with a modern business plan.
Solar power satellites have promised clean, cheap electricity for decades, yet little progress has been made. David Boswell reviews the status of the concept and makes the case for developing a demonstration system.
For years scientists and engineers at JPL have developed new missions to explore the solar system. Anthony Young offers his appreciation for their work and reviews two relevant books.
To date there has been very little cooperation between the US and China in space. Taylor Dinerman examines how the two countries, along with a third partner, can work together on space projects.
As suborbital and orbital tourism get going, a crucial early decision for designers will be whether a human pilot is needed. Sam Dinkin weighs the need for a pilot.
The Vision for Space Exploration has faced considerable criticism since its introduction earlier this year. Stuart Atkinson argues that, for the vision to be a success, it needs a clear goal of looking for life on Mars.
For millennia scientists have sought a “Theory of Everything” to describe the physical world. Jeff Foust reviews a book that describes the history of that quest.
A number of proposals have been advanced to develop shuttle-derived heavy-lift launch vehicles. Thomas Olson looks at the concept and wonders if this is an idea whose time has passed.
The first post-Columbia shuttle flight will test NASA’s ability to repair damage that doomed Columbia. Taylor Dinerman looks at the plans to test tile repair techniques on STS-114 and how they may be applied to future spacecraft.
The debate over space budgets have been going on ever since space became a budget item inspiring the 1972 song “Whitey on the Moon”, a speech from John Kerry, and hard choices in India. Sam Dinkin analyzes these loaded arguments.
There have been many proposals to harvest helium-3 from the Moon to power as-yet non-existent fusion reactors on Earth. Jeff Foust reviews Moonrush, which offers a different rationale for going to the Moon to meet the energy needs of terrestrial civilization.
Spaceplanes have come a long way from the X-15 to today. Sam Dinkin interviews Burt Rutan, Dan Delong, and Mitchell Burnside Clapp to get their impressions on the difference between the X-15 program and the suborbital rocketplanes they’re developing commercially.
Recent developments suggest that the era of suborbital space tourism is right around the corner. However, Jeff Foust reports that the designers of some suborbital vehicles believe that a new generation of larger vehicles is needed for suborbital tourism to be commercially viable.
The Air Force is reevaluating its policy of maintaining two separate EELV programs. Taylor Dinerman argues that the cost of going down to a single vehicle could be far greater than supporting two companies.
The Pioneer missions to the outer solar system and Venus are often lost in the shadow of other missions. Jeff Foust reviews The Depths of Space, a book that reminds us of these missions’ accomplishments.
Space is classified under science or technology, and this influences people’s views on space. Michael Huang suggests that classifying space as a region is more appropriate for the present and future uses of space.
Sending humans back to the Moon will have to wait for at least a decade while the CEV is developed, according to current thinking. However, Jeff Foust reports, one company has proposed an innovative way to turn Soyuz missions to the ISS into circumlunar spacecraft.
One of the most widely-anticipated space policy books in recent memory is New Moon Rising, the inside account of the development of the new space exploration policy. The Space Review checks out the book and finds there is a lot more to it than the behind-the-scenes details about the exploration vision.
Last month the head of the Office of Management and Budget threatened to recommend that the President veto an appropriations bill unless full funding for NASA is restored. Taylor Dinerman sees this as a sign that the administration is committed to the plan for reasons beyond just exploration.
In a recent essay James Van Allen argued that there is little role for humans in space. Sam Dinkin counters that there are plenty of reasons other than science for humans to visit and settle space.
Many of the arguments attempting to justify the exploration vision have focused on space itself. Anthony Young argues that the exploration vision is not so much about space as it as about the American economy and national security.
In the six months since President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration, the plan has suffered from indifference or criticism by the media, public, and Congress. However, Jeff Foust reports, some believe the biggest obstacle to implementing the vision could come from NASA itself.
A recent commentary argues that space privatization will worsen conditions on Earth and space and benefit only large corporations. Sam Dinkin responds that space privatization offers a chance for new freedom for space settlers and a great return for society and government on Earth.
The world, particularly the space community, still mourns the death of Carl Sagan in 1996. Dwayne Day says that now, more than ever, we need someone with Sagan’s rhetorical skills to make space exploration relevant to the general public.
Commercial satellite imagery is misused and underused by television news networks. Taylor Dinerman argues that proper use of such images can allow journalists to cover stories that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The US has a long history of policies designed to transfer land to settlers. Sam Dinkin describes how those policies can apply to the development and colonization of the Moon and Mars.
Story Musgrave has never fit into the stereotype of the steely-eyed astronaut. The Space Review reviews A Space Story, a DVD recording of a dynamic, even poetic lecture about space exploration by the former astronaut.
Throughout the Apollo effort NASA administrator James Webb warned that the Soviet Union was developing its own giant booster to compete with the Americans, a warning that was often dismissed. Dwayne Day describes what Webb knew and how that knowledge became an insurance policy for Apollo.
Bigelow Aerospace has made major advances in the development of inflatable modules. Taylor Dinerman says that such modules could play a role in both space commercialization and the exploration vision.
The rise of a new suborbital industry has raised questions about both the size of the industry and the roles for its companies. Sam Dinkin analyzes how the market structure of the suborbital industry will differ depending on how many customers there are.
Space exploration advocates are split on the question of whether NASA should develop a new heavy-lift launch vehicle. Jeff Foust reports on a debate among various leading space activists on the issue.
In the 35 years since Apollo 11 there have been many rumors and claims that the landing was faked. Dwayne Day decides it’s time to put all the pieces together.
Not quite exactly déjà vu all over again: The Vision for Space Exploration and learning from history
The rollout of the new Vision for Space Exploration has drawn comparisons to the ill-fated Space Exploration Initiative. Dwayne Day finds that while NASA and the Bush Administration have learned some of the lessons of SEI, they have still made some major early stumbles.
Last month’s flight of SpaceShipOne has been hailed as a major milestone for the “alternative space” movement. Taylor Dinerman notes that advocates need to focus less on movements and more on industries.
NASA appears to be basing its lunar exploration program on its successful Mars exploration effort. Jeff Foust suggests that lunar exploration is a very different ballgame.
Many space advocates believe that space access is poised for a revolutionary advance along the lines of microprocessors. Michael Turner believes that a Moore’s Law for spaceflight is by no means inevitable.
A number of people, as well as the Aldridge Commission, have made the case for reforming property rights in space. Sam Dinkin argues that there’s no reason to wait for space property rights to invest in space.
The concept of a new branch of the US military devoted to space operations has been discussed from time to time. Taylor Dinerman discusses a recent article in a Navy publication that makes a strong case for an independent Space Force.
The state of Oklahoma has made a concerted effort to attract entrepreneurial space companies. Jeff Foust reports on two suborbital RLV developers that have moved to the state in the last year.
Should an RLV startup devote resources to getting and defending patents for its technology? Sam Dinkin argues that such an approach may not give that company a winning hand.
If you think you witnessed a good fireworks display on the Fourth of July, imagine a Saturn V launching a 100-megaton bomb. Dwayne Day recounts the Project Icarus study from the 1960s to deflect an incoming asteroid.
The Aldridge Commission laid out one of the boldest calls to date for change within NASA and its relationship with private industry. Thomas Olson warns, though, that how the commission’s recommendations are implemented will make all the difference.