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Long before President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration nearly two years ago, NASA has been quietly working on its own ideas for future human exploration of the solar system. Dwayne Day and Jeff Foust outline the history of those efforts and the influence they may have had on the creation of the VSE.
Many people argue that money spent on NASA would be better put to use for any number of other efforts. Eric Hedman discusses the external and internal challenges NASA faces for funding and what the agency should do to win a bigger slice of the budgetary pie.
Space tourism celebrated several successes in 2005, but what is the next step for the nascent industry? Taylor Dinerman makes the case for an exploration of a different kind of final frontier.
Most books about the solar system are lavishly illustrated with the latest images from Hubble and other spacecraft missions. Jeff Foust reviews The Planets, a book that eschews images for a more literary approach.
SpaceX recently filed a lawsuit to block the formation of the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Wayne Eleazer agues that history is not on SpaceX’s side, and that the US government has a long history of trying to eliminate, not promote, competition in launch services.
The nascent field of astrobiology faces a number of challenges, including just how alien life on other worlds might be. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a leading astrobiologist that tackles the nature of life and its prospects elsewhere in the solar system.
Crews of future long-duration space missions face a number of threats to their physical and mental well-being. John Putman examines some of these issues and the role of the ISS in addressing them.
NASA’s evolution over nearly a half-century has been anything but a straightforward progression. Taylor Dinerman uses a new book on the agency to examine the political forces that have shaped it.
Pilot Dick Rutan has flown an impressive array of aircraft, from the around-the-world Voyager to the EZ-Rocket. Mark Trulson interviews Rutan about his career and his thoughts about the future.
NASA has, at most, 19 more shuttle missions scheduled between now and the retirement of the fleet in 2010. Taylor Dinerman examines the policy, budget, and other pressures facing the shuttle program, and by extension the Vision for Space Exploration, today.
Last month veteran political reporter Hugh Sidey passed away. Dwayne Day describes the role Sidey played in space history, recalling a meeting he attended with President Kennedy and his advisors as the decision to go to the Moon began to take shape.
NASA administrator Michael Griffin recently said that international cooperation would be needed to realize the Vision for Space Exploration. Ryan Zelnio offers one model of how such cooperation would work in an approach that goes beyond simple agreements between space agencies.
Next month NASA is scheduled to launch New Horizons, the first spacecraft mission to Pluto. Alan Stern, principal investigator on the mission, gives an overview of the mission and its importance to scientists and to the country in general.
Space tourism has gained considerable respectability in the last several years. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an overview—with a touch of irreverence, deliberate or otherwise—of the field for potential customers.
The Vision for Space Exploration, as implemented by the ESAS plan, is intended to be much more than just returning humans to the Moon. In the second part of his analysis of the program, Daniel Handlin compares the follow-on plans contemplated for Apollo to ESAS, and the need to undertake such exploration in general.
Star Trek has been cited as an inspiration by many who sought careers in the space field. Dwayne Day describes how the nascent space program may have itself provided some inspiration to the producers of that legendary TV series.
The NPOESS weather satellite program is the latest government space effort to undergo Congressional scrutiny for cost increases and schedule delays. Taylor Dinerman believes this is evidence that the government needs to focus more on evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, improvements in space capabilities.
Want to get to the high frontier? Sam Dinkin makes the case for burying the hatchets.
Earlier this month NASA named Michael Coats as the new director of the Johnson Space Center. Anthony Young examines the history of the center’s directors and finds a sharp difference between its early leaders and their successors.
NASA’s exploration architecture has undergone intense scrutiny, and considerable criticism, since its release two months ago. In the first of a two-part report, Daniel Handlin examines the technical details of the architecture and concludes that this is far more than “Apollo on steroids”.
Human expeditions to Mars may well be an expensive endeavor that could take years of planning after humans return to the Moon. Jeff Foust reports that some believe a way to speed up such missions is to send people not to Mars itself but to one of its small moons.
Now that Europe’s Ariane 5 has hit its stride in the launch market, the natural question is what comes next. Taylor Dinerman looks at some of the arguments for developing a successor to the Ariane 5, and when such a vehicle might be needed.
When President Bush unveiled the Vision for Space Exploration nearly two years ago, many Democrats, particularly at the grassroots level, automatically opposed it. Jeff Brooks argues that the Vision, and space exploration in general, is a natural fit for the Democratic Party’s core beliefs.
Pluto has been caught in the middle of a long-running debate on how to define the term “planet”, and whether Pluto should qualify as one. Joseph Baneth Allen believes that the answer is obvious, if only astronomers would use a little common sense.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made bold plans for his company, unveiling successively larger launch vehicles even before his smallest launcher performs its first flight. Jeff Foust reports on even bigger plans for launch vehicles, engines, and markets for commercial space that this entrepreneur has.
A recent report by the Royal Astronomical Society endorsed human spaceflight as a project for the British space program. Taylor Dinerman contemplates what effect this report might have on UK participation in ESA programs as well as the development of domestic space capabilities.
The past several weeks have seen SpaceX sue to block the formation of the United Launch Alliance and Kistler Aerospace lay off employees as its financial backer cuts back on its funding. Eric Hedman sees these developments as evidence for the need of a rationalization of the commercial launch industry.
Orbiter is an application that turns a PC into a simulator for a wide range of actual and fictional spacecraft. Bruce Irving reviews the program and finds that it is both educational and addictive.
Masten Space Systems is one a number of entrepreneurial space ventures that has expressed an interest in NASA’s Centennial Challenges prize program. Mark Trulson interviews Masten engineer Jon Goff about the company’s suborbital vehicle development effort and how it might compete for a prize.
There are regular, often conflicting reports about Chinese plans for space exploration and military space operations. Dwayne Day cuts through the rhetoric to find that China and the US often misinterpret each others’ space policies and plans.
Last month NASA announced plans to work with the X Prize Foundation on new prizes, including a lunar lander analog challenge. Taylor Dinerman believes that this is the first step towards the development of an RLV for the Moon.
There have been many ideas put forward for returning humans to the Moon, but none perhaps as big as saving the Earth. Jeff Foust reports on one proposal to use privately-developed lunar resources to combat global warming.
Many launch vehicles have stumbled over the years because they required an all-up test of a relatively large launcher. Charles Pooley describes an alternative approach modeled on the PC industry, starting with much smaller rockets.
Debates about the utility of space exploration have almost always focused on the scientific benefits. Hans Starlife argues that a different approach, one that focuses on the growth of life beyond Earth, is necessary for human spaceflight to win over the general public.
Neil Armstrong has maintained a low profile, at least relative to some of his former colleagues, since the Apollo program. Dwayne Day takes issue with a recent book review that subtly criticized Armstrong, instead seeing Armstrong as a rare man of character.
Sam Dinkin is a regular columnist at The Space Review, but he is also an entrepreneur starting a new space company. Rob Wilson turns the tables on Dinkin, interviewing him about SpaceShot and his plans to give away trips to space.
NASA’s plans to return to the Moon offer a new opportunity for retrospection regarding the Apollo program and the astronauts who first traveled to the Moon. Jeff Foust reviews a book and a PBS documentary that take different looks on Apollo.
NASA administrator Michael Griffin made waves a few weeks ago by suggesting that the shuttle and station programs have been failures. Eric Hedman examines this argument and sees lessons in them for the Vision for Space Exploration.
People have long debated whether it is better to explore Mars with humans or robots. Anthony Kendall makes the case for human exploration, noting that the far higher efficiency of humans over robots may make human exploration cheaper in the long run.
NASA’s Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) has gotten a lukewarm response since its introduction last month, not just in the media but among some space advocacy groups as well. Jeff Foust reports on what some of those groups find wrong with ESAS, and how they would do things differently.
One of the major aspects of China’s manned space program is the international prestige the country gains from it. Dwayne Day discusses how this explains the relatively slow pace of the Chinese program as well as its inevitable diminishing returns.
Much of the attention regarding military space problems has been focused on the Air Force. However, Taylor Dinerman notes that the US Navy also has some serious issues regarding space programs to address.
The Moon may be a major source of platinum group metals, but a major challenge is funding the mining of those metals should they exist. Bill White offers a means to help fund the initial mining efforts by creating some unique souvenirs.
Photos from the dedication of SpaceShipOne at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington earlier this month.
The United States is one of several countries planning robotic missions to the Moon in the next several years. Jeff Foust reviews these various national efforts and the prospects for international cooperation in lunar exploration.
Italy is not considered a major space power, but some in that country want to change that. Taylor Dinerman discusses how Italy plans to balance its participation in ESA with its own missions and cooperation with NASA.
Sam Dinkin wraps up his interview with former NASA astronaut and current Rocketplane Ltd. test pilot John Herrington with an extended discussion on NASA and commercialization, as well as the awe of space travel.
How we deal with risks is a factor not just in our everyday lives, but in NASA’s current and future programs. Eric Hedman claims that NASA is being unrealistic in assigning specific odds of failure to the Crew Exploration Vehicle given its many uncertainties and unknown factors.
Additional photos from the Countdown to the X Prize Cup, held October 9 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Thousands attended the inaugural Countdown to the X Prize Cup event Sunday in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Jeff Foust reports on the successes and failures at this event, part traditional air show and part harbinger of the future of commercial spaceflight.
Images of the highlights of the Countdown to the X Prize Cup event October 9 in Las Cruces.
As China gears up for its second manned spaceflight, some believe the country is planning to race the US back to the Moon. Dwayne Day looks to history for ways to determine if China has a manned lunar program.
Congress is working on amending the Iran Nonproliferation Act to remove barriers to NASA’s purchase of Russian Soyuz flight services. Taylor Dinerman believes that while this approach will work for the short-term, it may also have unforeseen long-term consequences.
In the second part of his interview with Sam Dinkin, former NASA astronaut John Herrington describes his work as a test pilot with Rocketplane Ltd. and his acceptance of risk.
NASA administrator Michael Griffin recently made waves when he suggested that the shuttle program may have been a mistake. Wayne Eleazer argues that, for the US launch industry, that assessment comes decades too late.
In the first part of an extended interview with the former astronaut and current Rocketplane test pilot, Sam Dinkin talks with John Herrington about his NASA and Navy career and his Oklahoma heritage.
John Herrington has traded in his career as a NASA astronaut and Navy aviator for a job as test pilot for Rocketplane Inc. Sam Dinkin provides some background on Herrington and the role he will play in opening the commercial door to space.
The response to NASA’s new exploration architecture over the last two weeks has been lukewarm, at best. Jeff Foust studies some of the arguments made in the media against the plan, and suggests that NASA needs to do a better job explaining why, not how, humans should go back to the Moon.
Lost in the discussion of whether and how humans should return to the Moon is the topic of the science such missions could provide. Alan Stern discusses the planetary science and other studies that the resumption of human lunar exploration offers.
Policy and space have been intertwined since the beginning of the Space Age, for better or for worse. Taylor Dinerman reviews a book that offers a well-reasoned, if potentially controversial, examination of the issues regarding space policy today.
How serious a concern is radiation on a brief suborbital spaceflight? In the conclusion of his ongoing series on the medical effects of suborbital spaceflight, John Jurist examines the issues of radiation exposure and weightlessness on passengers and crew.
When SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize nearly a year ago, it meant that about two dozen other teams lost. Robin Snelson checks out what happened to those other teams, and sees who is planning to participate in next month’s X Prize Cup exhibition.
An agreement last month between NASA and the Defense Department clears the way for NASA to develop shuttle-derived launch vehicles while making greater use of the EELV. Taylor Dinerman reports that some in the DoD are concerned that NASA won’t live up to its end of the deal.
What do you get when you combine Tom Hanks’ love of space with the IMAX 3D format? Jeff Foust reviews Magnificent Desolation, a visually stunning reenactment of the Apollo Moon landings.
Images from the September 21 world premiere of Magnificent Desolation at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
Last week’s gala premiere of Magnificent Desolation was open only to invited guests and the media. Tom Hill explains why shutting out the public could hurt NASA’s efforts to promote a new return to the Moon.
Last week’s article about a space security hearing generated letters from readers with varying viewpoints on the topic.
As NASA prepares to unveil a new strategy for sending humans back to the Moon, a key issue is how to maintain momentum for that strategy with future Presidents and Congresses. Daniel Handlin argues that NASA should accelerate the VSE as much as possible to make it difficult for future politicians to change course.
When limited resources are freely available, they tend to be overconsumed with a lack of investment. Sam Dinkin explains how property rights can prevent this from happening on the Moon.
The concept of weapons in space remains a hot-button issue for many in the space community. Taylor Dinerman is disappointed with the arguments put forward by many at a recent international hearing on the topic.
As small satellites take on new missions, there is a push underway to standardize aspects of their design. Jeff Foust explains the approaches being considered, and why some think standardization may be premature.
Canada has established a niche for itself in space exploration with the robotic arms it has developed for the shuttle and ISS. Sumitra Rajagopalan explains how that nation can leverage that to take a leading role in the future human exploration of space.
The International Space Station has proven to be a far more difficult project than its proponents—and even some if its detractors—originally imagined. Jeff Foust reports on what a panel of experts thinks are the technical and managerial roots of the problems that affect the ISS and space stations in general.
As NASA embarks on the Vision for Space Exploration, it must not overlook critical ground-based infrastructure. Taylor Dinerman makes the case for replacing the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is all about fulfillment of space needs. Sam Dinkin argues NASA should be researching revenue sources.
Planetary science is awakening to the realization that our solar system contains many more planets than any 20th century textbook ever envisioned. Alan Stern explains why this is not your father’s solar system.
We are at the beginning of an era when there are always people living off the Earth. Phil Smith discusses the significance of this and what is needed to firmly pull humanity off the surface of the Earth.
Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute responds to a recent article about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, arguing that while interstellar travel is not infeasible, it is likely to only involve robots, not people.
New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, a storm that may have claimed thousands of lives and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. Jeff Foust examines some of the short- and long-term consequences of this disaster on NASA, the shuttle program, and the Vision for Space Exploration.
The Defense Department is planning a new generational of “transformational” communications satellites that will provide the high-bandwidth communications military planners envision needing in the years to come. Taylor Dinerman cautions that the TSAT program, as currently proposed, might represent the wrong technical and operational approach.
The need to settle the solar system has often been told in books, but less frequently in video. Douglas Jobes reviews the documentary Gaia Selene, which makes the case for settling the Moon in order to save the Earth.
Supporters of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence have had to walk a fine line to avoid being lumped together with UFO fanatics. Gregory Anderson wonders if, in the process, SETI researchers have put themselves in a box regarding interstellar travel.
Why colonize the Moon, or anywhere else in the universe? Sam Dinkin writes that it’s all about the children.
In the hierarchy of astronomers, those who study the solar system rank at the bottom, far beneath those who study more distant, esoteric phenomena. Dwayne Day suggests, though, that the discovery of a new planet could elevate planetary astronomers’ standing—provided they classify this new discovery as a planet.
Most of the attention regarding the nascent space tourism industry has focused on companies planning to build or operate spacecraft. Sam Dinkin identifies some other business opportunities that space tourism will help create.
One of the highlights of space exploration in recent years has been the stunningly successful twin Mars Exploration Rovers. Phil Smith reviews Roving Mars, an insider’s account of the long history behind the mission and the many difficulties faced by those who worked on it.
The recent STS-114 shuttle mission was a success in many respects, but also revealed that NASA has more work to do on shuttle safety issues. Taylor Dinerman discusses the lessons learned from this mission that can be applied to future shuttle missions as well as successor spacecraft.
Advocates of human spaceflight and colonization have struggled to find means to publicize and symbolize their case. Michael Huang argues that a unique flag might be a tool to aid the cause.
Reducing launch costs is a major problem. Nuclear waste is also a major problem. Jonathan Coopersmith describes a technical solution that could offer cheap space access as well as a means of safely disposing of nuclear waste.
As NASA makes plans for a return to the Moon, one critical area of development will be a new generation of spacesuits for use on the lunar surface. Dwayne Day reports on the lessons that can be learned in that regard from the Apollo program.
This month Space Adventures announced it was partnering with RSC Energia to offer commercial Soyuz missions around the Moon. Taylor Dinerman believes that this may be the opening for a larger role for Russia within NASA’s exploration plans.
Very little is spent today on commercial launch activities, keeping prices high and ventures grounded. Sam Dinkin suggests that a little charitable giving—before or after death—might kickstart space settlement.
The upcoming flight of Shenzhou 6 will again focus attention on the current state and future plans of the Chinese space program. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a much-needed overview of that country’s secretive space efforts.
The Mars Society faces new challenges now that the concept of human exploration of Mars has become part of US national space policy. Tom Hill reports on developments from the annual Mars Society Conference last week in Colorado.
Given all the past problems associated with international cooperation, does an international space agency make sense? Taylor Dinerman takes aim at a proposal recently published in France to create just that.
TV shows and movies are replete with science fiction programming that features incorrect, improbable, or just plain bad science. Dwayne Day reviews two docudramas available on DVD that make an effort to be far more accurate.
When you picture a space tourist, does the image of a male billionaire come to mind? Sam Dinkin challenges those stereotypes as he interviews a 65-year-old grandmother who is ready and willing to be the first suborbital space tourist.
While suborbital space tourism has been billed as a risky adventure, vehicle operators will still focus heavily on safety. John Jurist examines the various failure modes suborbital vehicles will face and what steps developers can take to mitigate them.
Richard Garriott has had a long successful career in the world of computer games, but few people know of his small but key role he has played in space tourism. Sam Dinkin interviews Garriott to learn more about Garriott’s past accomplishments and future plans.
The recent EAA AirVenture show, featuring SpaceShipOne, coincided with the shuttle launch and foam shedding problem. Eric Hedman uses the opportunity to compare the tradeoffs between simplicity and complexity in the two vehicles, and offers other insights on SpaceShipOne from Oshkosh.
Five years before men walked on the Moon, Italian author Oriana Fallaci visited NASA to learn more about the people making those missions possible. Taylor Dinerman recalls Fallaci’s book and the spirit both she and those she interviewed embodied.
Soft sciences like sociology and the hard sciences and engineering have not worked together much throughout the history of space exploration. Jim Pass proposes the development of a new discipline, astrosociology, designed to bring the two together.
A gallery of photos of SpaceShipOne and White Knight taken at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, last month.
The joy of the shuttle’s return to flight last week soon gave way to concern when images revealed a large chunk of foam came off the external tank. CAIB staff members Dwayne A. Day and Christopher Kirchhoff describe how accident investigators turned up the possibility of foam loss from the tank’s PAL structure more than two years earlier.
One of the stars of last week’s EAA AirVenture show was SpaceShipOne, stopping there en route to the Smithsonian. Eric Hedman provides an account of the historic spaceship’s visit to Oshkosh and what its designers have in store for the future.
NASA and the Defense Department have been debating whether the space agency should use shuttle or EELV-derived designs for the launch vehicles needed to carry out the exploration vision. Taylor Dinerman reports that the apparent decision to adopt a shuttle-derived approach probably serves both sides well.
Sam Dinkin wraps up his interview with TGV Rockets COO Earl Renaud by discussing intellectual property, autonomous flight, and when his vehicles will be mature enough to serve the space tourism market.
The biggest movie to hit the really big screen this fall will have nothing to do with wizards or giant apes. Jeff Foust offers a preview of Magnificent Desolation, the Tom Hanks-produced IMAX 3D movie about the Apollo missions.
The space industry has been eagerly awaiting how new NASA administrator Michael Griffin will put his stamp on the Vision for Space Exploration. Jeff Foust reports that, among other things, the plan will require an unprecedented amount of commercialization.
Sam Dinkin continues his interview with TGV Rockets COO Earl Renaud, examining the importance of simple, fast vehicle turnarounds and why the height of highway bridges is a critical factor in vehicle design.
The Air Force is looking at using balloons in so-called “near space” to provide communications and reconnaissance services for tactical forces. Taylor Dinerman looks at the effectiveness of this approach versus using satellites and suborbital RLVs.
This week the space shuttle is scheduled to lift off with Eileen Collins in command. Anthony Young wonders when the first woman will walk on the Moon.
When does a book’s bonus disc outshine the book itself? The Space Review asks that question as it reviews the book The Real Space Cowboys.
Recent anniversaries for the Apollo-Soyuz and Shuttle-Mir programs have provided an opportunity for astronauts and cosmonauts to give their own rosy opinions of these missions. James Oberg offers a more sober assessment of how such international cooperation affected geopolitics and space endeavors.
Images from a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Apollo-Soyuz, held last week in Washington.
Sam Dinkin continues his interview with TGV Rockets COO Earl Renaud by examining the tradeoffs between operations costs, development costs, and performance.
The retirement of the shuttle and current law greatly restricts how NASA can access the ISS in the near future. Taylor Dinerman makes the case for promoting commercial access to the station as a solution.
Passengers on commercial suborbital spacecraft may be subject to strong accelerations during their flights. Dr. John Jurist looks at the effects of short-duration accelerations and how they might apply to an extreme version of skydiving.
TGV Rockets stands out from other suborbital vehicle developers by spurning space tourism in favor of other markets. In the first part of an extended interview, Sam Dinkin discusses markets and engineering philosophy with TGV COO Earl Renaud.
With less than three and a half years until the next Presidential election, it’s not too soon to start thinking about where potential candidates stand on space issues. Chris Carberry reviews the various political issues facing space exploration through the 2008 election.
A report by George Abbey and Neal Lane published last month lays out some problems facing US space policy. Jeff Foust reviews the report and finds some flaws in their analysis, but also some recommendations worth keeping.
This week marks the long-awaited return to flight of the space shuttle. Taylor Dinerman examines whether the space agency’s culture has changed enough to successfully fly out the remaining shuttle missions.
How big of a role did Lyndon B. Johnson play in starting—or stopping—the space race with the Soviet Union? Dwayne Day argues that a recent two-part article on the subject overstated Johnson’s influence.
TGV Rockets has been beating the drum for suborbital for a long time. Sam Dinkin asks if they have identified the suborbital killer app.
The concept of placing weapons—offensive or defensive—in space has proven to be a hot-button issue. Taylor Dinerman continues the public debate.
Strong acceleration is one of the hallmarks of the spaceflight experience, but how significant are its effects on the human body? In his latest column, Dr. John Jurist examines the medical effects of acceleration and what it means for space tourism.