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Space news from around the web

This week in The Space Review…

Mangalyaan

India’s Mars orbiter completes six years at the red planet, but where is the science?

Six years ago, India’s first Mars mission, known as Mangalyaan, successfully entered orbit around Mars, a major achievement for the country’s space program. Jatan Mehta describes how, since then, the mission has been a scientific disappointment.
Monday, September 28, 2020

Reality bites

A reality TV show is reportedly in the works that would send the winner to the International Space Station. Dwayne Day notes this is a latest in a long line of such ventures, which so far have all failed to send anyone into space.
Monday, September 28, 2020

Battle of the Titans (part 1)

In the 1980s, the Air Force pursued a new launch vehicle as a backup to the Space Shuttle. As Wayne Eleazer recounts, what would become the Titan IV had its challenges both before and after it won the competition.
Monday, September 28, 2020

Photons and phosphine

A month ago, Rocket Lab not only returned its Electron rocket to flight, but also flew its first Photon satellite. Jeff Foust reports on the development of the spacecraft and how it could enable plans for a privately backed mission to Venus.
Monday, September 28, 2020

Review: China in Space

China’s space ambitions have been the subject of much speculation, and sometimes hyperbole, in the West over the years. Dwayne Day reviews a book that provides a clear assessment of what the country is doing in space and plans to do in the coming years.
Monday, September 28, 2020


Previous articles:

Where will Artemis 3 land? And when?

Last week, NASA officials appeared to suggest they were considering alternatives to the south pole of the Moon as the Artemis 3 landing site. Jeff Foust reports that while the agency now says that was a misunderstanding, it’s still facing a challenge to keep the mission funded and on schedule.
Monday, September 21, 2020

Why the detection of phosphine in the clouds of Venus is a big deal

Last week, scientists announced they had detected phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, a finding that could be evidence of life there. Paul Byrne explains why the discovery can be a catalyst for a new round of exploration of the planet.
Monday, September 21, 2020

Venus: science and politics

Even the discovery of a potential biosignature in the atmosphere of Venus cannot escape geopolitics. Ajey Lele discusses a claim made after the discovery by the head of Roscosmos that Venus is a “Russian planet.”
Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: Orphans in Space

Lost among the major documentaries and blockbuster films are many small films about space that might easily be lost. Glen Swanson explore a two-DVD set that assembled an obscure set of short films, from early computer-generated imagery to in-house company footage.
Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: The Last Stargazers

Astronomy has changed dramatically over the last century, from astronomers peering into eyepieces in cold observatory domes to managing observations from the comfort of their homes. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines those changes, and what might be lost among those advances.
Monday, September 21, 2020

Moon and Mars advocates find peace

For decades, space advocates have battled over whether humans should first return to the Moon or instead go directly to Mars. Jeff Foust reports there’s growing agreement on a Moon-to-Mars strategy, if it can maintain political support.
Monday, September 14, 2020

Launch failures: fill ’er up?

Just as a car can run out of gas, some launch failures can be traced to running out of propellant before reaching orbit. Wayne Eleazer discusses why that can happen for some vehicles, or why, in other cases, failures can be traced to having too much fuel.
Monday, September 14, 2020

Star children: can humans be fruitful and multiply off-planet?

Human reproduction is one of the key issues for a long-term human presence beyond Earth, but is also a topic space agencies have been reticent to study. Fred Nadis examines what research has been done, including an unusual recent private initiative.
Monday, September 14, 2020

The West needs bold, sustainable, and inclusive space programs and visions, or else

China is developing a comprehensive vision for human exploration of the Moon and utilization of its resources. Giulio Prisco argues it’s time for the US and its international partners to develop their own bold, inclusive vision of space or risk losing the future.
Monday, September 14, 2020

Review: Space Dogs

Laika is famous for being the first dog in space, but died not long after reaching orbit. Jeff Foust reviews a film that attempts to tell the story of Soviet flights of dogs mixed with contemporary scenes of strays like Laika.
Monday, September 14, 2020

The future on hold: America’s need to redefine its space paradigm

American economic growth in recent decades has been very different than what the country enjoyed in the previous century. Stephen Kostes argues that space exploration and commercialization can help restore that traditional, stronger growth.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Making the transition from the ISS

NASA is emphasizing its low Earth orbit commercialization effort in order to create commercial facilities that can one day succeed the International Space Station. Jeff Foust reports that effort faces challenges, including concerns some might seek to end the ISS too soon.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Artemis Accords: a shared framework for space exploration

NASA’s Artemis Accords have attracted attention and, in some cases, controversy. Paul Stimers and Abby Dinegar explains why the accords should be seen as an essential part of international cooperation in space exploration.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Walking through the doors of history: unlocking a space tradition

For decades, astronauts launching on NASA missions have walked through the same doorway at a Kennedy Space Center building, one that has become adorned with stickers from those missions. Kirby Kahler examines that lineup of logos, including those missions that are missing and some of the mysterious patches found there.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review: The Smallest Lights in the Universe

Scientists studying the universe are also people whose personal struggles shapes their lives and careers. Jeff Foust reviews a memoir by one astronomer balancing a study of exoplanets with a life turned upside down by a tragedy.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pick an agency, any agency

Space Policy Directive 3 gave the Commerce Department responsibilities for civil space traffic management in 2018, but congressional disagreements have kept the agency from making much progress. Jeff Foust reports on a new report, requested by Congress, that affirms the administration’s decision.
Monday, August 31, 2020

Outer space needs private law

NASA’s proposed Artemis Accords, a means to enforce good behavior among partners in the Artemis program, has attracted controversy. Alexander William Salter describes an alternative to space governance that doesn’t require governments.
Monday, August 31, 2020

Collaboration is the cornerstone of space exploration

While competition drove the original Space Race, there’s a growing emphasis now on cooperation in space exploration. Dylan Taylor discusses how cooperation can be leveraged to enable the exploration of Mars and much more.
Monday, August 31, 2020

From SSA to space recon: Setting the conditions to prevail in astrodynamic combat

The US military has shifted from discussing “space situational awareness” to “space domain awareness” recently, reflecting growing concerns about threats to military assets in orbit. James Kirby argues that a “space reconnaissance” mindset is now needed in order to properly react to those threats.
Monday, August 31, 2020

Review: The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)

Many astronomers study how the universe began, but others are curious about how it might end some day. Jeff Foust reviews a book that looks at the various potential fates of the universe in the (mostly) far future.
Monday, August 31, 2020

Losers and (sore) winners

Earlier this month the Air Force announced it was awarding a new round of launch contracts for national security payloads to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. Jeff Foust reports that, despite winning an award, SpaceX is still unhappy with how the competition unfolded.
Monday, August 24, 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space and Arms Control Administration (NASACA)?

As NASA achieved the Apollo program’s goal of landing astronauts on the Moon, it was concerned about its future. Dwayne Day uncovers a proposal in historical documents where NASA sought to play a role in arms control.
Monday, August 24, 2020

NASA’s Artemis Accords: the path to a united space law or a divided one?

The proposed Artemis Accords for countries that want to cooperate on NASA’s lunar exploration plans has attracted interest, but also some criticism. Guoyu Wang examines the various elements of the accords and the effect they could have on international space law.
Monday, August 24, 2020

Reaching for the stars: structural reform in the private space sector in India

The Indian government has announced a series of initiatives to support the development of a private space industry in the country. Anirudh Rastogi and Varun Baliga discuss what the government has announced, and what more it needs to do.
Monday, August 24, 2020

Review: Shuttle, Houston

NASA’s Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center has developed expertise over the decades in managing human spaceflight. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a longtime flight director there who recalls his experiences in Mission Control and the wisdom gained from that experience.
Monday, August 24, 2020

Upgrading Russia’s fleet of optical reconnaissance satellites

Russia has few operational reconnaissance satellites today, and those in service are thought to be beyond their design life. Bart Hendrickx examines efforts in Russia to develop a new generation of imaging satellites.
Monday, August 10, 2020

After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation

There were conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo 1 accident, particularly after one worker who testified to Congress about problems later died and his testimony lost. Dwayne Day provides a copy of that testimony, uncovered two decades ago during production of a radio program.
Monday, August 10, 2020

Virgin Galactic, still awaiting liftoff, spreads its wings

In recent weeks Virgin Galactic has announced a number of new initiatives, from the design of a supersonic aircraft to orbital spaceflight. Jeff Foust reports that these projects come despite the fact that the company has yet to complete development of its core business, suborbital spaceflight.
Monday, August 10, 2020

Orbital space tourism set for rebirth in 2021

It’s been more than a decade since a space tourist flew to orbit. Tony Quine explains why that dry spell is likely to end next year as two companies plan three different commercial missions, assuming they have customers for them.
Monday, August 10, 2020

Review: War in Space

Increased antisatellite testing has raised new concerns about conflict breaking out in space. Jeff Foust reviews a new book that offers a new model for thinking about “spacepower” and how it relates to policy, and war, on Earth.
Monday, August 10, 2020

Captured flag

On Sunday afternoon, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft completed its Demo-2 mission with a splashdown that successfully returned two NASA astronauts to Earth. Jeff Foust reports on the end of a mission that was a long-awaited milestone for NASA’s commercial crew program.
Monday, August 3, 2020

How the “Department of Exploration” supports Mars 2020 and more

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission that launched last week included a role for the Department of Energy, both for the rover’s power supply and its instruments. Paul Dabbar explains how his department supports Mars 2020 and other space science and exploration missions.
Monday, August 3, 2020

Propelling Perseverance: The legacy of Viking is helping NASA get to Mars

NASA’s latest mission to Mars has an unexpected link to the first NASA mission to land on the planet nearly 45 years ago. Joe Cassady describes how a thruster used on Viking is still in demand on Mars missions today.
Monday, August 3, 2020

Mars race rhetoric

The wave of missions launched to Mars in recent weeks have led some to claim there’s a new “race” involving the Red Planet. Ajey Lele argues that the countries embarking on Mars missions are doing so for different reasons and with different capabilities that rules out any real competition.
Monday, August 3, 2020

Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.
Monday, August 3, 2020

Irregular disorder and the NASA budget

The House is scheduled to vote this week on a “minibus” appropriations bill that would provide NASA with the same overall funding as 2020. Jeff Foust reports that the bill’s limited funding for lunar lander development puts the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024 into question.
Monday, July 27, 2020

National spaceports: the future

Oversight of the Eastern and Western Ranges will now be a responsibility of the Space Force. Wayne Eleazer argues the new service may finally be able to give spaceports the attention the Air Force never could.
Monday, July 27, 2020

Highway to the Danger Zone: The National Reconnaissance Office and a downed F-14 Tomcat in Iraq

The NRO is usually associated with collecting satellite imagery, but it once helped in the rescue of naval aviators. Dwayne Day recounts the NRO’s role in that rescue during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Monday, July 27, 2020

What you should learn from Comet NEOWISE

The passing Comet NEOWISE, on display in the night sky in recent weeks, can seem like little more than a brief diversion from our problems on Earth today. Hariharan Karthikeyan argues it’s a reminder to look up and think big.
Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: Promise Denied

One of the reusable launch vehicle programs NASA was pursuing a quarter-century ago was the X-34, but that program was overshadowed by the failure of the larger, more expensive X-33. Jeff Foust reviews a new NASA history of the X-34, which was cancelled by NASA just as it was getting ready for a first flight.
Monday, July 27, 2020

Handshakes and histories: The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, 45 years later

For the 45th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Roscosmos released documents about Soviet preparations for the mission. Asif Siddiqi and Dwayne Day examine the insights the documents provide that help put the mission into a new perspective.
Monday, July 20, 2020

The pandemic’s effect on NASA science

Last week, NASA announced another delay in the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which the agency said was at least in part because of the coronavirus pandemic. Jeff Foust reports that JWST is not the only NASA science mission or research program affected by the pandemic.
Monday, July 20, 2020

Tracking off-the-books satellites with low perigees

Some objects in orbit aren’t included in an official Defense Department catalog, even those that can pose a reentry risk. Charles Phillips discusses efforts to track those objects with low perigees to see when they might reenter.
Monday, July 20, 2020

Review: Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars

Planning for human missions to Mars goes beyond the development of key technologies. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a participant in a Mars analog mission in Hawaii who examines issues ranging from isolation and boredom to what they’ll eat.
Monday, July 20, 2020

What’s in a name when it comes to an “accord”?

Two months ago, NASA announced the Artemis Accords, a set of agreements countries would have to sign on to in order to participate in the Artemis program. Jeff Foust reports on the purpose of the accords and the various issues some in the space community have raised about them.
Monday, July 13, 2020

CSI: Rocket Science

What happens when a rocket test goes awry? Jeff Smith uses the example of a problem during a test last year of a solid rocket motor being developed for Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket of how such problems are investigated and resolved.
Monday, July 13, 2020

Not so dark skies

A recent book makes the argument that space settlement could be so detrimental to humanity it shouldn’t be attempted. Al Globus makes the case that the book’s analysis, done correctly, should reach just the opposite conclusion.
Monday, July 13, 2020

Enhancing space deterrence thinking for nuclear threshold threats (part 3)

In the conclusion of his analysis of space deterrence strategy, Christopher Stone offers recommendations for how the United States should respond to emerging space threats.
Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: The Sirens of Mars

A new fleet of spacecraft launching to Mars this month is propelled, in a sense, by the desire to know if Mars once had, or might still today have, life. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a planetary scientist who combined the history of those studies with her own personal journey.
Monday, July 13, 2020

National spaceports: the past

The Defense Department is considering concepts for “national spaceports” at the existing launch ranges in Florida and California. Wayne Eleazer looks at how the ranges were managed in the past as a guide for the future.
Monday, July 6, 2020

It’s (small) rocket science, after all

Rocket Lab, the leader among small launch vehicle startups, suffered a setback over the weekend when an Electron launch failed. Jeff Foust reports other small launcher companies have also struggled technically, even as US government agencies offer new contract opportunities for them.
Monday, July 6, 2020

“Artemis 8” using Dragon

Could a Crew Dragon spacecraft be sent to the Moon? Robert Zubrin lays out the case for how a version of the Apollo 8 mission could be done with existing spacecraft and launch vehicles.
Monday, July 6, 2020

Enhancing space deterrence thinking for nuclear threshold threats (part 2)

In the second part of his examination of space deterrence strategy, Christopher Stone uses the example of North Korea as a way to explore the threats facing the US, and US space systems in particular.
Monday, July 6, 2020

Review: The Little Book of Cosmology

Cosmology can be a complex, intimidating subject, but it’s possible to discuss it in a concise, straightforward manner. Jeff Foust reviews one book that does so by explaining how the cosmic microwave background sheds light on the origins of the universe.
Monday, July 6, 2020

Sausage making in space: the quest to reform commercial space regulations

The administration has made regulatory reform one of its space policy priorities, but that effort has faced challenges. Jeff Foust reports on the outcome of one effort to revise commercial remote sensing regulations and an ongoing effort regarding commercial space transportation rules.
Monday, June 29, 2020

THESEUS: a high-energy proposal for a medium-sized mission

In the conclusion of a three-part examination of proposed ESA space science missions, Arwen Rimmer discusses a concept for a mission to detect and precisely locate gamma-ray bursts that could support a wide range of astronomical research.
Monday, June 29, 2020

The Artemis Accords: repeating the mistakes of the Age of Exploration

NASA’s proposed “Artemis Accords” is intended to provide a framework for cooperation in space exploration, including on the Moon, through a series of principles. Dennis O’Brien argues that the proposed accords ignore an alternative, more inclusive approach.
Monday, June 29, 2020

Enhancing space deterrence thought for nuclear threshold threats (part 1)

American military satellites could face a wide range of threats in a conflict. Christopher Stone begins a look at some of those threats and implications for military strategy.
Monday, June 29, 2020

Review: The Search for Life on Mars

Over the next month the latest wave of Mars missions will launch, motivated at least in part by the desire to find evidence of past or present life there. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the long history, and false alarms, of efforts to find life on the Red Planet.
Monday, June 29, 2020

Stability and certainty for NASA’s exploration efforts

Earlier this month NASA selected Kathy Lueders as its new associate administrator for human exploration and operations, the fourth person to hold that position on a permanent or acting basis within the last year. Jeff Foust reports that, now more than ever, leadership stability is needed to keep NASA’s exploration ambitions on track.
Monday, June 22, 2020

Orbital use fees won’t solve the space debris problem

One proposal for mitigating the growth of orbital debris is to require satellite operators to pay a “use fee” if they want to launch new satellites. Ruth Stilwell argues this approach addresses the wrong part of the orbital debris problem.
Monday, June 22, 2020

Spaceflight after the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic will have effects on the space industry long after the pandemic itself is over. Eric Hedman discusses what some implications for the space industry will be, from human spaceflight to doing biomedical research in space.
Monday, June 22, 2020

Distributors should unplug the Earth imagery bottleneck

Commercial Earth observation, and applications of such data, have shown considerable growth in recent years. Nicholas Borroz says that, for that growth to continue, there’s a need for improved distribution of usable data.
Monday, June 22, 2020

Review: Cosmic Clouds 3-D

Nebulae are among the most colorful and intricate objects visible in the night sky. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a new dimension—literally—of imagery of various types of nebulae.
Monday, June 22, 2020

Peresvet: a Russian mobile laser system to dazzle enemy satellites

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed “significant progress in laser weapons” in a speech two years ago. Bart Hendrickx describes what that progress is, particularly involving a system intended to blind satellites as they fly overhead.
Monday, June 15, 2020

The Eagle, the Bear, and the (other) Dragon: US-Russian relations in the SpaceX Era

The success so far of SpaceX’s Demo-2 commercial crew mission means that the US will soon be able to end its reliance on Russia for accessing the International Space Station. Gregory Miller examines some of the geopolitical implications of that shift.
Monday, June 15, 2020

Hugging Hubble longer

While NASA’s future space telescopes run into delays or other problems, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to work well 30 years after its launch. Jeff Foust reports about how one former astronaut with plenty of experience repairing Hubble wants NASA to consider another mission to service the telescope.
Monday, June 15, 2020

How has traffic been managed in the sky, on waterways, and on the road? Comparisons for space situational awareness (part 2)

In the concluding section of their examination of space traffic management approaches, Stephen Garber and Marissa Herron explore what lessons can be learned from how air, sea, and motor vehicle traffic is managed when considering improvements to space traffic management.
Monday, June 15, 2020

Review: Chasing the Dream

The history of spaceflight is full of launch vehicle and other spacecraft concepts that, if successful, could have altered the trajectory of the Space Age. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a retired engineer who discusses many of those efforts, including those he worked on, and his thoughts of what the future of spaceflight might hold.
Monday, June 15, 2020

Imagining safety zones: Implications and open questions

One aspect of NASA’s proposed “Artemis Accords” for international lunar cooperation involves avoiding harmful interference through the use of safety zones. Jessy Kate Schingler describes how such safety zones could work and the policy issues they present.
Monday, June 8, 2020

How has traffic been managed in the sky, on waterways, and on the road? Comparisons for space situational awareness (part 1)

The growing number of active satellites and debris in low Earth orbit is forcing changes in how satellite operators receive and deal with warnings of potential collisions. In the first of a two-part article, Stephen Garber and Marissa Herron discuss the current state of space traffic management and the roles played by both government agencies and the private sector.
Monday, June 8, 2020

Be careful what you wish for

Space advocates have long desired that presidents be more involved in space policy. Jeff Foust reports that has become the case for the Trump Administration, but the close connections between space and this administration could have repercussions in the future.
Monday, June 8, 2020

Space alternate history before For All Mankind: Stephen Baxter’s NASA trilogy

While the TV series For All Mankind has attracted attention for its alternative history of NASA and the Space Race, it’s hardly the first such fictional account of what could have been. Simon Bradshaw examines how one British science fiction author explored different futures for NASA in a series of novels.
Monday, June 8, 2020

Review: After LM

NASA’s award in April of contracts for lunar lander studies is the latest in a long line of efforts to develop landers to carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Jeff Foust reviews a NASA publication that offers a detailed look at many of those earlier concepts.
Monday, June 8, 2020

A shaky ride to a smooth launch

On Saturday, human orbital spaceflight returned to the United States after a nearly nine-year gap with the successful Demo-2 commercial crew launch. Jeff Foust reports that, after a decade of difficulties, the launch itself was remarkably smooth.
Monday, June 1, 2020

NASA will not save 2020

The Demo-2 commercial crew launch took place amid a pandemic as well as protests in many American cities, leading some to believe the launch could be a beacon of hope, like Apollo 8 in 1968. A.J. Mackenzie argues that’s asking too much of NASA.
Monday, June 1, 2020

The genre-defining astronaut/ex-astronaut autobiographies

Many astronauts have written memoirs, but a few in particular stand out. Emily Carney reviews four such books that, over the years, set new standards for describing careers that either took them to the Moon or never got off the ground.
Monday, June 1, 2020

Is open sourcing the next frontier in space exploration?

The use of open source in software and other technologies has increasingly become a part of terrestrial industries. Dylan Taylor discusses how it can also advance spaceflight.
Monday, June 1, 2020

Astrobiotechnology: molecular steps towards the boundaries of space exploration

The application of biotechnology to space research, or astrobiotechnology, opens up new opportunities. Three researchers discuss how astrobiotech can advance space exploration and improve life on Earth.
Monday, June 1, 2020

Commercial crew’s day finally arrives

Weather and technology permitting, a Falcon 9 will lift off Wednesday afternoon, sending a Crew Dragon spacecraft with two NASA astronauts on board into orbit. Jeff Foust reports on this culmination of the commercial crew program amid some last-minute hiccups.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Space resources: the broader aspect

Recent policy actions by the US government have reinvigorated the debate about space resources. Kamil Muzyka argues that the issue is not just the resources themselves, but how they’re used.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cyber security and space security: What are the challenges at the junction of cybersecurity and space security?

The distinctions between cybersecurity and space security are becoming blurred amid risks that hackers could interfere with or even take control of satellites. Nayef Al-Rodhan examines the policy issues where these two topics meet.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A new use for InSight’s robotic arm

The robotic arm on NASA’s InSight Mars lander has been busy deploying instruments and helping get one of the them, a heat flow probe, into the surface. Philip Horzempa describes how the arm can also be used for another scientific investigation similar to that done on some other lander missions.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The View from Space

NASA’s human spaceflight program is getting a lot of attention this week, but in the long run its Earth science program may be just as significant. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines how NASA’s modern Earth science program took shape amid political and budgetary pressures in the 1980s and 1990s.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Worms and wings, meatballs and swooshes: NASA insignias in popular culture

NASA is bringing back the “worm” logo for the upcoming SpaceX commercial crew flight, placing it alongside the “meatball” logo. Glen Swanson explores the history of NASA’s various logos and the controversy they have sometimes generated.
Monday, May 18, 2020

Can NASA land humans on the Moon by 2024?

NASA recently awarded contracts to three companies for initial work on lunar lander concepts to support the agency’s goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024. Jeff Foust reports on NASA’s optimism that the goal is achievable, and the skepticism many outside the agency have about meeting that deadline.
Monday, May 18, 2020

When Washington went to the Moon: An interview with Glen Wilson

In the last in a series of interviews made two decades ago, Dwayne Day examines what a 1960s Senate staffer thought of the Apollo program, including proposals to delay the landing past 1969 and the leak of memos critical of the program to Walter Mondale.
Monday, May 18, 2020

Explaining China’s space ambitions and goals through the lens of strategic culture

The recent successful launch of a Long March 5B rocket allows China to proceed with development of a permanent space station, among other projects. Namrata Goswami discusses why Chinese space efforts should be understood through the lessons of Chinese history, rather than grafting Western rationales onto it.
Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook

The Big Bang is the best explanation to date for the origin and evolution of the universe, but it’s not without its critics who offer alternative models. Jeff Foust reviews a book by two astrophysicists who offer guidance for those who want to take on the Big Bang.
Monday, May 18, 2020

“Maybe you were put here to be the answer”: Religious overtones in the new Space Force recruitment video

The US Space Force released its first recruitment ad last week, a 30-second commercial that said that, “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.” Deana Weibel explores the imagery and language of the ad and its religious influences.
Monday, May 11, 2020

Astronauts, guns, and butter: Charles Schultze and paying for Apollo in a time of turmoil

The budget director for President Johnson suggested delaying the Apollo landings into the 1970s as a way to cut spending. Dwayne Day provides an interview with Charles Schultze that offers insights into why Schultze sought to defer the landing.
Monday, May 11, 2020

The launch showdown

In the next few months, the US Air Force will award contracts to two companies to perform national security launches for the next five years. Jeff Foust reports on the assessments the Pentagon is using to justify awarding two contracts as four companies submit bids.
Monday, May 11, 2020

Reinvigorating NASA’s lunar exploration plans after the pandemic

NASA may face budget pressures in the coming years as Congress adjusts to massive spending required by the coronavirus pandemic. Ajay Kothari suggests that NASA’s exploration efforts can maintain funding if the agency revamps and recasts the program.
Monday, May 11, 2020

Toward a brighter future: Continuity of the Artemis program

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed some elements of NASA’s Artemis program. Jamil Castillo argues that moving forward on the program can provide a message of hope in a difficult time.
Monday, May 11, 2020

Working in the shadow space program: A General Electric engineer’s work on MOL and other space programs

Richard Passman was an engineer who worked on a number of classified space programs, including the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Dwayne Day interviewed Passman about his career shortly before Passman’s death last month.
Monday, May 4, 2020

Commercial crew safety, in space and on the ground

NASA once thought that hundreds of thousands of people would come to Florida for the first commercial crew launch. Jeff Foust reports that while that scenario is now unlikely, the agency and SpaceX are still focused on getting the Demo-2 mission launched safely and successfully.
Monday, May 4, 2020

In the recession, space firms should focus on Earth imagery

The severe economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has affected many companies in the space industry. Nicholas Borroz argues that companies best placed to survive and even thrive in this environment are those that provide Earth imagery or analysis of it.
Monday, May 4, 2020

SPICA: an infrared telescope to look back into the early universe

One of the finalists for ESA’s next medium-class space science mission is an infrared space telescope called SPICA. Arwen Rimmer describes the science the proposed mission could accomplish, and how the pandemic has affected work on it.
Monday, May 4, 2020

Review: Alien Oceans

Some scientists believe that “ocean worlds” like Jupiter’s moon Europa are the best places in the solar system to look for life beyond Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book by one of those scientists that lays out the case for life within Europa and other icy moons of the outer solar system.
Monday, May 4, 2020

Putting the White House executive order on space resources in an international context

An executive order on space resource rights issued by the White House in early April generated debate and controversy regarding national policy on the topic. Ian Christensen and Christopher Johnson examine the order from an international perspective.
Monday, April 27, 2020

Burevestnik: a Russian air-launched anti-satellite system

An image of a Russian fighter with a large missile mounted underneath it prompted speculation that the Russian military was working on a new anti-satellite weapon. Bart Hendrickx reveals new details about an effort that includes both an air-launched rocket and small, maneuverable satellites.
Monday, April 27, 2020

Taking on the challenge of Mars sample return

Mars sample return is a long-standing goal of many planetary scientists, but difficult and expensive to achieve. Jeff Foust reports on how NASA and ESA are firming up plans to do so over the next decade, despite many uncertainties.
Monday, April 27, 2020

Draft Moon Village Association Principles: creating best practices for sustainable lunar activities

The Moon Village Association recently released a draft set of principles regarding best practices for future lunar development. Giuseppe Reibaldi and Mark Sundahl discuss the formation of the principles and their request for feedback about them.
Monday, April 27, 2020

The Lunar Development Cooperative: A new idea for enabling lunar settlement

Management of lunar activities in a way that is consistent with existing treaties had long been a challenge. A group of authors offer a concept that they believe can effective coordinate various activities in a sustainable way.
Monday, April 27, 2020

To attack or deter? The role of anti-satellite weapons

Russia’s test of an anti-satellite weapon last week has reinvigorated debates about the utility of such weapons. Dwayne Day discusses a historical case where the US proposed developing ASATs to shed light on on their roles today.
Monday, April 20, 2020

The FCC takes a leadership role in combating orbital debris

The FCC is scheduled to vote this week on new regulations intended to mitigate the creation of orbital debris, which some in industry oppose. Three experts explain why the regulations are a good idea even if the implementation leaves something to be desired.
Monday, April 20, 2020

The President’s space resources executive order: a step in the right direction

In early April, the White House issued an executive order reiterating policy regarding rights to space resources. Paul Stimers argues that the policy is a good step towards building an international consensus on the issue.
Monday, April 20, 2020

Cost versus control in the small launch market

Some smallsat launch customers are willing to pay a premium in order to get their payload into their desired orbit on their own schedule. Jeff Foust reports on whether there are enough such customers out there to sustain small launch vehicle companies that emphasis flexibility over price.
Monday, April 20, 2020

“Space, the final frontier”: Star Trek and the national space rhetoric of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and NASA

While “Star Trek” has been an inspiration for many who pursued space careers, the show’s origins has its links to the early space program. Glen Swanson examines the various connections between the show and the early Space Age.
Monday, April 20, 2020

Review: John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings

Sixty years ago, NASA was starting to plan how to get humans to the Moon but wasn’t sure of the best way to do so. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts how one person at NASA advocated, and eventually won support, for the approach ultimately used by the Apollo missions.
Monday, April 20, 2020

Trends in NASA’s robotic planetary exploration program as revealed in a new dataset

Comparing budgets from year to year among NASA planetary science program can be difficult. Casey Dreier discusses a new dataset on those budgets he has compiled, and trends apparent in the analysis of that data.
Monday, April 13, 2020

Planning the next decade of planetary science missions

Despite the ongoing pandemic, work is getting started on the next planetary science decadal survey. Jeff Foust reports on what will be different about the next decadal, and how its recommendations can still lead to struggles regarding how to fund missions.
Monday, April 13, 2020

The role of global cooperation in space after COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic may force countries to delay or cancel space projects in order to pay for the relief effort. Ajey Lele argues that it provides an opportunity for greater international cooperation in future space projects.
Monday, April 13, 2020

Hard law or soft law? The debate about the future of space law

Last week the White House issued an executive order calling on the State Department to seek international support for its stance on space resource rights. Dennis O’Brien recalls a recent space law conference that debated whether informal agreements or new, binding treaties were needed for the future of lunar exploration and utilization.
Monday, April 13, 2020

Review: Spacefarers

Justifying the difficulty and expense of human spaceflight has been a longstanding challenge for space advocates. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an examination of how humanity can expand into the solar system, but not necessarily a compelling reason why.
Monday, April 13, 2020

Rashomon’s fire: another perspective on Apollo 1 from NASA official Paul Dembling

Different people involved in historical events have different recollections of what happened. Dwayne Day demonstrates that from an interview with another NASA official who was at an infamous Senate hearing after the Apollo 1 accident.
Monday, April 6, 2020

What is the future for commercial suborbital spaceflight?

Earlier this year, both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic appeared to be finally ready to start flying people to space by the end of the year. Jeff Foust reports that the pandemic has put those plans into question.
Monday, April 6, 2020

The US Space Force’s long war

The Space Force has had some stumbles in the months since its establishment, but appears to have general public support. John Hickman argues one challenge the Space Force faces is changing how the public perceives spaceflight itself.
Monday, April 6, 2020

Space Force: the struggle continues

While the US Space Force was formally established last December, it’s still struggling with some organizational and policy issues. Taylor Dinerman discusses some of those issues and their importance to the nascent service.
Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: Extraterrestrials

It’s been 70 years since Enrico Fermi’s question became the paradox that bears his name about the existence of other civilizations. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the history of SETI and offers some potential answers to the Fermi Paradox.
Monday, April 6, 2020

Stars and Starlink

With OneWeb’s bankruptcy filing, astronomers may have one less satellite constellation to worry about disrupting their observations. But, as Jeff Foust reports, they are still working with SpaceX to find ways to mitigate the effects of the Starlink satellites.
Monday, March 30, 2020

And that’s the way it was on the way to the Moon: an interview with Walter Cronkite

Besides being one of the most trusted people in America in the 1960s, Walter Cronkite was also a space buff who closely followed, and covered, the Apollo program. Dwayne Day finds an interview from decades later where Cronkite discussed how critical his coverage of the program was.
Monday, March 30, 2020

The decade of Venus: an interview with David Grinspoon

A new series of missions may be bound for Venus in the coming decade by NASA and other space agencies. Arwen Rimmer talked with planetary scientist and astrobiologist David Grinspoon on why renewed studies of Venus can help us not just understand our nearest planetary neighbor but also worlds around other stars.
Monday, March 30, 2020

Why a business case for Mars settlement is not required

One obstacle to a permanent human settlement on Mars, in the minds of many, is how such a settlement could be economically viable. John Strickland argues that a business case isn’t essential to a Mars settlement, at least during its formative phase.
Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: For All Humankind

Most histories of the Apollo program are written from an American perspective, but the program, especially the Apollo 11 landing, was a worldwide phenomenon. Jeff Foust reviews a book where people around the world discuss their memories of the first Moon landing and how it inspired them.
Monday, March 30, 2020

Space in uncertain times

Much of the space industry, like the broader economy and society, has ground to a halt in the last few weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. Jeff Foust reports on what has shut down and what is continuing more or less as usual in spaceflight, at least for now.
Monday, March 23, 2020

Capabilities on the cusp: the impact of a responsive, flexible launch challenge with no winner

The DARPA Launch Challenge ended earlier this month without a winner when the last remaining company scrubbed their final launch attempt. Todd Master, manager of the competition, explains how the DARPA Launch Challenge evolved and offers lessons learned for the future of responsive launch.
Monday, March 23, 2020

Capsule on fire: An interview with Robert Seamans about the Apollo 1 accident

Robert Seamans was deputy administrator of NASA during the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, and was one of the officials who testified at a Senate hearing about it months later. Dwayne Day finds new insights about Seamans and his relationship with administrator James Webb in an interview from more than 20 years ago.
Monday, March 23, 2020

Magnificent isolation: what we can learn from astronauts about social distancing and sheltering in space

Calls for self-quarantine and “social distancing” in response to the pandemic have some people seeking to learn from the experience of explorers. Deana Weibel examines what astronauts, including the late Al Worden, can teach us about handling isolation in extreme circumstances.
Monday, March 23, 2020

Another look at The Vinyl Frontier

Glen Swanson offers a more through examination of a recent book about the creation of the “golden records” that flew on the Voyager spacecraft with photos and sounds representing Earth.
Monday, March 23, 2020

When Senator Walter Mondale went to the Moon: the Apollo 1 fire and the myths we create

Sen. Walter Mondale’s questioning of NASA in a hearing after the Apollo 1 fire led to his portrayal as a critic of the agency opposed to Apollo. Dwayne Day unearths an interview with Mondale that offers a different perspective on Mondale’s views about the program.
Monday, March 16, 2020

Mars in limbo

Last week the European Space Agency announced it was postponing the launch of its ExoMars rover mission from 2020 to 2022 because of technical problems. Jeff Foust reports on that delay and potential risks to other Mars missions scheduled for launch this year because of matters beyond their control.
Monday, March 16, 2020

Space security: the need for a monitoring mechanism

Efforts to create treaties or other international agreements to keep space from becoming weaponized have failed to gain traction. Ajey Lele says an international organization, separate from any treaty regime, might be able to make progress on space security.
Monday, March 16, 2020

Private options, private risks: the future of US spaceflight

Later this year NASA astronauts will fly to the International Space Station on commercial crew vehicles. Roger Handberg discusses how that is reopening debates about the role NASA should play in overseeing the safety of such spacecraft.
Monday, March 16, 2020

Responsive launch is still not quite ready for prime time

The DARPA Launch Challenge ended last week without a winner as the sole remaining team failed to launch within the competition window. Jeff Foust reports on how Astra was less than a minute away from launching when it had to scrub its launch, and what it means for the long-running effort to demonstrate responsive launch.
Monday, March 9, 2020

Space reconnaissance and Anglo-American relations during the Cold War

The special relationship between the United States and United Kingdom extended to access to reconnaissance satellite imagery during the Cold War. Aaron Bateman examines how that influenced policy in the UK regarding arms control and anti-satellite weapons in the 1980s.
Monday, March 9, 2020

Wasn’t the future wonderful? For All Mankind and the space program we didn’t get

One of the shows on the Apple TV+ streaming service is For All Mankind, which examines an alternative history based on the Soviets landing a man on the Moon before the US. Dwayne Day discusses the strengths and weaknesses of that alternative history that many space advocates have desired.
Monday, March 9, 2020

Review: The Vinyl Frontier

One of the best known aspects of the Voyager missions is the “golden record” included on the two spacecraft with photos and audio from Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts how that album came together.
Monday, March 9, 2020

Racing to where/what/when/why?

It’s common today to see mentions of a new “space race” involving the United States and China. Dwayne Day argues that term doesn’t make sense, since there’s no agreement on where they are racing, when, or why.
Monday, March 2, 2020

Handicapping the megaconstellations

OneWeb and SpaceX are shifting into high gear to deploy their broadband satellite constellations, with more systems proposed and in development. Jeff Foust reports on what industry expects think are the prospects for success for these systems, given the business and other challenges they face.
Monday, March 2, 2020

EnVision and the Cosmic Vision decision

A Venus orbiter called EnVision is among the finalists for the next medium-class science mission by the European Space Agency. Arwen Rimmer explains why scientists, meeting at a conference in Paris last month, believe the mission is vital for ESA to pursue.
Monday, March 2, 2020

Review: What Stars Are Made Of

In early 20th century astrophysics, one of the most important discoveries was that stars were made primarily of hydrogen and helium, yet few people know the astronomer who made that discovery. Jeff Foust reviews a book about the life and career of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who overcame major obstacles on the path to that achievement.
Monday, March 2, 2020

The United States is losing its leadership role in the fight against orbital debris

The US government released updated orbital debris mitigation guidelines in December, the first update to those guidelines in nearly two decades. Brian Weeden explains why the few changes in the new guidelines are disappointing and a sign that the US may no longer be a global leader in dealing with orbital debris.
Monday, February 24, 2020

Making the funding case for commercial space stations

NASA awarded Axiom Space an agreement in January that gives the company the opportunity to attach a commercial module to an International Space Station docking port. Jeff Foust reports that, despite this milestone, there’s still uncertainty about the business plans of such companies and NASA’s ability to provide financial support for them.
Monday, February 24, 2020

Passive space debris removal using drag sail deorbiting technology

Spacecraft engineers are studying a variety of approaches for deorbiting satellites at the end of their lives to minimize the growth of orbital debris. Rebecca Hill discusses one concept being studied that adapts solar sail technologies to bring down satellites.
Monday, February 24, 2020

Review: Handprints on Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope, approaching its 30th anniversary, has a legacy enabled by the ability to repair and upgrade the observatory over the years. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a NASA astronaut who played a key role ensuring the telescope could be repaired by later shuttle missions.
Monday, February 24, 2020

Will we hit the snooze button on an orbital debris wakeup call?

Last month, two defunct satellites missed colliding with each other by only meters, an event widely seen as a wakeup call about the dangers of orbital debris and the need to take action. Jeff Foust reports that while that incident might have raised awareness, it won’t necessarily translate into near-term action.
Monday, February 17, 2020

Why the International Lunar Decade still makes sense

In a recent commentary, Louis Friedman argued against NASA racing back to the moon, saying its energies are better placed for going to Mars. Four authors note that Friedman once backed the concept for an “International Lunar Decade,” a concept that is still worth pursuing today.
Monday, February 17, 2020

Democratizing space exploration with new technologies

Advances in satellite and launch technologies are often touted as opening space for new and expanded business opportunities. Dylan Taylor argues that such technologies also democratize space, making it available to more people around the world.
Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: Fighting for Space

Six decades ago, a group of women later known as the “Mercury 13” took medical tests that demonstrated that they were just as able to handle the rigors of spaceflight as NASA’s male Mercury 7 astronauts. Jeff Foust reviews a book that profiles two of the women at the heart of that effort, which similar goals but different plans to achieve them.
Monday, February 17, 2020

Starliner software setback

One software error truncated an uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in December, but last week a safety panel revealed there was a second problem that could have caused a “catastrophic” failure. Jeff Foust reports on that new problem and its implications for Boeing’s commercial crew vehicle.
Monday, February 10, 2020

Alternative financing for lunar mining exploration

Despite the long-term promise of extracting water ice and other resources from the moon, such efforts, done commercially, face the daunting challenge of raising funding. Blake Ahadi suggests some alternative approaches, drawn in part from similar issues faced in terrestrial mining, to help fund lunar resource extraction.
Monday, February 10, 2020

The US Space Force and international law considerations

The establishment of a Space Force in the US has raised questions about international law provisions that prohibit some military activities in space. Bharatt Goel notes that while the militarization of space is hardly new, the Space Force could heighten debates about the roles of militaries in space.
Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: Rise of the Space Age Millennials

Millennials are a growing part of the space community, but are their views of what they want to do in space, and why and how, that different from previous generations? Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers insights based on interviews with 100 millennials in the field.
Monday, February 10, 2020

New challenges for NASA’s Moon 2024 goal

As the White House prepares to release a budget proposal that will include a cost estimate for NASA’s Artemis program, the House Science Committee took up a NASA authorization bill that could make significant changes to it. Jeff Foust reports on the debate about the bill and its importance versus the upcoming budget and appropriations process.
Monday, February 3, 2020

Target Moscow (part 2): The American Space Shuttle and the decision to build the Soviet Buran

A report by two Soviet academicians in the 1970s, which argued that the Space Shuttle that the US was developing could be used as a bomber, is widely thought to have spurred development of the Buran shuttle. Bart Hendrickx and Dwayne A. Day examine that claim and find that the report likely only reinforced an earlier decision regarding Buran.
Monday, February 3, 2020

Suborbital refueling: a path not taken

Launch vehicle developers have for decades struggled to come up with approaches to enable frequent and cost-effective access to space using spaceplanes. Francis Castanos advocates for an alternative approach.
Monday, February 3, 2020

Review: The Contact Paradox

The search for “technosignatures” of civilizations beyond Earth is winning new support, including positive language in a House NASA bill. Jeff Foust reviews a book that argues that it’s time for a new strategy for such search efforts based on the proliferation of new approaches and the failures of past efforts.
Monday, February 3, 2020

Target Moscow: Soviet suspicions about the military uses of the American Space Shuttle (part 1)

Russian historians recently uncovered a Soviet report from the 1970s that studied whether the Space Shuttle could be used as a bomber to attack Moscow. Bart Hendrickx and Dwayne Day study that report in more detail to better understand its logic, and its flaws.
Monday, January 27, 2020

Assessing China’s commercial space industry

Outside the United States, the country with the most vibrant commercial space startup industry may be China, with dozens of firms established in just the last few years pursuing launch vehicles, satellites, and more. Jeff Foust examines a report that offered detailed insights on the size and growth potential of Chinese entrepreneurial space.
Monday, January 27, 2020

Forty years of revolution, ten years of spaceflight

Iran is preparing to attempt another satellite launch in the coming days, amid tensions about its nuclear programs. Henk Smid discusses the history of both Iran’s ballistic missile and space launch vehicle programs to better understand if the latter helps the former.
Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom

NASA’s Mission Control in Houston has developed a reputation for rigorous decision making needed for the safety and success of human spaceflight. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a former director describing how the management of the organization that runs Mission Control needed to be overhauled.
Monday, January 27, 2020

Panchromatic astronomy on a budget

At the end of this month, NASA will decomission the Spitzer Space Telescope, the second of the original four Great Observatories to go dark. Jeff Foust reports on what astronomers think NASA should do to continue the promise of the Great Observatories to enable space-based observations over a wide range of wavelengths.
Monday, January 20, 2020

A national treasure turns 90

Today is the 90th birthday of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Eric Hedman reflects on Aldrin’s influence on his own life.
Monday, January 20, 2020

All these moments will be lost…

Seventeen years ago this month, Columbia lifted off on its final, ill-fated flight. Dwayne Day explains how a fictional story may stir up very real feelings about the mission.
Monday, January 20, 2020

Review: Final Frontier: India and Space Security

One of India’s biggest space achievements last year was a military one: the successful test of an anti-satellite weapon. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines India’s changing views of space security.
Monday, January 20, 2020

Balancing astronomical visions with budgetary realities

The long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope should finally approach completion this year, as work ramps up on NASA’s next major space telescope, WFIRST. Jeff Foust reports these missions are providing lessons, good and bad, on how to manage flagship missions as astronomers weigh what should come next.
Monday, January 13, 2020

You can’t take the sky from me

Plans by SpaceX and other companies to deploy megaconstellations of satellites have alarmed astronomers, who worry that such satellites could interfere with their observations. Arwen Rimmer argues that such satellites should be a concern to anyone who looks up into the night sky, not just professional astronomers.
Monday, January 13, 2020

China’s space dream on track

China’s Long March 5 rocket successfully returned to flight in late December after a failure nearly two and a half years ago. Namrata Goswami explains that this shows that that country’s lunar ambitions, including eventual human missions to the Moon, need to be taken seriously.
Monday, January 13, 2020

Why improved registration is essential for public and private activities on the Moon

Existing treaties may be ill-equipped to deal with the surge in both government and commercial missions to the Moon. Dennis O’Brien discusses what changes a recent white paper recommended to one agreement regarding the registration of such missions.
Monday, January 13, 2020

The challenges facing Artemis in 2020

In 2019, NASA accelerated its plans to return to the Moon under a program now called Artemis. Jeff Foust reports that NASA will have to overcome a number of challenges, financial and otherwise, to stay on track in 2020.
Monday, January 6, 2020

Strange bedfellows

In the 1960s, NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office quietly cooperated on an imaging system developed for reconnaissance satellites that NASA sought to use to support lunar missions. Dwayne Day describes how the very different nature of the agencies, and changes in the program, made it difficult for them to work together.
Monday, January 6, 2020

It’s all a matter of timing

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test flight last month was cut short because a problem linked to a timing error in the spacecraft. Wayne Eleazer explains it’s not the first mission where a timing error caused problems.
Monday, January 6, 2020

Chicken or the egg: space launch and state spaceports

While there has been a surge of spaceports proposed in recent years, the supply of such facilities doesn’t match the demand for launch services. Roger Handberg notes this is similar to another wave of proposed spaceports two decades ago.
Monday, January 6, 2020

Review: Dear Neil Armstrong

In the decades after landing on the Moon, Neil Armstrong received tens of thousands of letters, from political and business leaders to ordinary people. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a selection from that archive, and some of Armstrong’s responses.
Monday, January 6, 2020

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