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Space news from around the web

This week in The Space Review…

LUVOIR

A new approach to flagship space telescopes

The long-awaited astrophysics decadal survey, with its recommendations for future space-based observatories, was finally released in early November. Jeff Foust reports on how the decadal, rather than recommending a single large mission, offered a new approach for doing a series of such missions in the next few decades.
Monday, November 29, 2021

How America wins the future

The National Space Council meets this week for the first time in the Biden Administration. Frank Slazer argues the meeting is a prime opportunity for the White House to demonstrate its commitment to securing American leadership in space.
Monday, November 29, 2021

Space law hasn’t been changed since 1967, but the UN aims to update laws and keep space peaceful

Russia’s antisatellite test comes as the United Nations considers a proposal for studying norms of behavior for space activities. Michelle Hanlon and Greg Autry explain how that UN effort is a major step forward in addressing the limitations of existing international space law.
Monday, November 29, 2021

Review: To Boldly Go

Science fiction has long been an inspiration for those pursuing work in space fields, but what other lessons can the genre offer? Jeff Foust reviews a collection of essays that mines space-related science fiction for insights on leadership and strategy.
Monday, November 29, 2021


Previous articles:

After another ASAT test, will governments finally take action?

Last week, Russia tested a direct-ascent antisatellite weapon, destroying a defunct Russian satellite and creating potentially thousands of new pieces of debris. Jeff Foust reports on the test and reaction, and whether it will lead to efforts to prohibit such tests and preserve the orbital environment.
Monday, November 22, 2021

Tracking unknown satellites

Not all satellite catalogs are created equal, with some containing objects that are missing in others. Charles Phillips and Mykola Kulichenko discuss one effort to track down objects and link them to specific satellites.
Monday, November 22, 2021

Risk, teamwork, and opportunity: the tale of a Soyuz abort

Three years ago, an astronaut and a cosmonaut survived the first abort of a Soyuz spacecraft in decades. Jeff Foust recounts a session of a conference last month where Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin discussed the experience and the lessons learned from it.
Monday, November 22, 2021

Review: The Greatest Adventure

Cramming six decades of human spaceflight into a single book is a challenge, but one the some authors are willing to take on. Jeff Foust reviews one such book, which appears to focus more on the early years of human spaceflight than more recent achievements.
Monday, November 22, 2021

Resetting Artemis

The conclusion of a legal dispute involving the development of a human lunar landing system allows NASA to move forward with that aspect of the Artemis program, but with delays. Jeff Foust reports on the latest changes to the schedule for returning humans to the Moon, and whether that schedule can hold up.
Monday, November 15, 2021

Musk versus Bezos: a real rivalry or a fake feud?

The rivalry between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in space is often considered one of the key competitions in the modern space industry. Ben Little ponders if that feud is genuine or if it’s played up to mask the fact their ventures are more complementary.
Monday, November 15, 2021

An assessment of EU decarbonization options including astroelectricity

The European Union is seeking to “decarbonize” its energy supplies by the middle of the century. Mike Snead examines the role that space-based solar power could play to do so compared to alternative energy sources.
Monday, November 15, 2021

Review: Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond

Research over decades by astronomer Vera Rubin provided strong evidence for the existence of dark matter, winning her awards and making her the namesake of an observatory under construction in Chile. Jeff foust reviews a new biography of Rubin that puts her life and research into context.
Monday, November 15, 2021

Boldly insure where no one has gone

Insurance is a critical, if often overlooked, part of the space industry. A group of insurance executives raises issues that growing space activities pose for insurers.
Monday, November 8, 2021

For private space travelers, questions of vistas and titles

Can a suborbital spaceflight provide the same change in perspective as an orbital flight? And, do private space travelers get to be called astronauts? Jeff Foust reports on how those issues are being considered as private human spaceflight takes off.
Monday, November 8, 2021

Witch-hunts, power, and privilege from Salem to the stars

How does the fear and power asymmetry that contributed to the infamous Salem witch trials manifest itself in the modern-day aerospace industry? Layla Martin presents similarities between the events at Salem and modern space culture.
Monday, November 8, 2021

Review: Holdout

What would prompt a NASA astronaut to disobey orders and, in effect, mutiny in orbit? Jeff Foust reviews a novel by a veteran space writer that contemplates such a scenario.
Monday, November 8, 2021

The commercial space station race

NASA’s plans to retire the International Space Station by 2030 depend on companies developing commercial space stations to succeed it. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments in that effort, including new concepts announced late last month by two industry teams.
Monday, November 1, 2021

Will SpaceX follow Tesla to a $1 trillion market capitalization?

Tesla, the electric vehicle company run by Elon Musk, recently passed a market cap of $1 trillion. Sam Dinkin examines what it would take for SpaceX to pass that threshold.
Monday, November 1, 2021

How a small, distant space telescope can solve astrophysical mysteries big ones can’t

The long-awaited Astro2020 decadal survey of astrophysics will be released this week, offering its recommendations for the next large space telescope NASA should develop. Michael Zemcov makes the case for NASA to also consider much smaller telescopes that, placed far from Earth, can do things large telescopes can’t.
Monday, November 1, 2021

Strategic geographical points in outer space

Geography plays a key role in military strategy, something which extends to space. Matthew Jenkins examines how concepts like lines of communication and choke points apply to spaceports, orbits, and Lagrange points.
Monday, November 1, 2021

Engineering the arts for space: developing the concept of “mission laureates”

There has long been a link between the arts and NASA missions. Christopher Cokinos describes how those links can be strengthened by a new concept to involve all kinds of creative people into those missions.
Monday, October 25, 2021

The battle for Boca Chica

An environmental review of SpaceX’s proposed Starship launch plans from Boca Chica, Texas, has created sharp differences of opinion. Jeff Foust reports on public feedback from those strongly in favor of the company’s launch plans and those with equally strong objections.
Monday, October 25, 2021

Is outer space a de jure common-pool resource?

Two of the more controversial elements of the Artemis Accords involve safety zones and rights to use extracted resources. Dennis O’Brien argues, that, as current written, those provisions could run afoul of space law.
Monday, October 25, 2021

How space tourism could affect older people

The two oldest people to fly to space both did so this year as space tourism opens up new opportunities for a wider range of people. Nick Caplan and Christopher Newman discuss some of the issues associated with the elderly going to space on even brief suborbital flights.
Monday, October 25, 2021

Review: Back to Earth

Many space travelers have experienced the Overview Effect that changes their perspective of the Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book where a former astronaut explains how people can change their views about the Earth without leaving the planet.
Monday, October 25, 2021

The Artemis Accords after one year of international progress

One year ago, the United States and seven other countries signed the Artemis Accords, outlining principles for space exploration. Paul Stimers and Audrey Jammes review the progress since then getting more countries to sign the Accords and explore the document’s long-term prospects.
Monday, October 18, 2021

The normalization of space tourism

Blue Origin’s latest suborbital spaceflight, with Star Trek’s William Shatner and three others on board, was the fifth mission with private astronauts in three months. Jeff Foust reports that space tourism is starting to shift from exceptional even in the space community to something a little more normal.
Monday, October 18, 2021

Black ugliness and the covering of blue: William Shatner’s suborbital flight to “death”

When William Shatner returned from his brief suborbital spaceflight, he described the experience in a way few others have. Deana Weibel discusses how his comments differ from what we’ve come to expect from professional astronauts.
Monday, October 18, 2021

The Indian Space Association seeks to broaden commercial interests

Last week, Indian government and business leaders announced the formation of a new space industry group. Ajey Lele examines how it can support India’s push to commercialize the field.
Monday, October 18, 2021

Grimes and space communes

When Elon Musk talks about human settlement of Mars, people take him seriously. Layla Martin wonders why we shouldn’t take his former partner seriously when she offers her own vision of space.
Monday, October 18, 2021

Aerostat: a Russian long-range anti-ballistic missile system with possible counterspace capabilities

Russia has been working for several years on an anti-ballistic missile system called Aerostat. Bart Hendrickx examines that effort and how it could also be used as an antisatellite weapon.
Monday, October 11, 2021

Lollipops and ASATs

Antisatellite weapons were a concern for the US as far back as the early years of the Space Age. Dwayne Day explores what declassified documents have revealed about American efforts to track Soviet radars and other capabilities linked to ASATs.
Monday, October 11, 2021

The UK looks for its place in space

The British government released a new national space strategy last month that established a series of goals and objectives for the country’s space sector. Jeff Foust reports on that strategy and some of the issues facing Britain as it seeks to bolster its space industry.
Monday, October 11, 2021

Review: Asteroids

Asteroids are back in the news with the upcoming launch of NASA’s Lucy mission to visit several Trojan asteroids preceding and following Jupiter in its orbit around the Sun. Thomas Simmons reviews a book that offers a historical context to the study of minor planets.
Monday, October 11, 2021

Five big questions about the International Space Station becoming a movie set

On Tuesday, a Soyuz spacecraft will launch a professional cosmonaut to the International Space Station along with a director and an actress, who will film scenes for a movie. Alice Gorman examines some of the issues raised by this novel use of the station.
Monday, October 4, 2021

Resilience and space situational awareness: an interview with NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins

The Inspiration4 mission was the second flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft called Resilience, which first flew NASA’s Crew-1 mission. Jeff Foust interviews NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, the commander of that mission, about his experiences and future plans.
Monday, October 4, 2021

Inspiration4 sent four people with minimal training to orbit and brought space tourism closer to reality

While Inspiration4 may have been a one-off mission, it may serve as a precursor for more private orbital human missions. Wendy Whitman Cobb explains how that mission, perhaps more than suborbital spaceflight, may be the future of space tourism.
Monday, October 4, 2021

Review: Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space

A documentary crew followed the Inspiration4 crew as they prepared for their orbital human spaceflight last month. Jeff Foust reviews the five-part documentary results that offers behind-the-scenes accounts of the mission but a lack of details about other aspects of the mission as well.
Monday, October 4, 2021

Two directorate heads are better than one

Last week NASA shook up the management of its human spaceflight programs, splitting its exploration development efforts from its operations of the ISS and commercial successors. Jeff Foust reports on the reasons for the restructuring and both the distinct and shared problems the two new organizations face.
Monday, September 27, 2021

Criticism of space cowboys isn’t enough

Some voices inside and outside the space community have questioned the “space cowboy” billionaires that are playing a growing role in the industry. Blake Horn argues such criticism is only a start.
Monday, September 27, 2021

Covid and Mars

For many over the last year and a half, sending humans to Mars seems like a distant dream compared to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Frank Stratford explains why he believes the pandemic has given a new impetus for human expeditions to Mars.
Monday, September 27, 2021

Review: Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut

Veteran ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will go to the International Space Station next year and serve as its commander. Jeff Foust reviews a book where she describes her experience becoming an astronaut and training for her first ISS mission several years ago.
Monday, September 27, 2021

An inspiration for private human spaceflight

Last week’s Inspiration4 flight, a brief private orbital spaceflight, always looked like a one-off mission, at best. Jeff Foust reports that the success of the mission may show it’s a model for more frequent commercial orbital human missions.
Monday, September 20, 2021

What is the future of the International Space Station?

NASA is moving ahead with plans to extend the life of the ISS through the end of the decade while supporting development of commercial stations that will serve as successors. Roger Handberg argues the station’s long-term future, and ultimate demise, still remains uncertain.
Monday, September 20, 2021

Astrofeminism as a theory of change: save our planet, not escape from it

If “space cowboys” of the billionaire space race are the problem, what is the solution? Layla Martin explains how a change in mindset and incorporation of a broader range of people is essential for a more sustainable future in space.
Monday, September 20, 2021

Review: The Wonderful

Much of the focus on the International Space Station has been on the station itself, its research, and its political issues. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary that devotes its attention instead on the experiences of the astronauts and cosmonauts who have flown there.
Monday, September 20, 2021

The great space company sale

Several space startups have gone public this year thanks to mergers with SPACs. Jeff Foust reports this may trigger a new round of acquisitions as those companies look to acquire suppliers and other firms that can help them grow.
Monday, September 13, 2021

Paradigmatic shifts in space? Space policies of China and India: priorities, long-term focuses, and differences

China and India are two rising space powers, each taking distinct approaches to developing their space capabilities. Namrata Goswami examines the similarities and differences in the two countries’ approaches to long-term space development.
Monday, September 13, 2021

The problem with space cowboys

The race between billionaires to go to space captured headlines and public interest, but also criticism. Layla Martin argues that while competition in general is good, this particular space race wasn’t helpful for the space community.
Monday, September 13, 2021

Thor the lifesaver?

Some space advocates have pushed for development of space-based solar power as a solution to Earth’s energy and climate problems. Ajay Kothari makes the case for an alternative technology that could also have space applications.
Monday, September 13, 2021

Review: Asteroids

Asteroids have long been a topic of scientific interest, as well as for planetary defense. Jeff Foust reviews a book that covers both those issues as well as the long desired, but still unrealized, dreams of harvesting resources from them.
Monday, September 13, 2021

Small launch vehicles face their biggest test

In less than a week two startups developing small launch vehicles, Astra and Firefly, suffered launch failures. Jeff Foust reports on the setbacks those companies suffered and what it says about the challenges of creating new rockets.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The making of an Enterprise: How NASA, the Smithsonian, and the aerospace industry helped create Star Trek

Fifty-five years ago this week, the first episode of Star Trek aired on NBC. Glen Swanson examines the close ties the show had with both NASA and the Smithsonian while the show was on the air and beyond.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Wizards redux: revisiting the P-11 signals intelligence satellites

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the formation of the National Reconnaissance Office. Dwayne Day describes how he hopes the anniversary will bring with it the declassification of more documents about a signals intelligence satellite program.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The privatized frontier: the ethical implications and role of private companies in space exploration

A shift to private spaceflight has worried some, who think companies will be more reckless than government agencies. Maanas Sharma discusses how those risks can be mitigated while taking advantage of the capabilities of the private sector.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Review: The Red Planet

The planet Mars is the subject of more intense study than ever before by spacecraft in orbit and on its surface, but those missions have asked as many questions as they’ve answered. Jeff Foust reviews a new book that examines what we know, and don’t know, about the formation and evolution of Mars.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The little satellite that could (part 2): from Triana to DSCOVR to orbit

NASA’s Triana spacecraft, aka “Goresat,” seemed doomed to spend the rest of its days in storage. Dwayne Day recounts how the spacecraft finally made it to space with a new name and a revised mission.
Monday, August 30, 2021

Cooperation, competition, conferences, and COVID

The leaders of NASA and several other space agencies gathered in Colorado last week to discuss cooperation on various issues. Jeff Foust reports on what NASA’s Bill Nelson and others had to say about the future of the International Space Station and a perceived space race with China.
Monday, August 30, 2021

“Starship to orbit” ought to be a tipping point for policy makers

SpaceX is making rapid progress on the first Starship/Super Heavy vehicle able to go to orbit. Doug Plata argues that should be a wakeup call for the White House, NASA, and Congress as they plan sending humans to the Moon and Mars.
Monday, August 30, 2021

The billionaires compete and the US wins the 21st century space race

The competition this summer between Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson to be the first to go to space attracted plenty of attention, but also criticism. Eytan Tepper discusses how it’s a sign that the United States is leading a new, commercially oriented space race.
Monday, August 30, 2021

Review: European-Russian Space Cooperation

Cooperation between European nations and Russia/the former Soviet Union in space dates back more than half a century. Gurbir Singh reviews a new book that provides a thorough history of those cooperative efforts.
Monday, August 30, 2021

Starliner sidelined

NASA and Boeing announced last week that a test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle will be delayed, perhaps to next year, because of valve problems in the spacecraft’s propulsion system. Jeff Foust reports on this latest setback for a program that has already suffered significant delays.
Monday, August 16, 2021

Space exploration and development is essential to fighting climate change

The Biden Administration has made climate change a priority, an issue highlighted by the latest international assessment of the topic. Alex Gilbert argues that the National Space Council should take steps to leverage space capabilities to address the issue, from Earth science to space-based solar power.
Monday, August 16, 2021

ISRO’s cryogenic conundrum

An Indian GSLV launch failed last week when the engine in its cryogenic upper stage did not ignite. Ajey Lele examines the long-running problems India has suffered trying to develop a more powerful launch vehicle.
Monday, August 16, 2021

The little satellite that could

In 1998, Vice President Al Gore proposed a satellite that would provide continuous images of the Earth. Dwayne Day, in the first of a two-part article, looks at the early history of a satellite then known as Triana.
Monday, August 16, 2021

Is it time to create the designation of non-governmental astronaut?

Determining if space tourists, like people who fly on New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, are “astronauts” has legal implications. Michael Listner proposes that it may be time to create an explicit category of “non-governmental astronaut” in US law.
Monday, August 16, 2021

Review: The Impact of Lunar Dust on Human Exploration

The lunar regolith, both abrasive and adhesive, poses a significant challenge to future robotic and human expeditions there. Jeff Foust reviews a book that outlines our state of knowledge, or ignorance, about the hazards posed by lunar dust.
Monday, August 16, 2021

Little Wizards: Signals intelligence satellites during the Cold War

Through much of the Cold War, the US launched a series of small satellites to monitor electronic signals from the Soviet Union. Dwayne Day examines what we know about these spacecraft thanks to recent declassifications.
Monday, August 2, 2021

Relaunching a lunar lander program

On Friday, the GAO announced it denied protests filed by two companies regarding NASA’s decision to award a single lunar lander contract in April to SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports on the dismissed protests and the prospects that one of those companies might yet get a lander contract.
Monday, August 2, 2021

Six things to think about (besides the price) for prospective space tourists

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are entering commercial service for their suborbital space tourism vehicles as new orbital space tourism options emerge. Steven Freeland says prospective space tourists should consider several factors when deciding whether to fly.
Monday, August 2, 2021

Review: America’s New Destiny in Space

The recent suborbital flights of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson stimulated a new round of commentary about the benefits and drawbacks of private spaceflight. Jeff Foust reviews a book that, while predating these latest developments, fits right in on the benefit side of the argument.
Monday, August 2, 2021

Will suborbital space tourism take a suborbital trajectory?

With Blue Origin’s first crewed New Shepard flight last week, there are now two companies ready to start flying people on commercial suborbital flights. Jeff Foust reports on the launch and what it means for space tourism and the broader industry.
Monday, July 26, 2021

John Glenn’s fan mail and the ambitions of the girls who wrote to him

John Glenn, who would have turned 100 this month, attracted volumes of fan mail after his first spaceflight in 1962. Roshanna P. Sylvester examines what the letters say about the people, especially young women, who wrote him, and the society of that era.
Monday, July 26, 2021

The case for suborbital scholarships

Suborbital space tourism may be taking off, but it has a perception problem that it, and by extension commercial space, is only for the very rich. A.J. Mackenzie offers a proposal to make space tourism a little more diverse.
Monday, July 26, 2021

Review: The Burning Blue

Many books have been written about the Challenger disaster in the last 35 years. Jeff Foust reviews a new book that promises the “untold” story of what happened.
Monday, July 26, 2021

Flattops from space: the once (and future?) meme of photographing aircraft carriers from orbit

Aircraft carriers, given their size and distinctive shape, stand out in satellite imagery. Dwayne Day explores the long history of taking images of carriers from space, from spysats in the Cold War to commercial imagery of Chinese, Indian, and other carriers.
Monday, July 19, 2021

Astronomy flagships, past and future

Astronomers are awaiting the final report of the astrophysics decadal survey, which will make recommendations on future large missions to pursue. Jeff Foust reports that as NASA waits for the report, it’s busy getting past recommendations launched or recovered from technical and policy problems.
Monday, July 19, 2021

Assessing and celebrating the global impact of the “First Lady Astronaut Trainees”

On Tuesday, Wally Funk, one of the women who passed astronaut medical exams more than 60 years ago, will finally go to space on New Shepard. James Oberg says the impact of the so-called “Mercury 13” goes beyond a long-awaited spaceflight.
Monday, July 19, 2021

Review: Leadership Moments from NASA

NASA has provided many examples of good leadership, and bad, over the years. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a former astronaut and a space journalist who try to distill insights about leadership in general from the agency’s experiences.
Monday, July 19, 2021

The suborbital spaceflight race isn’t over

For many people, Richard Branson’s successful flight on SpaceShipTwo Sunday marked the end of a billionaire space race with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. Jeff Foust reports that the real competition between the companies, and the race to win customers, is just beginning.
Monday, July 12, 2021

China is using mythology and sci-fi to sell its space program to the world

China shares few details about its space missions, often waiting until after launches or other events happen to announce them. Molly Silk explains how China is marketing its space ambitions using both an imagined past and imagined potential futures.
Monday, July 12, 2021

When it comes to spacewalks, size matters

The spacesuits NASA uses for spacewalks date back decades and are long past their design life. Steven Moore explains that means, in some cases, a key factor in selecting astronauts for spacewalks is whether they fit in the remaining suits.
Monday, July 12, 2021

Review: Across the Airless Wilds

Fifty years ago this month, the Apollo 15 mission landed on the Moon with the first of three lunar rovers used by astronauts. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts the long history of development of that rover, which was a game-changer for both astronauts and scientists.
Monday, July 12, 2021

Ingenuity, InSight, and Ice Mapper

Rovers seem to get all the attention on Mars, but there are other current and planned missions to the Red Planet. Jeff Foust updates progress on a helicopter that continues to push the limits of flight, a lander with fading power, and a future orbiter mission working on a tight budget.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Flights to Mars, real and LEGO

In the late 1960s, Boeing developed a concept for a nuclear-powered crewed Mars spacecraft. More than a half-century later, Dwayne Day describes, that concept continues to stimulate imaginations, including of one designer who created models of it using LEGOs.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The nanosatellite gold rush demands new routes to space

Smallsats offer new, cost-effective approaches to flying advanced technologies—if you can launch them. Steve Heller argues that continued innovation in smallsats requires innovation in getting the satellites to space.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Did ancient astronomers set a message in stone for us?

An ancient stone pillar in a temple in Turkey may tell the story of a long-ago impact, some researchers suggest. Sam Dinkin notes the pillar may have been a message of a very different kind as well.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Reviews: Examining the life of John Glenn

John Glenn is one of the most famous American astronauts, but what was the man like behind the mythology constructed around him? Jeff Foust reviews two books, one a general biography of Glenn and the other that focuses on his astronaut career.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Shipkillers: from satellite to shooter at sea

The growth of the Soviet Navy in the 1960s and 1970s led the US to develop new ways to track and target those vessels. Dwayne Day examines how the Navy and the NRO developed systems to relay satellite tracking information directly to weapons control stations on ships and planes.
Monday, June 28, 2021

Jumpstarting European NewSpace

The European Union used an event last week to highlight its space programs, including a new initiative intended to support entrepreneurial space companies on the continent. Jeff Foust reports that some of those companies disagree with the approach the EU is taking.
Monday, June 28, 2021

Before you go, Administrator Nelson

Bill Nelson goes into the job of NASA administrator knowing his tenure will be limited by politics and policy. Roger Handberg argues that Nelson should make it a priority while in office to create plans for a successor to the International Space Station.
Monday, June 28, 2021

Global space traffic management measures to improve the safety and sustainability of outer space

The rise in the number of satellites and debris in Earth orbit poses risks to space operators in all countries. Jamil Castillo explains why space traffic management solutions thus need to take a global approach.
Monday, June 28, 2021

Review: Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir gained fame from his realistic account of Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars. Jeff Foust reviews his new novel, which features an astronaut like Watney stranded much further away.
Monday, June 28, 2021

Scrutinizing the Russian-Iranian satellite deal

A report earlier this month claimed that Russia was selling a high-resolution imaging satellite to Iran that could launch within months. Bart Hendrickx examines the evidence supporting such a deal.
Monday, June 21, 2021

Burning Frost, the view from the ground: shooting down a spy satellite in 2008

In 2008, the US shot down a malfunctioning spysat, a move the government said was intended to prevent a hazardous reentry but which others saw as a demonstration of an anti-satellite capability. Dwayne Day explores what one NASA official wrote about his role in the event.
Monday, June 21, 2021

A shifting balance of space cooperation?

Last week Russian and Chinese officials rolled out a roadmap for a proposed joint lunar base, after Russian officials previously suggested they might quit the International Space Station as soon as the middle of the decade. Jeff Foust reports on what’s changing in spaceflight cooperation among China, Russia, and the US, and what’s staying the same.
Monday, June 21, 2021

Why Astrofeminism?

The underrepresentation of women in the space industry is a widely known problem, but what are we missing as a result? Layla Martin introduces readers to a new school of thought, backed by extensive research, regarding the gender gap in the field.
Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: My Remarkable Journey

Katherine Johnson died last year at the age of 101, but not before writing her memoirs. Jeff Foust reviews that book where the NASA “Hidden Figure” describes a life that more than lives up to the book’s title.
Monday, June 21, 2021

Is a billionaire space race good for the industry?

Jeff Bezos revealed last week that he’ll go on the first crewed New Shepard flight next month, helping skyrocket bids for a seat on the flight. Jeff Foust reports on how a new competition between Bezos and Richard Branson to be the first to go to space may be brewing, one that has both benefits and risks for the industry.
Monday, June 14, 2021

Giant ferocious steps from Jeff Bezos

Blue Origin’s motto, in English, is “step by step ferociously.” Sam Dinkin argues that the company’s steps in both suborbital spaceflight and lobbying Congress for the Human Landing System have become more ferocious.
Monday, June 14, 2021

Sword and shield: defending against an American anti-satellite weapon during the Cold War

In the early 1980s, the CIA studied potential Soviet responses to an air-launched ASAT weapon the US was then developing. Dwayne Day examines what that newly declassified report revealed about the CIA’s thinking, some of which remains applicable nearly 40 years later.
Monday, June 14, 2021

Review: Losing the Sky

Two years after astronomers became alarmed about the impacts of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, megaconstellations remain a concern for the field. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explains the effects such satellites could have on astronomy and ways to address the problem.
Monday, June 14, 2021

Peeking behind the iron curtain: National Intelligence Estimates and the Soviet space program

During the Cold War, the CIA produced a regular series of reports on the Soviet space program, which are now being gradually declassified. Dwayne Day examines what is new in a pair of such reports that went through a second declassification review.
Monday, June 7, 2021

Venus is hot again

Last week, NASA selected proposals for two Venus spacecraft as the next in its Discovery program of planetary science missions. Jeff Foust reports on how exploration of the planet is making a comeback after a long hiatus.
Monday, June 7, 2021

Revisiting the past’s future: ongoing ruminations about “For All Mankind”

“For All Mankind,” the television series about an alternate history of space exploration, recently concluded its second season. Emily Carney and Dwayne Day discuss some of the storylines and other topics about the series.
Monday, June 7, 2021

Review: Light in the Darkness

Two years ago, scientists celebrated the first image of a black hole, the product of a large team of scientists spanning the globe. Jeff Foust reviews a book by one of the leading scientists of the Event Horizon Telescope about that project and studies of black holes in general.
Monday, June 7, 2021

An aggressive budget for more than just Earth science

The Biden Administration had long made clear that climate change would be a priority, but what that meant for NASA’s Earth science programs was unclear. Jeff Foust reports on what we now know about new Earth science missions in NASA’s budget proposal and the implications for other parts of NASA’s science portfolio.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Should India join China and Russia’s Lunar Research Station?

China and Russia are seeking potential partners for a lunar exploration effort that may one day include a crewed base at the south pole of the Moon. Ajey Lele examines if India should consider cooperating on that effort.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The revival of the suborbital market

Blue Origin is currently auctioning the first seat on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, while Virgin Galactic took a step closer to finally beginning commercial service with a test flight last month. Sam Dinkin analyzes the implications for space tourism.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Review: Beyond

One of the times the original Space Race was truly a neck-and-neck race was when the United States and Soviet Union were preparing to launch the first people into space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a dramatic account of the months leading up to Yuri Gagarin’s orbital spaceflight.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Necessary but not sufficient: Presidents and space policy 60 years after Kennedy

Sixty years ago this week, President Kennedy made his famous speech about sending humans to the Moon, the high-water mark in presidential influence on space policy. Wendy Whitman Cobb discusses how, in the decades since that speech, presidential support for space policy has become a key factor, but hardly the only one, in shaping policy.
Monday, May 24, 2021

Red planet scare

Many hailed the landing this month of a Chinese rover on Mars as a major achievement for China’s space program. Jeff Foust reports that, in US policy circles, it’s seen more as a symbol of the growing competition perceived between the US and China in spaceflight.
Monday, May 24, 2021

Why the US should ban kinetic anti-satellite weapons

Most in the space community are aware of the hazards posed by kinetic ASAT weapons, but little has been done to address them. Matthew Jenkins argues that the United States should take a leading role since it has the most to lose.
Monday, May 24, 2021

Review: Amazon Unbound and its insights into Blue Origin

A new book goes behind the scenes of Amazon.com and its founder, Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. Jeff Foust reviews the book for the insights it offers about Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin, and why it is lagging behind competitors like SpaceX.
Monday, May 24, 2021

Redundancy now, or redundancy never?

The two companies that lost to SpaceX in NASA’s Human Landing System program have filed protests with the GAO, and a Senate bill would direct NASA to make a second HLS award. Jeff Foust reports on the cases the companies and their congressional advocates are making, and both the benefits and costs of redundancy.
Monday, May 17, 2021

Build back better

The first successful flight of SpaceX’s Starship to an altitude of ten kilometers earlier this month provided new momentum for the company’s plans to revolutionize space access. Robert Oler examines what it could mean for both NASA and other space companies.
Monday, May 17, 2021

Why the China-Russia space alliance will speed up human exploration of Mars

Chinese and Russian officials signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year that could lead to joint missions to the Moon and perhaps even Mars. John Wolfram argues this could provide new incentive for the US to remain at the forefront of human space exploration.
Monday, May 17, 2021

Review: Developing Space and Settling Space

A true spacefaring civilization needs more than low-cost access to space. Jeff Foust reviews a pair of books by the same author that examines a wide range of technologies needed for humans to survive and thrive on the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere.
Monday, May 17, 2021

Spybirds: POPPY 8 and the dawn of satellite ocean surveillance

A launch in 1969 represented a turning point in the use of American signals intelligence satellites. Dwayne Day examines how POPPY 8 marked the beginning of using such data in near realtime to support military forces.
Monday, May 10, 2021

Retaining both space policies and processes

The Biden Administration has made clear in its first months that it would retain key space policies of the Trump Administration, from Artemis to the Space Force. Jeff Foust reports it’s also embracing one of the ways the previous administration developed those policies, the National Space Council.
Monday, May 10, 2021

To catch a star: the technical and geopolitical arguments for autonomous on-orbit satellite servicing

The recent docking of a Northrop Grumman satellite life extension vehicle with an Intelsat spacecraft is another milestone for the emerging satellite servicing industry. Matthew Jenkins cautions that the field still needs to grapple with both technology and policy issues to be successful in the long term.
Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: Test Gods

Virgin Galactic may soon resume test flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle after the latest in a long series of delays. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a behind-the-scenes account of the company’s progress and setbacks, including one test pilot seeking to finally achieve his dreams of spaceflight.
Monday, May 10, 2021

Let’s take down the menace to our space dreams

Most in the space industry agree that orbital debris is a growing problem, but few agree on the best approach to solving that problem. Alfred Anzaldúa offers concepts for legal and regulatory structures that could provide mechanisms for addressing orbital debris within existing treaties.
Monday, May 3, 2021

The little Mars helicopter that could

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has made four successful flights on Mars, and the agency said last week the project will now shift into a new, extended mission. Jeff Foust reports on the achievements of Ingenuity, which have come despite past opposition to including it on Perseverance and uncertainty about when the technology might be used in the future.
Monday, May 3, 2021

Don’t make space harder than it needs to be

The Space Force has tried to justify its existence with detailed doctrinal documents. Matthew Jenkins argues that, for the public to understanding the importance of the new service, they need to first understand the importance of space.
Monday, May 3, 2021

Review: A Man on the Moon

Andrew Chaikin’s classic book about the Apollo missions is out in a new, premium collector’s edition. Jeff Foust reviews what’s new, and what’s unchanged, about this version.
Monday, May 3, 2021

With Starship, NASA is buying the Moon, but investing in Mars

NASA’s selection of SpaceX’s Starship for the Human Landing System is designed to allow astronauts to return to the Moon. Casey Dreier and Jason Davis describe how it also paves the way for human missions to Mars by both organizations.
Monday, April 26, 2021

A message of continuity from NASA’s next administrator

The Senate Commerce Committee held a confirmation hearing last week for Bill Nelson, a former committee member who is the White House’s nominee for NASA Administrator. Jeff Foust reports that Nelson wasn’t exactly grilled by his former colleagues.
Monday, April 26, 2021

Thanks, Dmitry!

Russian officials have recently suggested they could pull out of the International Space Station partnership as soon as 2025, putting the station’s future in jeopardy. A.J. Mackenzie argues that such a threat might be a good thing, based on what happened when another Russian politician made similar threats seven years ago.
Monday, April 26, 2021

Review: Not Necessarily Rocket Science

The space field has long attracted scientists and engineers, but those professions alone are insufficient for a growing commercial space industry. Jeff Foust reviews a book where one young professional describes her unconventional career path and how others can find their own way into the industry.
Monday, April 26, 2021

All in on Starship

NASA announced Friday that it had selected SpaceX as the sole company to win a contract to develop and demonstrate crewed lunar landers for the Artemis program. Jeff Foust reports on how NASA’s human space exploration program has become intertwined with SpaceX’s ambitions.
Monday, April 19, 2021

Higher burning: The Air Launched Sortie Vehicle of the 1980s

The TV series “For All Mankind” recently featured a shuttle-like vehicle launching from atop a C-5 cargo plane. Dwayne Day explores how that was based on concepts studied in the early 1980s by the Air Force for a spaceplane that could launch from a Boeing 747.
Monday, April 19, 2021

Putting SpaceX’s Starship program in the proper context

SpaceX’s Starship vehicle has attracted attention and scrutiny for its unconventional approach to vehicle development. Wayne Eleazer explains just how much it stands out in the long history of launch vehicle projects.
Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: The High Frontier

Gerard K. O’Neill is revered figure among many space advocates, but largely forgotten outside of the field. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary that attempts to revive interest in the person who, a half-century ago, popularized the concept of space settlements.
Monday, April 19, 2021

For human spaceflight, better late than never

For years, the space community has been awaiting a future with multiple providers transporting government astronauts and private individuals to space. Jeff Foust reports that, on this anniversary of the flights of Yuri Gagarin and the first shuttle mission, that future is finally arriving.
Monday, April 12, 2021

A Moonshot to inspire: Building back better in space

A key theme of the Biden Administration is to “build back better.” Alan Stern argues that it creates an opportunity for the president to offer a bold new vision for space, much as President Kennedy did six decades ago.
Monday, April 12, 2021

Why venture? A memo for the Biden Administration

The Biden Administration is continuing many existing programs in space exploration, but looks to make its own stamp on them. Derek Webber describes how space exploration activities, human or robotic, need to fall into one of several categories.
Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Institutions That Shaped Modern India: ISRO

India is set to join the exclusive club of nations with human spaceflight capabilities in the next couple of years, a sign of the country’s growing space capabilities. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a brief history of India’s space program.
Monday, April 12, 2021

The status of Russia’s signals intelligence satellites

While Russia has been making progress building up its military space capabilities in some areas, it is lagging in others. Bart Hendrickx examines long-running efforts by the Russian military to develop a series of signals intelligence satellites.
Monday, April 5, 2021

The Paper Chase: declassifying and releasing space history documents from the Cold War

Historians have taken advantage of declassified archives and other resources to reveal new details about the early Space Age. Dwayne Day talks with Asif Siddiqi to share their wish lists for documents they would like to see to learn more about those programs.
Monday, April 5, 2021

NASA revises its low Earth orbit commercialization plans

One element of NASA’s low Earth orbit commercialization strategy announced nearly two years ago had support for commercial space stations, but a lack of funding slowed that effort. Jeff Foust reports on how the agency is revamping its approach to assisting the industry on the development of stations that could one day succeed the ISS.
Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: Lunar Outfitters

NASA is embarking on the development of lunar spacesuits, more than half a century after it picked a small Delaware company to build the suits for the Apollo missions. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts the efforts by ILC to build those Apollo suits.
Monday, April 5, 2021

The growing case for active debris removal

Two satellites broke up in orbit in the last month, adding to the population of debris that poses a danger to space operations. Jeff Foust reports on the increasing call for efforts to remove existing debris, not just limit the creating of new debris.
Monday, March 29, 2021

Space Force sounds like a joke thanks to pop culture: how that could be a problem for an important military branch

The US Space Force has an important mission protecting the country’s interests in space, but to many people, it sounds like a bad joke. Wendy Whitman Cobb explains how science fiction and comedy have shaped the public’s perceptions of the new service.
Monday, March 29, 2021

Sustainable space manufacturing and design will help get us to the Moon, Mars, and beyond

Much of the focus of the space industry has been on new launch vehicles and related technologies that promise to lower the cost and increase the frequency of space access. Dylan Taylor discusses why advances in in-space manufacturing technologies are also critical for humanity’s long-term future in space.
Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Proxima

Astronauts training for long-duration spaceflight not only have to get ready for their missions but also prepare for extended separation from their families. Jeff Foust reviews a movie that examines the bonds between a mother and daughter as that mother prepares for a mission to the space station.
Monday, March 29, 2021

Back to the future

A former senator who, a decade ago, played a major role in shaping NASA’s human spaceflight programs is heading to the agency as its next leader. Jeff Foust reports on the nomination of Bill Nelson as NASA administrator and its implications for programs like the Space Launch System.
Monday, March 22, 2021

This woman’s work: “For All Mankind” and women’s pain

The second season of the alternate-history TV series “For All Mankind” moved ahead to the 1980s. Emily Carney examines how the female characters of the show deal with physical and emotional pain, often by denying it.
Monday, March 22, 2021

The politics of settling space

Exactly when, and how, humans establish settlements beyond Earth will be shaped by the politics of the era. Gregory Anderson explores some of those potential political issues and their solutions.
Monday, March 22, 2021

Review: Star Settlers

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos generate headlines for their views and actions about humanity’s future in space, but they are just the latest in a long line of thinkers and doers contemplating that subject. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines both those visionaries and their rationales for humanity’s expansion into space.
Monday, March 22, 2021

Spaceport traffic management

Cape Canaveral has been very busy recently, thanks in large part to a steady stream of Falcon 9 launches. Jeff Foust reports on how the range is working to deal with that increased launch demand and how it can cope with more users and more launches in the future.
Monday, March 15, 2021

The case for scrapping the Space Launch System

Dueling editorials in recent weeks have argued for and against the SLS. Ajay Kothari argues against the SLS because of not just its cost and schedule problems but also because there is a better approach for opening up the solar system.
Monday, March 15, 2021

Mobility and surface access lessons for the Artemis lunar lander

NASA will soon select designs for crewed lunar landers for the Artemis program. Philip Horzempa turns to proposals for past lunar lander designs for lessons that could inform the design of these new landers.
Monday, March 15, 2021

Review: Three Sigma Leadership

NASA projects are among the most technically challenging in the world, and also bring with them their share of managerial problems. Jeff Foust reviews a book written by someone who has served as a chief engineer within the agency and offers advice that can serve audiences beyond those at NASA.
Monday, March 15, 2021

Putting the SpaceX-FAA dispute in context

A SpaceX Starship prototype launched and landed—and exploded—last week, but without the drama of the regulatory dispute with the FAA seen a month earlier. Wayne Eleazer explains the origins of the rule that led to the battle between SpaceX and the FAA.
Monday, March 8, 2021

The new era of private human orbital spaceflight

It’s been more than a decade since the last private astronaut flew in orbit, but that is set to change later this year. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments from commercial Crew Dragon missions to a proposed Starship flight around the Moon.
Monday, March 8, 2021

The enduring fantasy of space hotels

A proposed rotating space hotel, complete with luxury suites and gourmet restaurants, made headlines last week. A.J. Mackenzie argues it’s just the latest in a long line of space hotel concepts whose visions failed to match reality.
Monday, March 8, 2021

Review: First Light

One of the big unanswered questions in astrophysics is when and how the first stars formed in the early universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines what we know, and don’t know, about that topic as well as related issues in astronomy.
Monday, March 8, 2021

Waiting is the hardest part

Last week, three very different space projects announced delays ranging from weeks to a year or more. Jeff Foust reports on these slips and what they say about the space industry’s struggles to stay on schedule.
Monday, March 1, 2021

Don’t move US Space Command

In January, the Air Force announced it would move the headquarters for US Space Command from Colorado Springs to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. Matthew Jenkins argues that the proposed move is unwise from both fiscal and operational perspectives.
Monday, March 1, 2021

India’s foray into the commercial space market

An Indian rocket launch over the weekend carried not just nearly 20 satellites, but also marked the beginning of a new phase of Indian space activities. Ajey Lele describes how the launch is part of a broader space commercialization effort by the Indian government.
Monday, March 1, 2021

Review: Apollo 11: Quarantine

The makers of the 2019 hit documentary Apollo 11 are back with a shorter found-footage piece on the quarantine period the crew experiences after returning from the Moon. Christopher Cokinos finds that this short film is not as interesting as its predecessor.
Monday, March 1, 2021

Review: Liftoff

SpaceX has reshaped the space industry, but in its early years it struggled to get rockets off the pad and to survive. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides the most detailed examination yet of the early days of SpaceX and the engineers who helped make the company what it is.
Monday, March 1, 2021

It only looks easy: Perseverance lands on Mars

All went according to plan last week as the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars. Jeff Foust reports that the landing was harder than it might have looked, and its success a relief for NASA’s future Mars exploration plans.
Monday, February 22, 2021

NASA tests the perseverance of some space enthusiasts

After the successful landing of Perseverance, space enthusiasts waited for a stream of raw images like those from previous missions, but instead only saw a trickle. Svetoslav Alexandrov explains why that could prove counterproductive for NASA.
Monday, February 22, 2021

The promise of return on investment does not disappear in cislunar space and beyond

One of the key problems for those seeking investment for in-space infrastructure, including on the Moon, is the long time horizons associated with any return. Vidvuds Beldavs discusses approaches for improving those prospects without relying on uncertain government programs.
Monday, February 22, 2021

In memoriam: Taylor Dinerman

Taylor Dinerman, an early and longtime contributor to The Space Review, recently passed away. Christopher M. Stone recalls his contributions to space policy analysis over the years.
Monday, February 22, 2021

Space investors head to the exits, at last

While investors have put billions of dollars into space companies in recent years, there had been few opportunities for them to get a return. Jeff Foust reports that those investors are finally seeing long-awaited exits in the form of mergers and companies going public.
Monday, February 15, 2021

Reflecting core American values in the competition for the final economic frontier

Some see a new competition emerging between the United States and China in space, with implications for the principles that will guide humanity’s future beyond Earth. Josh Carlson describes how a new report offers a blueprint for the US to win a competition like that.
Monday, February 15, 2021

Global navigation satellite systems: a Symbiotic Realist paradigm

Satellite navigation systems have geopolitical implications, from the UK’s loss of access to Galileo because of Brexit to Chinese efforts to get countries to use Beidou. Nayef Al-Rodhan argues for the need for better coordination among these satellite systems.
Monday, February 15, 2021

Review: Cosmic Careers

The growth of the space industry has opened up new employment opportunities for engineers as well as many other fields. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to see what the space jobs of the future might be, some day.
Monday, February 15, 2021

EKS: Russia’s space-based missile early warning system

Russia is in the process of modernizing its fleet of satellites used to provide early warning of missile launches. Bart Hendrickx examines what is known about those satellites and plans for future spacecraft.
Monday, February 8, 2021

How can you improve the Outer Space Treaty?

The Outer Space Treaty is the foundation of international space law, but some fear it’s not keeping up with the key issues in space. Jeff Foust reports on a panel discussion that raised various ways to modernize the treaty without abandoning it outright.
Monday, February 8, 2021

It is very cold in space: Season 2 of “For All Mankind”

The second season of the AppleTV+ series “For All Mankind” debuts later this month. Dwayne Day says the series, while set in an alternate history, gets the feel of the space program better than other TV shows or movies.
Monday, February 8, 2021

Review: The Mission

Getting approval for a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa involved a unique set of political, technical, and bureaucratic challenges. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines how the advocates for Europa Clipper overcame the many obstacles in their path.
Monday, February 8, 2021

“Space ethics” according to space ethicists

Some recent essays have posed questions regarding the ethics of space exploration. James S.J. Schwartz and Tony Milligan discuss how “space ethics” is not a new topic, and why it is important to humanity’s future in space.
Monday, February 1, 2021

The secret history of Britain’s involvement in the Strategic Defense Initiative

Historical accounts of the 1980s portrayed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as opposed to SDI until the US offered research funding to participate. Aaron Bateman examines recently declassified accounts to find that Thatcher was, in fact, a much stronger proponent of SDI from the program’s beginning.
Monday, February 1, 2021

A long journey but a short stay on Mars

NASA concepts for the first human missions to Mars projected extended stays on the Red Planet, lasting up to a year and a half. Jeff Foust reports on how the agency is instead looking to speed up that first mission with an alternative approach that spends just a month there.
Monday, February 1, 2021

What to do with that olde space station

While the International Space Station will likely continue to operate, and even be expanded, over the next decade, it will eventually reach the end of its life. Eric Choi describes some options for the ISS when it comes time to retire it.
Monday, February 1, 2021

Smallsat launch: big versus small

This month has seen both the successful debut of a new small launch vehicle as well as a new record for the most satellites launched on a single rocket. Jeff Foust reports on the competing visions for smallsat space access offered by Virgin Orbit and SpaceX.
Monday, January 25, 2021

Soyuz plans unclear as the 60th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight approaches

This milestone year for Russia’s human spaceflight program is supposed to include the first all-Russian crew to the International Space Station and the flights of tourists and even an actress. However, Tony Quine finds that there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how those flights will be carried out.
Monday, January 25, 2021

Terrain analysis for space warfare

How applicable are models of terrestrial warfare to space? D. Grant Greffey examines how one approach used for land warfare could be applied to space operations.
Monday, January 25, 2021

In memoriam: Kellam de Forest, who gave us Stardates and the Gorn

A little-known figure in the early history of Star Trek recently passed away. Glen Swanson remembers the researcher responsible for the show’s unique calendar and one of its most memorable aliens.
Monday, January 25, 2021

Review: Envisioning Exoplanets

Given the limits of even state-of-the-art telescopes, we can only guess what exoplanets that can’t be directly seen look like. Jeff Foust reviews a book that mixes the science of exoplanets with artistic interpretations of what some of those worlds might be like.
Monday, January 25, 2021

Green Run, yellow light

Saturday’s Green Run static-fire test was supposed to mark the successful conclusion of a long-running test campaign for the Space Launch System and clear the way for a launch late this year. Instead, Jeff Foust reports, the truncated test raised new questions about the vehicle and its future.
Monday, January 18, 2021

Comparing the 2010 and 2020 National Space Policies

The White House issued a new national space policy last month, the first update in a decade. Laura Brady and Charles Ellzey compare the 2010 and 2020 policies and find both commonality as well as some key differences.
Monday, January 18, 2021

A review of space strategy worldviews (part 1): 2011 National Security Space Strategy

Policies are often based on certain worldviews that may not be universally shared. Christopher Stone examines how a 2011 strategy document on national security space, intended to deter hostile activities in space, may not be effective.
Monday, January 18, 2021

A possible Biden space agenda

The incoming Biden Administration has said little about space policy so far, but faces several major issues in the field. Roger Handberg suggests a couple courses of action to address the future of the International Space Station and cislunar transportation.
Monday, January 18, 2021

European space in a time of transition

Europe is entering not just a new year but also a new era in space, with changes ranging from the UK’s departure from the European Union to a new head of the European Space Agency. Jeff Foust reports on this ongoing transition in European space programs.
Monday, January 11, 2021

What will space security look like in 2021?

Last year saw a number of developments in space security, from the rise of the US Space Force to tests of antisatellite weapons. Nayef Al-Rodhan examines the implications of these and other activities for the coming year.
Monday, January 11, 2021

Arecibo telescope’s fall is indicative of global divide around funding science infrastructure

The collapse of the giant radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in December was a loss for astronomy. Raquel Velho argues it also illustrates the financial challenges and other controversies that scientific facilities face.
Monday, January 11, 2021

Review: Extraterrestrial

In 2017, astronomers discovered an object passing through our solar system which most concluded was the first interstellar asteroid. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a Harvard astronomer who tries to make the case that the object is instead an alien artifact.
Monday, January 11, 2021

Can space bridge a widening partisan divide?

Some in the space industry hope that a new Congress, which convened this week, will pick up where the last one left off on legislation like a NASA authorization bill. Jeff Foust reports that may be difficult given a growing partisan divide that may affect even the traditionally bipartisan issue of space policy.
Monday, January 4, 2021

Catalonia’s space ambitions

In the fall, the government of the Spanish region of Catalonia announced it would form its own space agency, leading to headlines about the “Catalan NASA”. Marçal Sanmartí discusses what is driving Catalonia’s interest in space.
Monday, January 4, 2021

Why I’m flying to space to do research aboard Virgin Galactic

NASA announced in October it was for the first time funding the flight of a scientist on a commercial suborbital spacecraft. Alan Stern, that scientist, explains why the selection is a breakthrough for researchers like him.
Monday, January 4, 2021

Review: Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics

Stephen Hawking was one of the most famous scientists in the world for decades, but few people got to the opportunity to truly know him well. Jeff Foust reviews a memoir by one physicist who collaborated with him on books and, in the process, got to truly appreciate him.
Monday, January 4, 2021

From TACSAT to JUMPSEAT: Hughes and the top secret Gyrostat satellite gamble

In the late 1960s, Hughes was becoming a major player in satellite communications, but was looking to get into intelligence satellites. Dwayne Day and Nicholas Watkins describe how the company leveraged its technology for one project to combine signals intelligence and infrared missile tracking payloads.
Monday, December 21, 2020

Twilight for Trump space policy

The Trump Administration is in its final weeks, but its efforts in space policy have not been slowing down. Jeff Foust reports on the release this month of both a new national space policy and a national strategy for space nuclear power and propulsion.
Monday, December 21, 2020

Candy CORN: analyzing the CORONA concrete crosses myth

Several years ago, a news report claimed that unusual sets of concrete crosses found in the Arizona desert were calibration targets for the CORONA spy satellites. Joseph T. Page II discusses why that explanation doesn’t hold up.
Monday, December 21, 2020

Creating an inspector “mascot” satellite for JWST

The James Webb Space Telescope is one of the most complex scientific spacecraft yet built, with dozens of deployments required after launch. Philip Horzempa explains why it would be wise to have a small satellite accompany JWST to watch over those deployments and troubleshoot any issues.
Monday, December 21, 2020

Review: Cosmic Odyssey

For much of the latter half of the 20th century, Palomar Observatory was at the leading edge of observational astronomy, thanks to its 200-inch main telescope and several smaller ones. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the astronomy that those telescopes enabled, from the solar system to distant galaxies.
Monday, December 21, 2020

Big bird, little bird: chasing Soviet anti-ballistic missile radars in the 1960s

In the 1960s there was concern in the US intelligence community that the Soviet Union was establishing a new anti-ballistic missile capability. Dwayne Day describes the role the NRO played by developing satellites to look for radars that would be used by those missile systems.
Monday, December 14, 2020

Starship contradictions

Last week, a SpaceX Starship prototype flew its first high-altitude test flight, which was either a major success or an explosive failure, depending on your point of view. Jeff Foust reports on how Starship is full of contradictions.
Monday, December 14, 2020

Beyond Apollo: guiding the next Moon landing

NASA is working with companies to develop landers to return humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo. Alan Campbell explains why those new landers will have capabilities far greater than those used on the Apollo missions.
Monday, December 14, 2020

More space on the ground: trendy analogues vs. an unpleasant reality

There’s been a increase in interest in recent years in “analogue” missions, where people practice Moon or Mars missions on Earth. Ilaria Cinelli cautions that, if not properly designed, such missions can do little to advance actual space exploration.
Monday, December 14, 2020

Review: How to Astronaut

While many astronauts follow familiar paths in telling their life stories, others take a less conventional approach. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a former NASA astronaut who discusses his career through a series of short essays on various spaceflight topics.
Monday, December 14, 2020

The future of Mars exploration, from sample return to human missions

With Mars 2020 en route to the Red Planet, NASA and ESA are moving ahead with future sample return missions. Jeff Foust reports on the challenges that effort faces, along with other issues for future robotic and human Mars missions.
Monday, December 7, 2020

The cloth of doom: The weird, doomed ride of Ariane Flight 36

In 1990, an Ariane rocket failed when a cloth left behind in a coolant tube caused an engine to malfunction. Francis Castanos describes how that was just one of many strange turn of events that doomed that mission and its satellite payload.
Monday, December 7, 2020

Learning from Chandrayaan 2 for India

With the Chang’e-5 mission, China has now landed three times on the Moon successfully, while India’s only attempt crashed last year. Ajay Kothari discusses how India can learn from that failure on its next mission to the Moon.
Monday, December 7, 2020

Review: The Art of NASA

NASA and the companies working for the agency have long produced art depicting various missions. Christopher Cokinos reviews one book that compiles some of the most stunning examples of artwork involving spacecraft of the past and future.
Monday, December 7, 2020

Review: Operation Moonglow

The early Space Age featured not just a race to the Moon between the United States and the Soviet Union but also an effort to win hearts and minds around the world. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines how the US used the space program as a tool of public diplomacy.
Monday, December 7, 2020

Rolling the dice on Apollo: Prospects for US-Soviet cooperation in the Moon program

President Kennedy surprised many in 1963 when, in a UN speech, he proposed cooperating with the Soviet Union on sending humans to the Moon. Dwayne Day examines a report written not long after that speech for insights into that sudden, but short-lived, shift from competition to cooperation.
Monday, November 30, 2020

The case for Apophis

In April 2029, the asteroid Apophis will pass close to the Earth, posing no threat of impact but instead offering an opportunity for scientists. Jeff Foust reports on discussions at a recent workshop on the potential missions that could be flown during the flyby and the rationales for them.
Monday, November 30, 2020

A 4G network on the Moon is bad news for radio astronomy

NASA recently awarded a contract to Nokia to study the development of a 4G wireless network on the Moon. Emma Alexander warns that such a network might benefit exploration but could harm radio astronomy.
Monday, November 30, 2020

Chesley Bonestell and his vision of the future

Chesley Bonestell is widely known in the space community for his spaceflight art at the dawn of the Space Age, but for much of his career he was known for other kinds of artwork. A biography of Bonestell now streaming, Jeff Foust notes, offers an overview of his life and the artwork that inspired many.
Monday, November 30, 2020

Review: Black Hole Survival Guide

Odds are you’ll never encounter a black hole, but it never hurts to be prepared. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a “survival guide” to black holes as a means to help people understand these enigmatic objects.
Monday, November 30, 2020

We were heroes once: National Geographic’s “The Right Stuff” and the deflation of the astronaut

A new version of “The Right Stuff” is now on the streaming service Disney+, telling the story of the Mercury 7 in a new way. Dwayne Day discusses how the series differs from the original book and movie, and what it says about our views of astronauts and heroes.
Monday, November 23, 2020

An iconic observatory faces its demise

The National Science Foundation announced last week it would seek a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant Arecibo radio telescope after it suffered damage in recent months. Jeff Foust reports on the rationale behind that decision and the telescope’s legacy.
Monday, November 23, 2020

The space resources debate pivots from asteroids to the Moon

Five years ago this week, President Obama signed into law a bill that granted companies rights to space resources they extracted. Jeff Foust describes how that effort, intended to enable asteroid mining, has evolved to support the use of lunar resources as part of Artemis and related initiatives.
Monday, November 23, 2020

In the new spectrum of space law, will Biden favor the Moon Treaty?

How might the Biden Administration deal with issues like the Artemis Accords and rights to space resources? Dennis O’Brien examines the proceedings of a recent conference, and Biden’s views on an analogous issue, for insights.
Monday, November 23, 2020

Review: Spacepower Ascendant

This week’s launch of the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission by China will likely reinvigorate arguments of a space race between China and the United States, one that some see the US losing. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a theory of space development and applies it to that competition to offer approaches for the US to win.
Monday, November 23, 2020

From development to operations, at long last

On Sunday night, a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four NASA and JAXA astronauts lifted off on the first “operational” commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. Jeff Foust reports that the launch, and some paperwork days earlier, marked a long-awaited transition in commercial spaceflight.
Monday, November 16, 2020

Spooks and satellites: the role of intelligence in Cold War American space policy

Intelligence about Soviet efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons shaped US space policy in the 1970s and 1980s. Aaron Bateman examines what’s known from archival materials about how that intelligence is linked to US decisions on ASAT development and the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Monday, November 16, 2020

Lunar commerce: a question of semantics?

Many space advocates envision a future of commercial space activities on the Moon, but what does that really mean? Derek Webber discusses what lunar markets might have government versus commercial customers in the near and long term.
Monday, November 16, 2020

The need for US leadership in remediating space debris

While most people agree that something should be done to remove orbital debris, there’s a lack of consensus about how it should be done. Jessica Duronio argues that it’s time for the US to take a leadership role on the issue.
Monday, November 16, 2020

George Low made the hard choices on Apollo: a review of “The Ultimate Engineer”

One of the key, yet underappreciated, figures in the Apollo program was NASA’s George Low. Emily Carney and Dwayne Day review a biography of Low that also serves as a leadership primer.
Monday, November 16, 2020

Moon 2020-something

The Trump Administration called for a human return to the Moon by 2024, a goal that many were skeptical about before the election and now seems increasingly unlikely. Jeff Foust reports on how plans to return humans to the Moon might change under a new administration.
Monday, November 9, 2020

Closing the business case

As the Biden administration prepares to take office, it faces decisions on its next steps in space policy. Robert Oler discusses why it should focus on measures to close the business case for human spaceflight.
Monday, November 9, 2020

How ISRO handled the pandemic

India conducted its first launch of 2020 on Saturday after a long hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Ajey Lele argues India’s space agency did not handle the pandemic as well as its counterparts in other nations.
Monday, November 9, 2020

Russia looks for actress to steal Tom Cruise space movie thunder

Tom Cruise is reportedly interested in filming a movie on the International Space Station as soon as next fall, but a Russian project could get there first. Tony Quine examines what is known about this Russian movie set to film on the station next year, including the unusual approach the project is taking to select its lead actress.
Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: Luna Cognita

It might seem difficult to write a single definitive book about the Moon. Joseph Page II reviews one book that tries to do so, even if it spans three volumes.
Monday, November 9, 2020

A dynamic ISS prepares for its future, and its end

Today marks the 20th anniversary of a continuous human presence on the International Space Station, a milestone hailed by NASA and its partners. But, as Jeff Foust reports, it’s unlikely the ISS will be around for 20 more years, putting pressure on NASA and the space industry to make the transition to commercial space stations.
Monday, November 2, 2020

Russia gears up for electronic warfare in space (part 2)

In the conclusion of his two-part study of Russian space electronic warfare efforts, Bart Hendrickx examines proposals to conduct electronic warfare from space and efforts to protect Russian satellites from such attacks.
Monday, November 2, 2020

US space missions require bipartisan support for optimal long-term success

A potential change administrations raises questions about the future of NASA’s Artemis program and other space initiatives. Namrata Goswami says that the US needs to maintain bipartisan support for those efforts to remain competitive.
Monday, November 2, 2020

The Green New Deal for space

A Biden Administration might push for a “Green New Deal” to combat climate change. Mike Pavelec argues that spaceflight can support those efforts by opening up access to new resources and reducing the use of greenhouse gases.
Monday, November 2, 2020

Review: Star Crossed

One of the most notorious incidents in the history of NASA’s astronaut corps took place more than a decade ago when Lisa Nowak confronted a romantic rival in an airport parking lot. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a comprehensive, but not complete, accounting of what happened.
Monday, November 2, 2020

Russia gears up for electronic warfare in space (part 1)

The Russian military has been developing a series of systems designed to counter American and other satellites through electronic warfare. Bart Hendrickx describes what we know about some of these capabilities in the first of a two-part report.
Monday, October 26, 2020

Swords into plowshares: the top secret PERCHERON project

In the 1960s, a company doing work for the NRO sought permission to offer some of those spacecraft systems to NASA. Dwayne Day describes that effort, and how it ended badly.
Monday, October 26, 2020

The Artemis Accords take shape

Earlier this month seven countries joined the United States as the first to sign the Artemis Accords. Jeff Foust reports on what’s in the accords and some of the praise and criticism they’ve received.
Monday, October 26, 2020

From the Truman Proclamation to the Artemis Accords: steps toward establishing a bottom-up framework for governance in space

The signing of the Artemis Accords comes as others seek to push for alternative approaches, like the Moon Agreement. Alfred B. Anzaldúa and Cristin Finnigan discuss whether a bottom-up or top-down approach to governance works best to enable sustainable lunar exploration.
Monday, October 26, 2020

If we are going forward to the Moon, don’t go back to Apollo

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine recently suggested that the first human lunar landing since Apollo might not go to the south pole of the Moon but instead to an Apollo site. Christopher Cokinos argues that, if the south pole is ruled out, there are better places to go than somewhere we’ve already been.
Monday, October 26, 2020

Applied witchcraft: American communications intelligence satellites during the 1960s

Starting in the early 1960s, the National Reconnaissance Office flew a series of missions to perform what’s known as communications intelligence, seeking to understand patterns of communications within the Soviet Union. Dwayne Day examines what’s known about those early missions.
Monday, October 19, 2020

TAG, Bennu, you’re it

On Tuesday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will attempt to touch down on the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect samples for return to Earth. Jeff Foust reports on how this effort, already technically challenging, has turned out to be even more difficult than originally expected.
Monday, October 19, 2020

Rock-solid (Blue) Cube: Galileo and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake

Thirty-one years ago, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area, including a military space control center. Joseph Page II recounts how that facility still managed to remain operational to support a shuttle launch the next day.
Monday, October 19, 2020

Is the New Zealand commercial space success story a model for other countries?

New Zealand has in recent years developed a small but growing space industry in fields from Earth observation to launch. Marçal Sanmartí explores if the factors that supported that growth can be replicated in other countries.
Monday, October 19, 2020

Review: Canadarm and Collaboration

More than anything else, Canada’s space program is known for its series of robotic arms for the shuttle, space station, and soon the lunar Gateway. Jeff Foust reviews a book that describes how those Canadarms also helped create and shape a human spaceflight program in the country.
Monday, October 19, 2020

Semantics in lexicon: Moving away from the term “salvage” in outer space

It’s not uncommon to hear proposals for the “salvage” of derelict satellites and debris. Michael Listner explains why that term is not accurate for space, and offers an alternative.
Monday, October 12, 2020

The three administrators

Last week, three former NASA administrators gathered for a rare discussion about some of the issues facing the agency. Jeff Foust recaps the discussions on topics ranging from cooperation with China to the challenges of commercialization.
Monday, October 12, 2020

In the paler moonlight: the future’s past in “For All Mankind”

The second season of the alternative history TV series “For All Mankind” jumps forward a decade to a time when the US and USSR have dueling lunar bases. Dwayne Day discusses how the show can illuminate modern-day issues, but also has its limitations.
Monday, October 12, 2020

Space entrepreneurs need to look to the stars but keep their feet on the ground

Many in the space industry are motivated primarily by technologies, be they satellites or launch vehicles. Nicholas Borroz argues that, for space startups to be successful, they have to avoid pursuing technologies simply because they are interesting and instead use them to solve problems.
Monday, October 12, 2020

Review: Neutron Stars

Black holes may have won the Nobel Prize in Physics last week, but neutron stars are just as important to understanding the universe, and just as enigmatic as well. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines what we know, and don’t know, about these objects.
Monday, October 12, 2020

Mars ain’t the kind of place to take your kid: Netflix’s “Away”

The new Netflix series “Away” is about the first human mission to Mars. Or rather, as Dwayne Day describes, it’s more like a Lifetime movie in space, one where the Red Planet gets little more than a cameo.
Monday, October 5, 2020

Battle of the Titans (part 2)

Around the time the Air Force was moving ahead with what would become the Titan IV, it was making plans to bring back another Titan vehicle. Wayne Eleazer examines how converting the Titan II from ICBMs to space launch vehicles turned out to be more expensive than promised.
Monday, October 5, 2020

Commercial space, and space commercialization, weather the pandemic

While the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has severely hurt many industries, space has avoided the worst of those effects. Jeff Foust reports on how the industry has fared, including how new initiatives have continued amid the crisis.
Monday, October 5, 2020

Why addressing the environmental crisis should be the space industry’s top priority

The theme of World Space Week, being celebrated this week, is “Satellites Improve Life”. Loïs Miraux argues that the space industry will have to adapt to remain relevant in a future where climate change and other environmental issues play an increasingly central role.
Monday, October 5, 2020

Review: Space Is Open for Business

There’s been a surge of space startups in recent years that have benefited from investment despite uncertainty about the size and sustainability of their markets. Jeff Foust reviews a book by an advocate of, and investor in, space startups who makes the argument there’s a bright future ahead for commercial space.
Monday, October 5, 2020

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

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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