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The combination of the Vietnam War and the Great Society programs put considerable pressure on NASA’s budget, but President Johnson couldn’t afford to be seen conceding the Space Race to the Soviets. In the conclusion of his two-part article, Alan Wasser explains how the Johnson Administration used the Outer Space Treaty to defuse the race, with consequences that can still be felt today.
The lowest energy destination is not necessarily the highest profit destination. Sam Dinkin makes a prediction about the order of solar system tourism opportunity development.
Earlier this month retired Air Force General Bernard Schriever passed away. Taylor Dinerman reviews Schriever’s career and his role in shaping space activities in the US Air Force.
What’s the best way to build a space station: a few launches of large components or many launches of smaller ones? Marshall Martin examines the issue and proposes a solution that utilizes both large and small launch vehicles.
Theresa Hitchens responds to a previous essay on space weapons by Taylor Dinerman.
One of the most influential figures in the early history of the American space program was Lyndon B. Johnson. Alan Wasser reviews the role that the senator and president played in building up a Space Race he would later be forced to halt.
Since Heinlein, price per kilogram has been the gauge of the potential for near-term economic development of space. Sam Dinkin responds to Joe Latrell’s comments on his paper.
Recent news reports have reignited the debate over weapons in space. Taylor Dinerman looks at history and argues that weapons—and battles—in space are inevitable.
There have been a lot of changes in the last year in the space field. Dwayne Day helps keep score with a list of what’s hot and what’s not in 2005.
Last month a key but little-known engineer received an honorary doctorate from the University of Illinois. James Oberg chronicles the contributions of John Houbolt to the Apollo program and its relevance to future exploration efforts.
While few will disagree that the ISS has been an expensive endeavor for NASA, the effectiveness of the project has been the focus of countless debates. Dwayne Day seeks to cut through the rhetoric by examining how well the station has met the goals established for it since the project’s inception.
There are radically different competing views about the cost and technology of future space access. Sam Dinkin argues an information aggregation market is the most effective way to predict what will happen.
The long-term success of the Vision for Space Exploration is dependent on winning over a broad spectrum of politicians, including those who are skeptical of the effort. Taylor Dinerman sees one model for success in the early history of SDI and the gradual acceptance of missile defense.
A collection of images of a full-sized mockup of Transformation Space Corporation’s proposed Crew Transfer Vehicle, unveiled last month at the 2005 International Space Development Conference.
The potential development of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons has become a hot topic of late. Dwayne Day examines the history of ASAT efforts and notes that cost and capability concerns, more than policy and treaty constraints, have dictated the development of such systems.
A recent controversial paper argues that developing cheap access to space is more difficult than what most believe. Joe Latrell notes that, if anything, that paper understates the difficulty of reducing the costs of space access.
Fast forward a few years and there will be piracy on the Moon. Sam Dinkin looks for analogs in maritime piracy laws.
In the last week voters in France and the Netherlands have turned down the European constitution. Taylor Dinerman believes that this could also signal problems for proposed ambitious European military space efforts.
After a flurry of concern last December, astronomers found that asteroid 2004 MN4 has no chance of colliding with the Earth in 2029. Jeff Foust reports that one former astronaut is taking note of a potential 2036 impact risk posed by the same asteroid, and is using it to raise awareness of general policy issues associated with near Earth objects.
Some worry that NASA’s focus on the Vision for Space Exploration could lead to cuts in space science programs. Taylor Dinerman explains why an understanding of solar activity and space weather is critical to the success of the exploration program.
Sometimes the only thing more fascinating than seeing a rocket lift off is to see a rocket spectacularly explode. Dwayne Day reviews a two-disk DVD collection of historical launch and explosion footage.
For nearly four decades, space activities have been governed by the Outer Space Treaty. However, Michael Listner argues that changes in technology and economic conditions now call for a reconsideration of the treaty to prevent it from hindering the utilization of space.
Solar power generation on the Moon is limited by the month-long day-night cycle on the Lunar surface. Sam Dinkin wonders if a Lunar railroad, mounted with solar cells, is a way around the problem.
A recent New York Times article raised the issue of weapons in space. As Dwayne Day explains, the media often has problems distinguishing between reality and fantasy on this topic, and in the process misses the real problems with military space programs.
Of all the space tourism ventures that have formed in recent years, perhaps the one most closely watched has been Virgin Galactic. Jeff Foust reports on some new details about the business two company executives recently provided as they make plans for commercial suborbital spaceflights and beyond.
Space journalists influence public thinking on space. Sam Dinkin challenges space journalists to use that influence.
New NASA administrator Michael Griffin is shaking some things up in his first weeks in office. Taylor Dinerman examines the choices Griffin faces and how they will affect the future of the space agency.
The passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act last year was a major victory for space entrepreneurs, but industry advocates have no intention of resting on their laurels. Jeff Foust reports on the regulatory and legislative issues that are now the focus of attention in the industry.
Export control regulations have proven to be a major hindrance for the US space industry. Taylor Dinerman explains how this problem developed and why current US policy is a failure.
Lotteries played an important role in the colonization of Virginia. Sam Dinkin reviews the history and current legality of lotteries for colonization.
NASA’s DART mission is the latest example of a technology program at NASA that failed entirely or in part. Eric Hedman examines why technology programs in general fail, and what NASA can do to improve the odds of success in the future.
While the attention surrounding the Ansari X Prize and SpaceShipOne has died down, many companies are ramping up their efforts to develop their own commercial suborbital vehicles. Jeff Foust offers an update in the first of a two-part report from the recent Space Access conference.
The generation of engineers that will lead the return to the Moon and voyages beyond is in college today. Anthony Young reports on a competition designed to stimulate interest in aerospace engineering and exploration.
Sometimes, finding the appropriate name for a mission can be as great a challenge as designing the spacecraft itself. Alan Stern recounts the efforts he and his team faced coming up with a name for the first spacecraft mission to Pluto.
While the Bush Administration has taken steps to implement a missile defense system, it has stopped short of developing a space-based system. Taylor Dinerman believes the administration should stop heeding opponents of “space weaponization” both within the US and abroad and press ahead with an effective space-based defense.
While high-resolution commercial remote sensing satellites are not new, they have yet to find a killer app. Sam Dinkin proposes some applications and systems that could change the situation.
After the X Prize-winning flights of SpaceShipOne in Mojave last year, attention now shifts to the planned X Prize Cup in New Mexico. Charles Vane reports on plans for the Cup and the development of a new commercial spaceport in the state.
For many space entrepreneurs the critical gatekeeper to success is right at home. Sam Dinkin interviews Carrine Greason, the wife of XCOR CEO Jeff Greason.
Apollo is best known for successfully sending humans to the surface of the Moon and back, but original plans for those missions were far more robust. Taylor Dinerman argues that NASA must be held to the goal of establishing a permanent lunar base to avoid repeating history.
Flat markets have resulted in limited opportunities for commercial launch providers. Douglas Jobes describes how proper government exploration incentives could stimulate the launch industry.
Last week Burt Rutan was the star witness of a Congressional hearing on commercial space markets. Jeff Foust reports on Rutan’s vision for suborbital spaceflight and the regulatory concerns he has.
The holy grail is $2,000 or less per kilogram to orbit. Sam Dinkin argues that propulsion economics are good enough now to develop space.
The US government is looking for more effective ways to communicate with the Middle East and other parts of the world. Taylor Dinerman suggests that satellite TV, coupled with the right programming, may be the ideal approach.
Future commercial suborbital spacecraft may require their passengers to don pressure suits for at least part of the flight. In his latest column, Dr. John Jurist explores the benefits and disadvantages of these suits.
Tax day is a good day to ponder all policies that promote spacefaring. Sam Dinkin compares and contrasts them.
Long before “Failure is not an option” became a tired catchphrase, it was the philosophy of mission control that assured the success of Apollo 13 and other NASA missions. Jeff Foust reports on how legendary flight director Gene Kranz recalled how teamwork and leadership shaped mission control in those formative years, and its relevance for the future.
Is NASA approaching a “tipping point” that could lead to a bold new future of exploration? Eric Hedman argues that it is, but worries that it might be coming too late to be truly successful.
David Criswell is the guiding light for lunar solar power. Sam Dinkin interviews the brightest visionary space development thinker of our generation.
The Centennial Challenge has announced prize for beaming power from Earth to tether climbers. Sam Dinkin wonders if the ultimate prize is for beaming power the other way.
Delays in naming a private consortium to fund and operate Galileo have raised questions about the economics of the European satellite navigation system. Taylor Dinerman believes that the reasons for developing the system may now be purely political.
There are many reasons why humans should travel and live in space, but which reasons are the best? Michael Huang prioritizes the three major reasons why humans can and must establish a presence off-planet.
Unless a deal is reached in the next year, American astronauts will no longer have access to Soyuz spacecraft for ISS missions. Taylor Dinerman fears that the ISS partners are headed for a train wreck that could jeopardize the entire ISS venture.
NASA’s current plans call for 28 more shuttle missions before the shuttle is retired at the end of 2010, a pace that may not be sustainable. Dwayne Day explains why NASA may face some difficult decisions as it winds down the shuttle program.
In the third and final part of his extended interview with David Urie, Sam Dinkin asks the engineer about Michael Griffin, certification versus licensing issues, and what the future holds in store for Rocketplane Ltd.
The events of the last few years have reshaped the space field, and raised questions about the future. We review one book that examines the options for the future of space exploration.
The loss of Beagle 2 was an embarrassment for Europe, but a failure that offered key insights regarding how not to run a planetary mission. Dwayne Day studies the Beagle 2 investigation report to distill the key lessons for future ESA missions.
If the commercial launch market has considerable overcapacity, why are so many near-term manifests full? Jeff Foust explores this and other conundrums of the industry that executives discussed at a recent conference.
In the second part of his extended interview, Sam Dinkin talks with Rocketplane Ltd. chief engineer David Urie on his experience with VentureStar, planning the operations of Rocketplane’s vehicle, and working with his team.
The Defense Department is grappling with the development of a new constellation of radar satellites. Taylor Dinerman examines the technological and operational challenges such as system faces.
David Urie was chief engineer for VentureStar and, now, Rocketplane. In the first part of an extended interview with Sam Dinkin, Urie talks about the operational and engineering issues associated with the Rocketplane XP.
Two score and five years after X-15, it’s no longer about science. Sam Dinkin provides a backgrounder on Rocketplane Ltd.
Changes within NASA have raised the possibility of closing one or more of the agency’s field centers. Taylor Dinerman argues that such a move would hurt the agency culturally.
Commercial passenger spaceflight requires tradeoffs between engineering and human environmental conditions. In his latest column, Dr. John Jurist explores how much oxygen passengers need, and how to provide it.
Michael Griffin, with a background in academia, government, and business, looks to be the renaissance man NASA needs at the helm to guide the implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration. Jeff Foust explores what Griffin has said on the record regarding space exploration and related topics.
With government RLV development efforts today scattered through several agencies and at very low levels, NASA and the Defense Department run the risk of repeating mistakes should they ramp up RLV work in the future. Taylor Dinerman makes the case for centralizing government RLV work in an organization patterned on the SDIO.
NASA’s current space exploration plans rely largely on incremental improvements to existing technologies. Eric R. Hedman argues that both NASA and commercial space ventures would be better served by the incorporation of advanced “transformational” technologies.
NASA’s cancellation of a shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope stands out as one of the most controversial decisions the space agency has made in recent memory. Jeff Foust reports on some new insights into how NASA reached that decision in the final months of 2003.
One of the critical decisions NASA faces for the Vision for Space Exploration is what kind of heavy-lift launch capability should be developed. Taylor Dinerman outlines why such a capability would be useful and the various options for achieving it.
Virgin Galactic has gotten a lot of media attention in recent months for claiming it has signed up 7,000 customers. Sam Dinkin takes the media to task for not more carefully examining Virgin’s claims.
Developers of suborbital spacecraft must strike a balance between engineering constraints and the need to give passengers the correct atmospheric pressure and mix of gases. In the latest installment of his ongoing series, Dr. John Jurist examines these atmospheric requirements.
While NASA and its field centers are relatively diverse and inclusive today, that wasn’t always the case. We review Astro Turf, a book that provides a personal and historical examination of how JPL has evolved over the years.
The International Space Station has been beset with attitude-control issues during spacewalks that may—or may not—be related to Russian spacesuits. James Oberg reviews the problems and the effect they have had on US-Russian space relations.
A month ago ESA and the British space agency BNSC publicly released the report into the failure of the Beagle 2 mission. In the first of a two-part report, Dwayne Day discusses why the long delay in releasing the report was a mistake.
There has been an upsurge in entrepreneurial space efforts of late, but not all business plans are created equal. Thomas Olson, Paul Contursi, and David Livingston offer some ways for prospective investors to weed out dubious business proposals.
Is NASA throwing good money after bad at the shuttle? Sam Dinkin conducts a cost-benefit analysis.
A potential Iranian nuclear weapons program has become a major foreign policy issue in recent months. Taylor Dinerman explains the links between this and Iran’s space efforts.
The emerging suborbital spaceflight industry won a major victory last year with the passage of HR 5382, but regulatory issues remain. Jeff Foust reports on how the industry is looking to best regulate the safety of passengers and crew, even as some members of Congress consider additional regulatons of their own.
Perceptions are critical to enabling spacefaring. Sam Dinkin takes a week off from just writing about it and puts his money where his mouth is.
Last week kicked off the first in a series of hearings on NASA’s proposed 2006 budget. Taylor Dinerman notes that the biggest challenge for the agency’s exploration vision may be figuring our how to ensure access to the International Space Station.
Mars has long held our fascination, and the recent series of missions to the planet has only added to the public’s interest. The Space Review examines one new book that examines that fascination with a combination of text and images.
It has been over a year since NASA unveiled the Vision for Space Exploration, yet there remains considerable uncertainty about the role of the Crew Exploration Vehicle in implementing that plan. Taylor Dinerman says that NASA has to make clear what it needs the CEV to do if the exploration initiative is to succeed.
HR 656, a bill that would increase safety standards for commercial human spaceflight over the objections of many in industry, was introduced last week. Sam Dinkin thanks the sponsor for being a good foil.
A key question for many new space ventures is how to deal with the regulatory and medical issues associated with human spaceflight. In the first of an occasional series of articles, Dr. John Jurist looks at how space tourism companies may look to the medical field when dealing with risk assumption.
This month marks the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the distant planet Pluto. Alan Stern describes how Pluto has evolved from a misfit planet to the vanguard to a whole new class of objects, and how the US has played a leading role in its discovery and future exploration.
One of the biggest challenges facing NASA is fixing the “cultural” problems that led to two shuttle accidents. James Oberg offers an insider’s account of how seemingly small problems can have far more serious consequences.
The concept of space colonies at L5 was popular in the 1970s, but has since faded from view. Sam Dinkin reexamines the idea by looking to the Moon as a stepping stone.
One of the challenges throughout history, both on Earth and in space, has been determining the balance between exploration and commerce. In the conclusion of his two-part series, Stephen Ashworth makes the case for how the public and private sectors can work together in space.
Recent scandals and other problems may lead to procurement reforms within the Defense Department. Taylor Dinerman discusses whether procurement reform would be effective, and how it might affect military space programs.
A gallery of images of the new James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center.
Two years ago the shuttle Columbia was lost, triggering an investigation into the accident and its root causes. Dwayne Day offers an insider’s perspective on the work of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and its leader, Harold Gehman.
NASA and its international partners reaffirmed their commitment last week to finishing the International Space Station. Taylor Dinerman notes, though, that those partners in particular remain puzzled about NASA’s long-term plans for the station.
Plans for the exploration and development of space fall into two general paradigms: government and commercial. In the first of a two-part series, Stephen Ashworth examines the benefits and drawbacks of each.
The Moon needs some promotion and investment. Sam Dinkin argues that a key step towards this is to treat the Moon as not any ordinary moon.
While considerable attention has been given to how to send humans to Mars, there has been less thought about what humans would do once they got there. Jeff Foust examines some of the Martian exploration concepts under consideration that try to combine the best aspects of robots and humans.
While NASA grapples with a new nuclear power initiative, Project Prometheus, an older and more powerful alternative exists. Sam Dinkin looks at the feasibility of relaunching Orion.
Events like last week’s solar storms demonstrate the need to develop shielding for future human missions beyond the Earth. Nancy Atkinson reports on one proposal that uses magnetic fields to protect astronauts from hazardous radiation.
The US missile defense program is facing potential budget cuts in the near future, putting the future of some programs in question. Taylor Dinerman makes the case for replacing one existing boost-phase effort with a space-based alternative.
ESA’s Huygens probe successfully landed on Titan on Friday, but the landing could have been spoiled by a communications flaw not discovered until after launch. James Oberg describes the nature of the problem and how engineers developed a solution.
Biosphere 2, recently put up for sale, was once hailed as a testbed for technologies that could enable space colonization. Dwayne Day examines how the project devolved into fodder for B-grade movies.
Who needs a lunar elevator? Sam Dinkin takes a wild ride on a slingshot and a night train.
Last week SpaceX announced it would buy a minority stake in smallsat manufacturer SSTL. Taylor Dinerman explains why this may be the beginning of many such deals among smaller, emerging space companies.
On Friday ESA’s Huygens probe will arrive at Saturn’s moon Titan, but it will be hours or days before ESA releases any data from the probe. Daniel Fischer explains why ESA is making a big mistake by not turning Huygen’s arrival into a live event.
In the aftermath of the devastating tsunami last month relief workers are turning to spacebased services to coordinate their efforts. Taylor Dinerman describes the role telemedicine is playing in India and elsewhere.
Advocates of private investment in space ventures have pushed for the government to provide tax credits to investors. A.J. Mackenzie believes this approach won’t work because it does nothing to stimulate limited markets for such ventures.
Project Orion and terraforming are two extraordinary space visions. Sam Dinkin gives two radical cases for technology transfer to achieve energy independence.
Two highlights of 2004 were Congressional approval of NASA’s budget and passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act. James Muncy describes why these events may true breakthroughs for humanity’s future in space.
Galileo, the European satellite navigation system, has been a point of contention between the US and Europe. Taylor Dinerman notes that the program is now driving a wedge between Britain and the rest of the EU.
Last month’s brief alarm about asteroid 2004 MN4 and a possible collision with the Earth has raised new questions about how to communicate impact risks to the public. Tom Hill proposes a potential alternative to an existing scale of asteroid impact hazards.
The Moon is about to be the new frontier for settlement. Sam Dinkin stretches the analogy with the Old West.
NASA’s long history of planetary missions has resulted in an impressive collection of imagery. Anthony Young reviews a book that presents the best of these images in an impressive fashion.