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This week in The Space Review…

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The Moon is a harsh milestone

There has been growing interest in carrying out human lunar missions prior to going to Mars, thinking that will be an easier near-term step. Jeff Foust reports that, despite these discussions, governments and companies alike have found it difficult just getting robotic missions there.
Monday, July 24, 2017

A summer update on the COPUOS long-term sustainability guidelines

An ongoing topic of discussion and debate at the international level regarding space is its long-term sustainability. Christopher D. Johnson and Victoria Samson provide an update on those discussions that have played out at United Nations meetings in recent months.
Monday, July 24, 2017

Blue “Hubble”: The Manned Orbiting Laboratory as a planetary telescope

Could the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, intended to be a crewed reconnaissance satellite, have also played a role in spacebased astronomy? Joseph T. Page II finds some hints of such an alternative mission in declassified documents.
Monday, July 24, 2017

Another view on the problems facing NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

Advocates of the robotic exploration of Mars have warned of limited funding and plans for later missions needed to carry out Mars sample return. Louis Friedman argues that the focus on sample return, at the expense of other science, has also hurt the program.
Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Spaceflight in the Shuttle Era and Beyond

The rationales supporting NASA human spaceflight efforts have changed over the decades. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines changing frameworks for supporting it during the shuttle and station programs, and implications for the future.
Monday, July 24, 2017


Previous articles:

The future (or lack thereof) of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

NASA’s ongoing program for exploring Mars with orbiters and rovers appears, at first glance, to be working well. Jason Callahan and Casey Dreier describe how the program is actually facing serious questions about its future because of funding challenges.
Monday, July 17, 2017

A legal look at Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars

Elon Musk unveiled his plans last September for establishing a permanent human presence on Mars, with a focus on the technical issues of getting people to Mars. Michael Listner examines some of the legal obstacles that such an effort would have to overcome.
Monday, July 17, 2017

Giving a push for in-space propulsion

With NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission now cancelled, the agency is looking for other ways to demonstrate advanced propulsion technologies like high-power solar electric propulsion. Jeff Foust reports on what concepts NASA is working with industry on that could find eventual use on Mars exploration missions.
Monday, July 17, 2017

Creating a spacefaring civilization: What is more important, means or motivation?

Those who remember the Apollo program may be disappointed by the lack of progress in human spaceflight in the decades since. Stephen Kostes sees promise in the growing capabilities available today to enable new, sustainable space applications.
Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: In the Shadow of the Moon

In a little more than a month a total solar eclipse will take place on a path across the United States. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers background on the history of eclipse observations as well as some advice for seeing one yourself.
Monday, July 17, 2017

In support of a forming a US Space Corps now

The House is scheduled to take up this week a defense authorization bill that includes language establishing a Space Corps within the US Air Force. Mike Snead discusses why it’s important to establish a Space Corps now, leading to a full-fledged Space Force, to protect national interests in space.
Monday, July 10, 2017

Seeking private funding for space science

As private space capabilities grow, it opens up new possibilities for doing science missions outside of government agencies. Jeff Foust reports on a recent conference that examined the prospects of, the challenges facing, privately-funded space science missions.
Monday, July 10, 2017

The last astronaut class?

NASA announced its newest astronaut class last month with a considerable degree of fanfare. A.J. Mackenzie wonders if that was the case because won’t have much need for hiring more astronauts in the years to come.
Monday, July 10, 2017

The common burden of “spacemankind”

Companies planning space resources ventures, and the countries backing them, are running into conflict with countries who see such resources as belonging to all humanity. Kamil Muzyka explores some possible solutions to this argument that can benefit companies and countries alike.
Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: Adventures in Outer Space

Can a space-themed textbook help students better learn elements of math and science? Steve Rokicki reviews a book that attempts to do just that over the course of a school year.
Monday, July 10, 2017

Close encounters of the classified kind

A month ago, a classified satellite made a series of close approaches to the International Space Station, sparking questions about whether it was coincidental or intentional. Marco Langbroek examines what is known about USA 276 and why it may have passed so close to the station.
Monday, July 3, 2017

At last, a National Space Council. Now what?

Last Friday afternoon, President Trump signed the executive order formally creating the National Space Council. Jeff Foust reports that the establishment of the council still leaves many questions unanswered about what it will do and how it will affect space policy.
Monday, July 3, 2017

Re-opening the American frontier: Recent Congressional hearings on space

A Senate committee has held a series of hearings on commercial space policy issues. Peter Garretson offers some recommendations on what Congress should, and should not, do to promote the development of new space markets.
Monday, July 3, 2017

Space colonization, faith, and Pascal’s Wager

The idea of space settlement, some have argued, is reminiscent of religion in the idea that it may represent the salvation of humanity. Sylvia Engdahl argues that faith in space colonization isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Chasing Space

As difficult as it is for someone to become a professional athlete, being selected as a NASA astronaut is far more difficult. Jeff Foust reviews the memoir of someone who managed to be both drafted by the NFL and selected as a NASA astronaut.
Monday, July 3, 2017

Beware of Mars and Bust

NASA’s focus on sending humans to Mars is widely seen as a driving goal for the agency, down to the mantra of “Mars or Bust” espoused by many Mars exploration advocates. Mark Craig warns that effort could succeed, yet not be sustainable in the long-run without tying it to more fundamental goals.
Monday, June 26, 2017

A small country’s big vision about small objects

Activity in the nascent asteroid mining industry has surged again in the last year, thanks to interest, and funding, from one small country. Jeff Foust reports on the outsized role Luxembourg is playing in building up the space resources market.
Monday, June 26, 2017

Outpost in the Sky: Skylab, the NASA Mission Reports

The Skylab program of the 1970s is often overlooked between the end of Apollo and the beginning of the shuttle program. Dwayne Day examines the legacy of Skylab as seen through the lens of a series of books reprinting official documents about those missions.
Monday, June 26, 2017

Interstellar communication using microbial data storage: implications for SETI (part 2)

In the concluding installment of his paper, Robert Zubrin examines some of the implications of the transmission of genetic material among solar systems, by nature or by intent, and the role Mars exploration would play to study that question.
Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Mars: The Pristine Beauty of the Red Planet

As NASA prepares to mark 20 consecutive years of missions operating at Mars, one mission in particular stands out. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides some of the best images of the Red Planet taken by a camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Monday, June 26, 2017

Selecting a new astronaut class

Earlier this month, NASA unveiled a new class of 12 astronauts from a record-breaking pool of more than 18,000 applicants. Jeff Foust reports on how NASA carried out that selection process and the future of both new and current astronauts from the point of view of the agency’s former chief astronaut.
Monday, June 19, 2017

Better than Paris: space solar power

The decision by the White House to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord has been widely criticized. Peter Garretson believes, though, that it opens new opportunities for the United States to invest in alternative technologies, notably space-based solar power, that can address the climate change issue and more.
Monday, June 19, 2017

Interstellar communication using microbial data storage: implications for SETI (part 1)

Most have assumed the best way to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence is to look for radio or optical communications. However, in the first of a two-part paper, Robert Zubrin argues that other formats may be more effective, with implications both for SETI and astrobiology in general.
Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunlight and shadow: putting people on Mars

The decision to send humans to the Moon in the 1960s was in a very different geopolitical environment from the one that exists today when planning human missions to Mars. Mack A. Bradley discusses how to make human Mars exploration relevant when old arguments no longer apply.
Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Apollo 8

While overshadowed by Apollo 11, Apollo 8 was, in many respects, one of the most audacious missions NASA has ever flown. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a new history of the mission.
Monday, June 19, 2017

A hidden figure in plain sight

Fifty years ago this month, the US Air Force selected the first African-American astronaut, Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. John Charles recalls Lawrence’s life and tragic death, and the gradual integration of the astronaut corps.
Monday, June 12, 2017

GSLV Mark III: ISRO’s new launch vehicle

Last week, India successfully launched the first GSLV Mark III, the country’s most powerful launch vehicle to date. Ajey Lele explains the importance of this rocket in making the country increasingly self-sufficient in space.
Monday, June 12, 2017

New challenges for planetary protection

Plans by both NASA and private ventures to send more ambitions missions, including eventually humans, to Mars create new challenges for protecting Earth life from Mars and vice versa. Jeff Foust reports on some of the issues being discussed by an ongoing committee review of planetary protection policies.
Monday, June 12, 2017

Acknowledging some overlooked satellites

Official satellite catalogs do not include everything in Earth orbit. Charles Phillips discusses why that creates a safety issue for those unlisted objects whose orbits are low enough to pose a reentry risk.
Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Aliens

The search for life on other worlds, intelligent or otherwise, has reached new peaks of interest in recent years thanks to discoveries and new initiatives. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides an overview of the topic and some of the hurdles for finding life beyond Earth.
Monday, June 12, 2017

A coming communications crunch at Mars

A new wave of missions is bound for the Red Planet in the next several years. Cody Knipfer describes how those missions could face challenges returning their data due to limited infrastructure, notably aging relays in Mars orbit.
Monday, June 5, 2017

Is it time to update the Outer Space Treaty?

One key US senator has said it’s time to examine revising the 50-year-old Outer Space Treaty to reflect modern space activities. Jeff Foust reports that many legal experts and company executives are not eager to go down that path.
Monday, June 5, 2017

Considering next-generation commercial spacesuits

Current spacesuits used for space station spacewalks may be inadequate for future applications, particularly in the commercial sector. Steve Hoeser examines a past approach for developing an alternative spacesuit that could provide a model for future efforts.
Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer is coming: albedo modification and the global temperature auction

One approach to combatting climate change is “albedo modification” through the use of a sunscreen at the Earth-Sun L-1 Lagrange point. John Hickman writes how spacefaring powers could win support for it from other nations in an approach like an auction.
Monday, June 5, 2017

Review: Fight for Space

Decades of efforts to resume human space exploration beyond Earth orbit have failed. Jeff Foust reviews a documentary that examines that history and tries to explain why it happened.
Monday, June 5, 2017

Finally, liftoff for small launchers

After years of development, and talking about launch plans, companies are now starting to launch new commercial small rockets. Jeff Foust reports on the recent progress made by those companies.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Schiaparelli did more things right than it did wrong

The European Space Agency released last week a summary of the final report investigating the crash of its Schiaparelli Mars lander last year. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that the report shows that the mission should not be dismissed as a total failure.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A counterspace awakening? (part 2)

In the concluding part of his examination of US national security space policy, Maximilian Betmann examines the technical and organizational issues that are driving a shift to a more aggressive military posture in space.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Have tuxedo spacesuit, will travel

Roger Moore, an actor whose career included playing James Bond in several films, passed away last week. Dwayne Day examines the one Bond film featuring Moore with a space theme, Moonraker.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: The History of Human Space Flight

While it’s been barely half a century since Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, the history of human spaceflight has seen its share of triumphs and setbacks. Jeff Foust reviews a book that encompasses that history, but one that focuses on the distant past than more recent accomplishments.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A counterspace awakening? (part 1)

National security space policy in the United States has quietly shifted in the last few years. Maximilian Betmann, in the first of a two-part article, examines the factors that have led to that change in approach to defending space assets.
Monday, May 22, 2017

Is “Fast Space” fast enough?

A recent Air University report recommends that the Air Force partner with industry to develop new, low-cost reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on how effective such partnerships could be given the progress industry alone is making.
Monday, May 22, 2017

Piecing the puzzle by piercing the veil: The declassification of KENNEN

Is the National Reconnaissance Office preparing to declassify one of its biggest reconnaissance satellite programs? Joseph T. Page II discusses recent evidence that suggests major details may soon come about it.
Monday, May 22, 2017

Redefining NASA: part 2

In the second installment of his three-part series, Zach Miller describes how the Cold War origins of NASA influenced the nation’s space program to this day.
Monday, May 22, 2017

Reviews: The (counter)cultural influences on NASA in the Space Age

NASA’s race to the Moon in the 1960s took place while the United States was facing much broader issues, from civil rights to Vietnam, that are often overlooked in historical accounts of the Apollo program. Jeff Foust reviews a book and a documentary that try to place NASA’s efforts in a broader perspective.
Monday, May 22, 2017

No rush for Mars

A few weeks after President Trump suggested that NASA needed to accelerate plans to send humans to Mars, agency leadership said they’ve received no direction to do so from the White House. Jeff Foust reports this is a sign that neither the government nor most companies are in a particular hurry to send humans to Mars.
Monday, May 15, 2017

Buzz Aldrin will not stop talking

At last week’s Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, Buzz Aldrin was often the center of attention, even when he wasn’t on center stage. Dwayne Day examines the attention, and overexposure, of the famous astronaut.
Monday, May 15, 2017

Stranger danger: Extraterrestrial first contact as a political problem

Searches for signals from extraterrestrial intelligences, both in fact and fiction, have often presumed that any such radio signals detected could be understood, and be friendly. John Hickman and Koby Boatright argue that those assumptions may not be warranted.
Monday, May 15, 2017

The G-Hab hotel

Partial gravity could have benefits for both future human expeditions as well as those who plan to live and work in space over the long term. Bob Brodbeck offers one proposal for a commercial partial gravity facility that could attract both researchers and tourists.
Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: ISRO: A Personal History

India’s space program has made great strides since its origins a little more than half a century ago. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides an insider’s account of the rise of the Indian space agency from someone who was there at the beginning.
Monday, May 15, 2017

It’s time for the US Air Force to prepare for preemption in space

Space is increasing being seen as a potential place of conflict should hostilities break out on Earth. Edward G. Ferguson and John J. Klein argue that, in that light, it’s time for the US think about preempting hostile actions in space rather than responding to an attack.
Monday, May 8, 2017

Revisiting America’s future in civil space

The National Academies hosted a symposium last week to revisit a report from 2009 about the future of the nation’s civil space efforts. Jeff Foust reports on what attendees thought had changed, and what had stayed the same.
Monday, May 8, 2017

Orbital ATK seeks a starring role in military space launches

Last month, Orbital ATK released new details about its planned EELV-class launch vehicle it proposes to develop, pending the award of Air Force contracts. Jeffrey Smith examines how the technical choices the company is making in its design could set it apart from competitors.
Monday, May 8, 2017

Serendipity in the space program: TDRS-1, GEODSS, and one amazing phone call

The launch of the first data relay satellite from the shuttle, more than 30 years ago, didn’t go as planned. Joseph T. Page II describes how, in the end, things turned out better than one might have ever expected.
Monday, May 8, 2017

India launches a South Asia satellite

Last week, India launched a communications satellite that the country offered as a “gift” to neighboring countries. Ajey Lele examines the significance of that project to building better relations, in space and on the Earth.
Monday, May 8, 2017

Reviews: Mars and The Mars Generation

As a conference about the human exploration of Mars convenes in Washington this week, Jeff Foust takes a look both at last year’s Mars miniseries, now out on disc, and a new documentary about the desire of teenagers to be the first to walk on the Red Planet.
Monday, May 8, 2017

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true?

Despite decades of failed efforts, true believers of space settlement still believe in that vision. Dwayne Day explores why space enthusiasts cling to their dreams despite the lack of accomplishment.
Monday, May 1, 2017

Commercial space’s policy wish list

As the space community waits to see what the Trump Administration might do in space policy, some are already developing proposals to support the commercial space industry. Jeff Foust reports on a recent Senate hearing that examined a range of proposals, from modest to wide-ranging.
Monday, May 1, 2017

Fifty years later: Soyuz-1 revisited (part 2)

In the conclusion of his two-part history of the Soyuz-1 mission, Asif Siddiqi examines the tragic landing and investigation that followed, while debunking a number of myths associated with the mission.
Monday, May 1, 2017

Loss of faith: Gordon Cooper’s post-NASA stories

The “treasure map” that Gordon Cooper reportedly made during his Mercury flight might not have any substance to it, but it’s hardly the first time the late astronaut was linked to a questionable project. James Oberg discusses how Cooper was associated with a string of such ventures later in his life.
Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Great Unknown

For as much as we’ve learned about the universe in the last century, there is even more that remains a mystery. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines seven different frontiers in science, from cosmology to consciousness.
Monday, May 1, 2017

Fifty years later: Soyuz-1 revisited (part 1)

This week is the 50th anniversary of the flight of Soyuz-1, which ended in the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. Asif Siddiqi reexamines the historical record to better understand exactly what happened on that flight.
Monday, April 24, 2017

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids

The television series The Expanse is perhaps the best representation of space settlement available in any form of entertainment today. Yet, Dwayne Day argues, it is hardly the utopian vision of human expansion into space often promoted by space advocates.
Monday, April 24, 2017

The magic MacGuffin of Mercury 9

A new series on the Discovery Channel follows a treasure hunter following a map purported to be created by Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper during his spaceflight. James Oberg explains why there’s little reason to believe there’s any substance behind that map.
Monday, April 24, 2017

International and commercial interest in the Moon

NASA’s plans for a potential return to the Moon remain up in the air, but that is not deterring others interested in lunar activities. Jeff Foust reports on discussions about human missions to the Moon by space agencies and companies at a recent conference.
Monday, April 24, 2017

Earth Day 2017: Space and science on the march in Los Angeles

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched in the streets of Los Angeles in one of more than 500 “March for Science” events worldwide. David Clow describes how concerns about climate change, and NASA’s role studying it, were among the key issues for marchers there.
Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: The Long Space Age

The current wave of billionaires putting their money into space ventures appears to be a new trend in spaceflight. Jeff Foust reviews a book that argues that it is instead a return to the models used to fund past space-related activities long before the launch of the first satellite.
Monday, April 24, 2017

An alternative architecture for deep space exploration using SLS and Orion

NASA has started to disclose more details about how the Space Launch System and Orion can be used in the 2020s to develop a “gateway” in cislunar space to support operations of a transport vehicle for missions eventually to Mars. Ari Allyn-Feuer explains some issues with that architecture and proposes an alternative, and potentially more effective, approach.
Monday, April 17, 2017

Passing in silence, passing in shadows

An updated version of a recent book about the first shuttle mission provides new details about efforts to collect images of the shuttle in orbit by a reconnaissance satellite. Dwayne Day examines those revelations as part of a broader effort to use spysats to spy on other satellites.
Monday, April 17, 2017

The Roscosmos view of the future of human spaceflight

There’s been considerable speculation about Russia’s plans for the future of the ISS as well as potential participation in missions to the Moon and Mars. Jeff Foust reports on what the head of Roscosmos recently said about those issues in a rare press conference with Western reporters.
Monday, April 17, 2017

Which comes first for a new National Space Council: organization or vision?

As the Trump Administration continues to show interest in reestablishing the National Space Council, many wonder what such an entity can achieve. Roger Handberg argues that it will depend if the council is preceded by an overarching vision for the country’s space policy.
Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Mission Control

Those who worked in Mission Control have never received the same amount of fame as the astronauts whose missions they supervised. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary that puts those who worked there at the height of the Space Race into the limelight.
Monday, April 17, 2017

Time for common sense with the satellite catalog

While the US Air Force provides the most detailed satellite catalog officially available, some objects are either missing or not updated. Charles Phillips discusses why that catalog should be made more complete, and how it could be done.
Monday, April 10, 2017

Blue Origin’s status update

The highlight of last week’s Space Symposium conference in Colorado was arguably the display of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle and an appearance by company founder Jeff Bezos. Jeff Foust reports on the status update Bezos provided on the company’s plans to send people on suborbital spaceflights, perhaps in 2018.
Monday, April 10, 2017

The small launch industry is about to be Amazoned

At a media event last week about Blue Origin’s plans, Jeff Bezos suggested the company could get into the small launch vehicle business as well. A.J. Mackenzie argues that if that happens, it spells trouble for the various other small launcher ventures out there today.
Monday, April 10, 2017

All at sea about reusability

SpaceX is talking about not only increasing their flight rates, but attempting to recover the Falcon 9 payload fairing and second stage as well. Dick Eagleson examines how efforts to prove out second stage and payload fairing recovery might proceed and looks at related logistic challenges for SpaceX as it moves to greatly increase its launch cadence.
Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: Asteroid Hunters

The threat of asteroid impacts is real, but often overhyped. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a thoughtful examination of asteroid impact risks and how astronomers are keeping tabs on the skies.
Monday, April 10, 2017

Now to make it pay off

SpaceX achieved a major milestone last week with it successfully launched a satellite using a Falcon 9 first stage that had previously flown. Jeff Foust discusses how the question is now not whether such reusability is technically feasible, but rather if it can make economic sense.
Monday, April 3, 2017

Has the space launch industry been too focused in the last 70 years?

Even recent efforts to make reusable launch vehicles have often resulted in vehicles that don’t look that dissimilar to rockets developed decades ago. John Hollaway argued that has created a tunnel vision that ignores alternative approaches to reducing the cost of space access.
Monday, April 3, 2017

Attempting a landing there: the case for a Europa lander

As NASA presses ahead with a mission to study Jupiter’s potentially habitable moon Europa from orbit, it’s also beginning planning for a follow-up lander mission. Jeff Foust reports on the state of both proposed missions, and the fiscal hurdles now facing the lander.
Monday, April 3, 2017

Redefining NASA: part 1

As the space community changes, should NASA also change? Zach Miller starts a three-part series by looking at the origins and fiscal constrains of the agency.
Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: Chandra’s Cosmos

NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory has been in orbit since 1999, but is far less well known than other space telescopes like Hubble. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a review of the science that Chandra has achieved by observing the universe at x-ray wavelengths.
Monday, April 3, 2017

A gateway to Mars, or the Moon?

As the new administration weighs its options for NASA’s human space exploration program, NASA is moving ahead with plans to develop an outpost in cislunar space to support its current Journey to Mars. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments, and how a return to the Moon might affect those plans.
Monday, March 27, 2017

Legal aspects of space resources utilization

The legal subcommittee of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is meeting this week, with space resources one of the issues on the agenda. Anne-Sophie Martin examines the current state of efforts to establish space resource legal regimes at national and international levels.
Monday, March 27, 2017

Time lords of California’s Central Coast: Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex Ten

One launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been preserved, turning it into a time capsule from the early days of the Space Age. Joseph T. Page II pays a visit to Space Launch Complex Ten.
Monday, March 27, 2017

How space settlement can challenge consumerism

If settlements are to survive and thrive beyond Earth, they will have to operate very differently from terrestrial cities. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi argues that the consumerism found in modern-day society is inconsistent with the philosophy required for future settlements.
Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Quantum Fuzz

Quantum mechanics can seem baffling to many, but it’s essential to our understanding of the universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to demystify the physics of the subatomic realm.
Monday, March 27, 2017

The cislunar gateway with no gate, revisited

If NASA and other space agencies press ahead with plans for a cislunar gateway outpost, how would it be most effectively developed? John Strickland proposes a design that emphasizes cargo and propellant storage that can support, and be supported by, a lunar base.
Monday, March 20, 2017

A farewell to ARM?

In the White House budget proposal released last week, the Trump Administration mentioned in passing that NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission would be cancelled. Jeff Foust reports on what’s known about those plans, and the limbo that statement puts ARM into.
Monday, March 20, 2017

Taking salvage in outer space from fiction to fact

The concept of salvaging spacecraft in outer space has long been a part of science fiction, but faces legal challenges if attempted in real life. Michael Listner discusses how salvage could be applied to satellites or other space assets.
Monday, March 20, 2017

The fault in our Mars: popular entertainment and the settlement of Mars (part 4)

The movie The Space Between Us, about a teenager returning to Earth from Mars, flopped at the box office earlier this year. Dwayne Day examines what went wrong with the film and if it indicates popular interest in Mars is waning.
Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: The Wanderers

Can a novel about a human mission to Mars be more than just a science-fiction epic? Jeff Foust review a “literary fiction” approach to a novel about a crew preparing for the first human mission to the Red Planet.
Monday, March 20, 2017

Spinning out of the shadows

Last month, NASA issued a request for ideas of payloads that could fly on a mysterious satellite the agency was getting from elsewhere in the government. Dwayne Day traces that satellite back to a National Reconnaissance Office program that briefly exited the black world nearly two decades ago.
Monday, March 13, 2017

SpaceX at 15

By some accounts, this week marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of SpaceX. Jeff Foust examines the company’s legacy to date in shaking up the space industry, for better or for worse.
Monday, March 13, 2017

America needs a space corps

Military space programs have suffered from the perception they are considered less important by the US Air Force than aircraft. M.V. “Coyote” Smith argues that, to elevate the importance of space, it needs its own independent service within the military.
Monday, March 13, 2017

Moon launches and circuses: seeking presidential leadership yet again

All eyes are on Washington to see what the Trump Administration might propose for NASA’s budget in 2018 and what new initiatives it might offer. Roger Handberg says that history suggests we should treat such proposals skeptically.
Monday, March 13, 2017

Road-tripping to the birthplace of space reconnaissance

The site of a classified military space facility known as the “Blue Cube” is now home to a college and a government building. Joseph T. Page II visits the former Blue Cube site to see how its legacy has been preserved there.
Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Exoplanets

As discoveries of exoplanets mount, both the variety of known worlds and the prospects that some could harbor life continue to mount. Jeff Foust reviews a book by two scientists that examines what some of these worlds might be like and how hospitable they may be to life in one form or another.
Monday, March 13, 2017

Lunar cause and effect

Last week, SpaceX announced plans for a commercial human mission around the Moon, while Blue Origin said it’s working on a lunar cargo lander concept. Jeff Foust reports on these developments, and examines if these developments are shaped by, or instead are shaping, space policy.
Monday, March 6, 2017

Human flight around the Moon: An opportunity to cooperate, not compete

Gerald Black revisits last week’s commentary about human lunar missions with a call for NASA and SpaceX to work together on their proposed circumlunar missions, rather than compete with one another.
Monday, March 6, 2017

The status of Russia’s human spaceflight program (part 3)

In the final part of his examination of Russian human spaceflight efforts, Bart Hendrickx discusses efforts by Russia, in cooperation with other space agencies, to develop a cislunar outpost that could support future exploration.
Monday, March 6, 2017

The Apollo formula

For decades, space advocates have been trying to recreate the factors that allowed the dramatic success of Apollo. Jack Kiraly identifies the key factors in the “formula” that enabled Apollo and why they may be a product of that era.
Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: No Bucks, No Buck Rogers

While new commercial space ventures have gotten a lot of attention recently, the business is still dominated by traditional satellite communications and related companies. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the current state of the industry and how it can transition to a new state of growth.
Monday, March 6, 2017

The status of Russia’s human spaceflight program (part 2)

In the second part of his comprehensive assessment of the state of Russia’s human spaceflight program, Bart Hendrickx explores efforts in recent years by Russia to develop new crewed spacecraft and launch vehicles to support missions beyond Earth orbit.
Monday, February 27, 2017

The risks and benefits of accelerating crewed SLS missions

NASA announced earlier this month it is studying the possibility of putting astronauts on the first SLS/Orion mission, which currently is set to fly without a crew. Jeff Foust reports on the details of the study and some of the issues NASA will likely to encounter.
Monday, February 27, 2017

Human flight around the Moon: a worthy goal, but using the wrong vehicles

If sending people back to the Moon is a good idea, should it be done with SLS and Orion? Gerald Black argues that it makes more sense to send humans back to the Moon using commercial vehicles arguably further along in their development.
Monday, February 27, 2017

A radically easier path to space settlement

The promise of space settlements has remained just that because of the extremely high costs of establishing these outposts beyond Earth orbit. Al Globus offers an alternative approach that he believes could be much more feasible by sticking closer to home.
Monday, February 27, 2017

To the Moon, Uncle Sam!

As the debate continues about whether NASA should redirect its human space exploration program back to the Moon, another question is how to carry out such missions. Ajay Kothari says that such missions make sense provided they involve reusable launch vehicles.
Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: The Final Mission

Changing programs and restricted budgets often force NASA to make tough decisions about what older historic launch pads and other buildings it should maintain. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines some of the issues associated with “space archeology” of NASA facilities, on Earth or on the Moon.
Monday, February 27, 2017

New life for an old pad

On Sunday, a Falcon 9 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A, the first launch from the historic pad since the end of the shuttle program. Jeff Foust reports on the significance of the launch both for SpaceX’s near- and long-term plans, and for KSC’s efforts to work with industry.
Monday, February 20, 2017

The status of Russia’s human spaceflight program (part 1)

Russia’s human spaceflight program is suffering from the country’s broader economic downturn. In the first part of a series, Bart Hendrickx examines the effects those problems are having on Russia’s participation on the ISS and plans for a future space station.
Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidential space leadership depends on the enabling context (part 2)

In the concluding part of his examination of presidential leadership in space policy, Matt Chessen uses the lessons of history to examine whether a Trump Administration could provide strong leadership for space, and whether such leadership is even desirable.
Monday, February 20, 2017

When is it time to turn off a satellite?

Satellite operators seek to extend the lives of their spacecraft as long as possible, but run the risk of failures that could lead to in-orbit breakups. Charles Phillips offers a couple of case studies where operators face tough decisions about when to shut down their satellites.
Monday, February 20, 2017

The threat to ISRO’s position as a premier smallsat launch provider

An Indian rocket last week launched more than 100 satellites, the vast majority of which came from US companies. Ajey Lele warns that, despite the technical success of that mission, policy changes could make it harder for India to maintain its position in the smallsat launch market.
Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Thrust Into Space

Fifty years ago, aerospace engineer Max Hunter published a book about the technical issues with launching spacecraft into Earth orbit and beyond. Jeff Foust reviews a reissue of that book to see how those assessments have stood the test of time.
Monday, February 20, 2017

Black ops and the shuttle (part 1): On-orbit servicing and recovery of the HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite

During the development of the space shuttle in the 1970s, the National Reconnaissance Office examined how it could use the shuttle to do more than simply launch its satellites. Dwayne Day examines what is known about proposals to adapt the HEXAGON satellites for the shuttle, including servicing.
Monday, February 13, 2017

Recalculating risk

NASA has grappled with the risks associated with human spaceflight for decades. Jeff Foust reports on how one top NASA official wants to reexamine how NASA calculates and communicates risk for crewed spacecraft.
Monday, February 13, 2017

Launch failures: new discoveries

For a while, it appeared that engineers had found all the ways a launch vehicle could fail. But, as Wayne Eleazer explains, new vehicles have created new failure modes, and even new categories of launch failures.
Monday, February 13, 2017

Presidential space leadership depends on the enabling context (part 1)

Space advocates continue to look back at President Kennedy as a model of presidential leadership in space policy. In the first of a two-part essay, Matt Chessen discusses what factors made Kennedy effective, and how they translated—or didn’t translate—to later administrations.
Monday, February 13, 2017

Build a Moon mall and make the Moon pay for it

President Trump’s preferred method of communication seems to be Twitter. Sam Dinkin provides ten tweet-sized recommendations on how to make space great again.
Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Gravity’s Kiss

It’s been a year since scientists announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves, opening a new window on the universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a look behind the scenes as the LIGO team works to interpret the discovery and make the historic announcement.
Monday, February 13, 2017

Remembering Eugene Cernan

Last month, Eugene Cernan, the last human to date to walk on the Moon, passed away. Anthony Young recounts Cernan’s spaceflight career, including the missions leading up to Apollo 17.
Monday, February 6, 2017

Getting back to the historic sequence of opening our space frontiers

Space advocates often talk about opening the space frontier, but is NASA really working to do so? Steve Hoeser argues that US space policy should be revamped to emphasize not just exploration of space, but establishing a growing economic presence there.
Monday, February 6, 2017

It’s vital to verify the harmlessness of North Korea’s next satellite

North Korea’s space program, interconnected to its missile development efforts,remains cloaked in secrecy. Jim Oberg, one of the few Westerners to get a glimpse of that effort, warns that the US should be cautious of any future satellite launch attempts.
Monday, February 6, 2017

The science and spectacle of the Great American Eclipse

In a little more than six months, a total solar eclipse will stretch across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. Jeff Foust reports on some of the planning to deal with the logistical issues of such an event, as well as the science some hope to get out of the eclipse.
Monday, February 6, 2017

G20 agenda: International cooperation in space

The actions of the Trump administration led some to wonder if the US will turn away from international partnerships, in space and elsewhere. Vidvuds Beldavs suggests that space cooperation be a topic for this summer’s G20 summit.
Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: Amazing Stories of the Space Age

Decades of spaceflight have created plenty of headlines in the history books, but also many other lesser-known tales. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a grab bag of those more obscure, but still interesting, stories.
Monday, February 6, 2017

Black ZEUS: The top secret shuttle mission that never flew

In the 1970s, the National Reconnaissance Office considered developing an imaging payload that would fly on space shuttle missions. Dwayne Day reveals what is known about that effort thanks to newly-declassified documents.
Monday, January 30, 2017

Tumult, continuity, and uncertainty

The first week of the Trump Administration has been hectic, and a cause for concern among many scientists. Jeff Foust reports on the changes that have been made, what’s stayed the same, and the underlying concerns about science in the new administration.
Monday, January 30, 2017

Adapter in the rough

Sometimes space history research can involve tracking down a long-forgotten object. John Charles describes his quest to find a piece of hardware from the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program.
Monday, January 30, 2017

Three principles to constructively engage China in outer space security

How should the Trump Administration develop a space policy that can effectively deal with China? Michael Listner offers three principles that he believes should guide the new administration’s space policy.
Monday, January 30, 2017

Why the US and Russia should work together to clean up orbital debris

Relations between the US and Russia have been contentious in recent years, although space has been mostly free of those tensions. Al Anzaldua and Dave Dunlop argue that a means of improving relations between the countries, and solving a key space-related problem, is to cooperate in space debris cleanup.
Monday, January 30, 2017

The Outer Space Treaty at 50

Fifty years ago this week, the Outer Space Treaty was formally opened for signature. Christopher Johnson discusses how the treaty took shape despite the US and USSR having sharply differing views on issues, like the role private actors should play in space.
Monday, January 23, 2017

Satellite breakups and related events: a quick analysis

Certain families of spacecraft in sun-synchronous orbit appear susceptible to in-orbit breakups. Charles D. Phillips examines the record of those groups of spacecraft and what could be causing those problems.
Monday, January 23, 2017

Asteroid Discovery

When NASA announced its selections of the next Discovery missions earlier this month, many were surprised that the agency chose two asteroid missions. Jeff Foust reports on the missions that were selected and what NASA is saying about why it chose those missions.
Monday, January 23, 2017

An engineer’s view of what low-cost, reusable, commercial passenger space transportation means

While companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are making steps towards low-cost reusable launch vehicles, they fall short of what’s been done in other modes of transportation, such as aviation. Mike Snead describes what space transportation attributes should be pursued in federal policy to make society truly spacefaring.
Monday, January 23, 2017

Why the space resources section of federal law is invalid

A controversial provision of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, passed in 2015, gives US companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other celestial bodies. Justin Rostoff argues that the law, as written, is in violation of international treaty.
Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: Explore/Create

Richard Garriott is known to the space community as the private citizen who flew to the ISS in 2008, but to computer gamers he is a legendary pioneer. Jeff Foust reviews his memoir that touches on both aspects of his life, including details of his long effort to get to space.
Monday, January 23, 2017

Back to business(es)

Four and a half months after a pad explosion, SpaceX returned the Falcon 9 to flight with the successful launch of a batch of Iridium satellites Saturday. Jeff Foust reports on the effort to resume Falcon 9 launches, and the other issues and upcoming milestones for SpaceX in the coming year.
Monday, January 16, 2017

Red zeitgeist: popular entertainment and the settlement of Mars (part 3)

The success of the National Geographic Channel series about Mars exploration has been enough to warrant a second season. Dwayne Day takes another look at that series and the overall interest in the Red Planet, in both fact and fiction.
Monday, January 16, 2017

A human spaceflight program for the new administration

There’s no shortage of advice about what the incoming Trump administration should do about space policy. A white paper from a space advocacy group argues that it should closely tie human spaceflight to commercial efforts.
Monday, January 16, 2017

When robots trespass

US law grants rights to commercial asteroid miners for the resources they harvest, but how can that law be enforced? Thomas Simmons examines one issue with the law, dealing with the fact that such mining is likely to be done by robots, not humans.
Monday, January 16, 2017

Is the purpose of deep space exploration pure science or proving humanity’s worth?

Should be space exploration efforts be driven by a quest for science, or the expansion of humanity beyond Earth? Shalina Chatlani warns of the consequences of overlooking “scientific reality” in favor of realizing human visions.
Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: The Politics and Perils of Space Exploration

Some space advocates believe that the public would offer greater support for space exploration if they only knew more about what’s going on in space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to provide such an education, but is ultimately flawed.
Monday, January 16, 2017

A taste of Armageddon (part 2)

After Apollo 11 went to the Moon, US spy satellites collected images of a failed Soviet launch of its N-1 rocket. Charles Vick and Dwayne Day describe how the US intelligence community knew about the failure even before those images were returned.
Monday, January 9, 2017

Should NASA build spacefaring logistics infrastructure?

There’s a recent, renewed push for developing space infrastructure, including a recent commentary endorsed by Jeff Bezos. Mike Snead supports that idea, but doesn’t believe it should be the responsibility of NASA to do so.
Monday, January 9, 2017

Fixing the US space exploration program

The future of NASA’s human spaceflight program is one of the key concerns of the space community as Donald Trump prepares to take office. Roger Handberg describes why that future will likely require greater cooperation with other nations.
Monday, January 9, 2017

Decision time for the Thirty Meter Telescope

Construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes atop a Hawaiian mountain has been stalled by protests and legal disputes. Jeff Foust reports that the observatory’s partners may soon have to make a decision about staying in Hawaii or moving to an alternate site.
Monday, January 9, 2017

Mars is awful

Mars is widely seen as the long-term destination for human spaceflight, but is it the best place for people to go? J. Morgan Qualls that there’s much more to be done in cislunar space and elsewhere before thinking about going to Mars.
Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Incredible Stories from Space

NASA’s fleet of space science missions is familiar to many space enthusiasts, although the people who work on them often are not. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides an overview of a number of those missions and profiles the people working on them.
Monday, January 9, 2017

Is creating a National Space Council the best choice?

The incoming Trump Administration is considering re-establishing the National Space Council, based on campaign statements. John Logsdon recounts the checkered history of the council and examines if it is the best mechanism for coordinating space policy
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A taste of Armageddon (part 1)

In February 1969, US analysts were expecting the Soviets to launch a circumlunar mission of some kind in a last-minute bid to beat the Americans to the moon. Charles Vick and Dwayne Day describe the intelligence that went into that assessment, and also what they missed.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The path to the infinite economy

What the incoming Trump Administration will do in space policy remains a topic of speculation in the space community. Andrew Gasser describes how the new administration should focus on public-private partnerships to create a more effective space program.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How China’s seizure of a naval drone could set a precedent for nabbing a satellite in orbit

Last month, the Chinese navy seized a US Navy robotic submersible and held it for a brief time. David Chen argues that episode could provide a precedent for China to do something similar with a satellite.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More Trek, less Wars

A new Star Wars movie has attracted large audiences since its debut last month. Dwayne Day, though, suggests that it’s Star Trek that offer the stronger connections to spaceflight, and a much-needed optimistic philosophy about the future.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Review: Apollo Pilot

Among the Apollo-era astronauts, among the least well known is Donn Eisele, who flew only one mission and passed away before he could publish his memoirs. Jeff Foust reviews a book that pieces together at least a partial story about his life and flying on Apollo 7, based on drafts of a book he started decades ago.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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