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Concerns about growing anti-satellite capabilities of countries like China and Russia have led some to suggest the US step up its offensive space capabilities. Edward Ferguson and John Klein make the case that a more defensive stance to those threats will be more effective in the long run.
In the 1960s, President Johnson received intelligence briefings about the development of what would be known as the N-1 rocket, but what did he actually see? Charles Vick and Dwayne Day discuss declassified images of the N-1 as presented in those briefings.
In the conclusion of an examination of the future of America’s presence in low Earth orbit, Cody Knipfer explores some of the initiatives NASA has underway to potentially add commercial modules to the ISS, and the need for a plan to transition from the ISS to commercial space stations.
Several companies continue to make progress on small launch vehicles even as other suffer setbacks. Jeff Foust examines whether the next year will see some of those efforts finally take flight, and whether smallsat developers are interested in using them.
The incoming administration may be interested in redirecting NASA back to the Moon, arguably to develop infrastructure needed for future Mars missions. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that such an approach would only delay, not support, the goal of sending humans to Mars.
Human activity is changing the Earth, even if those changes were not the intent of that activity. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a planetary scientist and astrobiologist who examines the need to make deliberate changes to Earth to offset the damage, drawing in part upon our knowledge drawn from studies of our solar system.
While all the ISS partners have now agreed to extend operations of the station through at least 2024, the station’s life is finite. In the first of a two-part essay, Cody Knipfer examines some of the issues associated with the future of the ISS and potential commercial successors.
At a meeting of ministers of its member nations earlier this month, ESA got most of what it asked for, with the exception of funding for an asteroid mission called AIM. Jeff Foust recounts what happened to AIM and why ESA’s leader is not yet giving up on the mission.
As various space agencies make plans for missions to the Moon, Mars, and outer solar system, Venus—once considered Earth’s twin—looks neglected by comparison. Jeff Foust reports on how there’s increased enthusiasm for more missions to Venus, including decisions that could be made within weeks.
Should space-based solar power be part of the Trump Administration’s space strategy? Mike Snead makes the argument that it’s essential for the next administration to start work on a technology that can assure long-term energy independence.
Long before rocket girls were calculating hidden figures for NASA, women were supporting the research of astronomers at Harvard Observatory. Jeff Foust reviews a book that brings new light to that work as both the field of astronomy, and women’s roles in it, evolved at the turn of the 20th century.
A National Geographic Channel series currently airing offers a fictional look at a future Mars expedition, mixed with present-day documentary segments. Dwayne Day explores whether the series does much to make the case for the human settlement of the Red Planet.
As NASA continues to efforts to eventually send humans to Mars, studies are showing a wide range of health issues that long-duration spaceflight poses to astronauts. Roger Handberg wonders of those issues, and the increasing capabilities of robotic spacecraft, may close the window on human spaceflight.
Two of the recipients of awards from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation last week were a space agency executive and a former Disney “imagineer.” Jeff Foust reports on a discussion between the two on innovation, risk taking, and a potential emerging “inflection point” for commercial space.
The use of terms like “microgravity” and “zero gravity” can lead some to erroneously conclude that there is no gravity at all in orbit. Philip Backman proposes an alternative term to better understand that environment.
Space advocates have for years lobbied for massive NASA budget increases, without success. Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes another case for a significant NASA funding increase to benefit the nation, but with few details about how it would be carried out.
A new wave of movies and television shows depicts humans exploring, and settling, Mars. In the first of a two-part essay, Dwayne Day examines one upcoming movie that mixes teen romance with Mars settlement.
Prior to the election, the National Space Society convened a group of experts to discuss what the next administration should do in space. That group provides here a set of five recommendations about how the government can bolster commercial space initiatives.
Since the election, much of the attention space policy has received has focused on the future of NASA programs and the agency’s leadership. Jeff Foust reports there are commercial space issues for the incoming administration to contend with as well.
A long-running challenge for advocates of human Mars exploration is building up and sustaining public interest in such missions. Joseph Smith argues that the best way to do that might be to go all-in on robotic Mars missions.
While mining of the Moon or asteroids may still be many years in the future, actions by the United States and, just recently, Luxembourg, are laying the regulatory framework to support such efforts. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the space mining field with a particular emphasis on its compliance with international accords.
In two years, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope should launch on a mission that could revolutionize astronomy. Jeff Foust reports that, after a near-death experience five years ago, work on the telescope remains on track to keep that launch on schedule.
The importance of artificial gravity research has generated some discussion of late, particularly after NASA officials downplayed its importance. Steve Hoeser why dismissing artificial gravity could be done at our peril.
In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy helped lead America to the Moon by the end of the decade. Bryant Mishima-Baker argues that, instead of seeking support today for a long-term Mars initiative, we should attempt to accelerate the timetable as was done in the 1960s.
John Gresham, an author a range of military books who worked with Tom Clancy, among others, recently passed away. Dwayne Day recalls his life and his ties to space.
Most human spaceflight advocates believe that, ultimately, humans will go to and live on Mars. Jeff Foust reviews a book that argues that a better destination for humans beyond Earth lies much further out in the solar system.
To the surprise of many, Donald Trump won the presidential election last week, and is now ramping up his transition effort. Jeff Foust reports on what that means for space policy, including who could be the next NASA administrator.
Discussions of space settlement often focus on the technical issues to sustain a human presence beyond Earth. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi notes that anthropological issues can’t be ignored if human settlements are to thrive.
While the efforts of Blue Origin and SpaceX to develop reusable launch vehicles are well known, they’re not the only RLV programs in the world. Antoine Meunier discusses projects in Europe and Asia to develop reusable launchers.
The recent Falcon 9 pad accident is a reminder that launch failures are still a part of the space business, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Anirudh Rastogi and Kshetragya Nath Singh examine the contractual issues that take such failures into account.
National Geographic Channel is premiering a new series about Mars exploration that mixes fictional depictions of future missions with real accounts of present-day research. Jeff Foust reviews a book that is a companion to the series that sticks to fact over fiction.
As a long presidential campaign winds to a close, the major presidential candidates have finally offered some space policy details. Jeff Foust reports on what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have said about space, and how their positions in some cases may not be as far apart as one might expect.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, it’s possible, and perhaps necessary, to develop a more visionary space policy. A group of Air Force officers propose their own policy that they believe is vital to American leadership in space in the 21st century.
A bill proposed as part of a space advocacy effort this year would promote the development of low-cost reusable launch vehicles with a prize. Steve Hoeser describes why he believes that concept would work far better than previous RLV initiatives.
As Orbital ATK returned its Antares rocket to flight last month, the company has also been working on new launch vehicle concepts. Jeffrey Smith examines what’s known about the company’s next-generation launch vehicle, and how it could serve markets beyond ISS resupply.
A Princeton University introductory astronomy course taught by three astronomers, including one quite famous one, has become the basis of a new book. Jeff Foust reviews the book to see what you can learn about astrophysics without stepping into an Ivy League classroom.
Satellite observers have been puzzled for years by the motions of one particular classified US satellite. Marco Langbroek explains how recently published revelations about the purpose of that satellite help explain its movements, and those of other classified spacecraft.
Concerns about the effect of weightlessness on astronauts flying extended missions could conceivably be mitigated simply with some form of artificial gravity. Yet, Jeff Foust reports that for a variety of reasons, neither NASA or space companies seem interested in developing spacecraft that provide at least partial gravity.
A passage in a recent book about the development of GPS mentions an early 1970s meeting over a holiday weekend at the Pentagon known as “Lonely Halls.” Richard Easton examines historical documents to study just how relevant that meeting was to what became GPS.
India recently revealed for the first time that it used intelligence from its satellites to carry out a “surgical strike” against an alleged terrorist camp. Vidya Sagar Reddy discusses how India’s views towards the military use of satellites has evolved over the history of its space program.
A long-running flight simulator for space missions recently got another update. Bruce Irving reviews the changes to Orbiter and how it stacks up against other options, like Kerbal Space Program.
Last week, ESA’s Schiaparelli spacecraft attempted to land on the surface of Mars and, based on the available evidence, crashed. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, despite the failure of the landing itself, the overall mission can still be considered a success in preparing for future Mars missions.
One reason that ESA’s recently-concluded Rosetta comet mission got so much public attention was a carefully crafted outreach effort. Chris Petty examines how ESA used cartoons and social media to explain a complex comet mission.
While the US Air Force has long shouldered the role of issuing warnings of potential satellite collisions in orbit, there are efforts to hand over at least some of that work to the FAA. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts and the issues they raise, including what exactly “space traffic management” should mean.
Elon Musk announced last month an Interplanetary Spaceship that he aims to produce for $200 million each in the 2040s. Sam Dinkin considers what the financing options are.
Mike Massimino is better known than many former astronauts thanks to his social media presence and sitcom cameos. Jeff Foust reviews his new book where he recounts his life before and after becoming an astronaut.
NASA’s current plans for human Mars missions don’t involve reusable spacecraft, but such systems may be essential to long-term exploration and settlement. John Strickland explains how one concept for a reusable Mars lander could make human Mars missions more sustainable.
As Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic make progress on their suborbital spacecraft, some wonder who will be the first to enter commercial service. Jeff Foust reports that neither company appears to be in a race with the either for that achievement.
Advances in technologies can have effects far beyond their original field. Steve Hoeser discusses how certain technologies can have great leverage, and explores one potential technology that could affect spaceflight.
Spaceflight has been the subject of episodes of several contemporary TV series, usually not coming off very well. Dwayne Day, though, examines one such episode that may be the worst of them all.
There’s been a strong link throughout history between real spaceships and those imagined in science fiction tales. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an illustrated history of both classes of vehicles.
SpaceX is the latest venture to propose sending humans to Mars as some kind of private effort. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker explore if there is, in fact, a commercial case for human Mars missions.
One key element missing from Elon Musk’s announcement of his Mars settlement plans is how people will live once they get to the planet. Sam Dinkin looks at some options for those considering buying a ticket to the Red Planet.
Companies are proposing the deploy networks of hundreds or even thousands of satellites in the next several years. Jeff Foust reports that these systems pose new concerns about the growing orbital debris environment in low Earth orbit.
A technology called the blockchain promises to revolutionize electronic commerce on Earth. Vidvuds Beldavs describes how the blockchain and related technologies can advance the development of a true space economy.
Efforts to search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations entered a new chapter last year with a $100-million private donation. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines both the long, and sometimes difficult, history of SETI projects as well as the motivation for scanning the skies.
Last week, at long last, Elon Musk offered details about the rockets and spacecraft he sees SpaceX developing to send large numbers of people to Mars. Jeff Foust reports on the details of his plan, the spectacle of the speech itself, and questions yet to be answered about his proposed effort.
From time to time, someone proposes that the Pentagon and NASA more closely cooperate in various areas of spaceflight. Wayne Eleazer notes that this idea is hardly new, and had rarely resulted in any real savings for either military or civil space efforts.
The launch of an Indian PSLV rocket last week featured one twist from previous missions, by placing its payload of satellites into two different orbits. Ajey Lele argues this is another step in making India competitive in the global launch market.
The end of the Rosetta mission last week marked the beginning of something else: the release of a new album by composer Vangelis inspired by the comet mission. Dwayne Day examines the long-running links between Vangelis and other electronic music composers and spaceflight.
This week marks the 12th anniversary of the final flight of SpaceShipOne, capturing the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the history of that effort, as seen by many of its key players, leading up to that final flight.
Elon Musk will unveil his plans for human missions to Mars this week, but he’s not the only person talking about Mars exploration. Jeff Foust reports there’s a new emphasis on Mars mission planning, as other companies and organizations propose alternative approaches for getting humans to the Red Planet.
Getting space settlement put into law as a goal for US space policy has been a long-running goal of space advocates. Cody Knipfer argues that there are encouraging signs of progress.
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, among others are developing the technical capabilities to establish private enterprise space settlements. Alan Wasser points out that actually establishing space settlements would be infinitely easier to fund if they could be as potentially profitable as their other businesses.
An upcoming movie highlights the lives of African American women who worked as “computers” for NASA and its predecessor at the dawn of the Space Age. Jeff Foust reviews the book the movie is based on, which examines the many challenges these women faced and overcame.
In the conclusion to his series about the development of signals intelligence satellites by the US during the Cold War, Dwayne Day looks at one class of spacecraft that provided key data on Soviet activities for decades.
Last week, Blue Origin unveiled its planned orbital launch vehicle, New Glenn, that likely will be able to place payloads weighing dozens of metric tons into low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust notes it’s the latest development in heavy-lift vehicles that include programs by NASA and SpaceX.
The pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket early this month during preparations for a static fire test was rare, but not unprecedented. Wayne Eleazer examines some of the previous pad mishaps in the history of the Space Age.
Last week marked the second anniversary of NASA’s award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports that, despite initial hopes that one or both vehicles would be ready by the end of 2017, delays until late 2018 are looking increasingly likely for both.
As SpaceX continued to investigate a mysterious pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9, United Launch Alliance flawlessly launched another NASA mission last week. Jeff Foust reports on those developments and their implications for both companies.
Formerly the head of Arianespace, Jean-Yves Le Gall currently runs the French space agency CNES and soon will take over the presidency of the International Astronautical Federation. Théo Pirard interviews Le Gall about his priorities at both CNES and the IAF.
An aerospace flight demonstrator can help prove technologies and business cases for full-scale vehicles, if they’re selected properly. Steve Hoeser describes the various types of flight demonstrators and how they should best be used to further a vehicle development effort.
The search for life beyond Earth has attracted a lot of public interest, but where is the best place to look for such life? Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an astrobiological survey of the solar system and beyond.
An explosion during a test last week destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload, and damaged its launch pad. Jeff Foust examines the implications of the accident for SpaceX and other companies and organizations.
Much of the discussion about human missions to Mars has focused on the technical challenges of such missions. Joelle Renstrom argues that the various ethical considerations of such missions should not be ignored.
On Thursday, a NASA mission to collect samples from an asteroid is scheduled to lift off. Jeff Foust reports on goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which range from understanding the origins of the solar system to paving the way for future asteroid mining efforts.
There are no shortage of reasons why humans should travel to Mars. Eric Hedman describes how the effort needed for such an expedition could catalyze technological development and education, helping improve conditions for people around the world.
Even after the US won the race to the Moon, American intelligence monitored Soviet development of the N-1, and reported on it to President Nixon. Dwayne Day discusses what Nixon learned about the N-1 based on recently declassified intelligence briefings.
Christine Anderson originally signed on to run New Mexico’s Spaceport America for a year; she stepped down earlier this month after five and a half years on the job. Jeff Foust examines the state of the spaceport, including efforts she led to diversify the spaceport’s customer base.
While some planetary missions readily share the images they take with the public, others are more reticent to do so. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, in an era of instant access to information, all missions should be more open in releasing images.
A small museum in Albuquerque contains a collection of meteorites, including some from Mars. Joseph Page provides an overview of the museum and its exhibits.
NASA is trying to promote commercial activities in low Earth orbit to help build demand for commercial facilties once the ISS is retired. Jeff Foust reviews a free ebook published by the agency with papers examining the economic issues with that effort.
After the Pentagon cancelled the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program in 1969, it faced the question of what to do with the hardware already built for it. Dwayne Day examines what’s known from declassified documents about that effort, including the transfer of mirrors for use in an observatory.
Part of the effort by NASA to develop commercial crew transportation systems involves human-rating the Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Anthony Young discusses that effort to prepare both the rocket and the launch site for missions to fly astronauts to the space station.
There’s growing interest in using CubeSats for a variety of scientific, commercial, and other applications. However, Jeff Foust reports that CubeSat developers are grappling with the issue of reliability of such satellites, which suffer higher failure rates than larger spacecraft.
Some in the Middle East are concerned that Iran, now free of sanctions linked to nuclear weapons development, might become more aggressive in the region. Michael Listner argues that this should provide an impetus for other nations there to develop comprehensive, coherent space policies.
Europe has been a major partner on the International Space Station program, even though it’s the last to formally endorse an extension of station operations through 2024. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recaps the first decade of European expeditions to the ISS, with many details but few deeper insights about the overall effort.
As the number of smallsats under development grows, so does the number of options for getting those satellites into space. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to both develop dedicated small launch vehicles as well as make greater use of rideshares on larger rockets.
New technologies are allowing high altitude balloons to perform applications once reserved for satellites. Alan Stern describes the new capabilities such balloons offer and how they are augment or replace space capabilities.
In these turbulent times, can space exploration help unite society? Zach Miller argues that lessons from the Apollo era, combined with the growth of commercial space ventures, show what is possible.
Gus Grissom was the second American in space, but most people’s perceptions of him are shaped by the negative portrayal of him in The Right Stuff and his death on Apollo 1. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to offer a more complete biography of the man and his contributions to NASA.
There is an ongoing debate about whether humans should first return to the Moon before setting out on expeditions to Mars. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that human lunar missions should stand or fall on their own merits, rather than be justified as Mars precursors.
Germany will hold the presidency for the G20 nations in 2017. In an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the International Lunar Decade Working Group suggests she include space development, including a “Moon Village,” on the agenda of issues the G20 will take up in 2017.
Regardless of who wins the election, the next administration is likely to take a close look at NASA’s major exploration programs. Jeff Foust reports that while NASA says those efforts are making good progress, GAO reports found potential cost and schedule issues with them.
An article a space website reprinted from a Russian news service appears to have extensively borrowed, without attribution, from another article. Dwayne Day examines this latest case of space plagiarism and why this is a serious problem.
Who will be the customers of commercial space stations that companies, and NASA, envision being developed within the next decade? Jeff Foust reports that there are a number of potential markets for them, including an interesting new effort in space manufacturing.
If you could get the presidential candidates to answer one question about their prospective space policies, what should it be? Jeff Foust argues that it might to get them to explain why they believe NASA should have a human spaceflight program.
Forty-five years ago this week, the Apollo 15 astronauts held a brief, private ceremony to memorialize the astronauts and cosmonauts who had died in the last decade. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the lives of those men and the circumstances of their deaths.
NASA hopes that, by the time it’s ready to retire the International Space Station in the 2020s, one or commercial space stations will be ready to support researchers and others using the ISS today. Jeff Foust reports that one step towards a commercial station may be a commercial module on the ISS.
In the second and final part of his examination of literature set in cislunar space, Ken Murphy reviews novels from the 1990s to the present, and looks at some overall trends in literature.
A recent study suggests that the Moon has played a bigger role than previously thought in making the Earth habitable. Peter Kokh says this, plus the Moon’s role in our future, should influence what we consider to be “Earth-like” worlds.
The concept of mission control is one that has been an essential part of spaceflight since the beginning of the Space Age, but not all mission controls are alike. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines differences in mission controls based on country and types of missions.
Scott Kelly returned to Earth earlier this year after spending nearly a year on the International Space Station. Jeff Foust reports on what he said his experience there was like, and how a study involving his twin brother may provide new insights into the effects of long-duration spaceflight.
One of the fundamental questions of human spaceflight is why humans should go beyond Earth at all. Eric Hedman examines human spaceflight from the perspective of the survival imperative, and what research needs to be done to ensure that humans can, in fact, survive on other worlds.
Stories about activities in cislunar space have been staples of science fiction for decades. In the first of a two-part review, Ken Murphy examines some of the cislunar science-fiction novels in the first few decades of the Space Age.
The National Air and Space Museum reopened their Milestones of Flight gallery at the beginning of this month to mark the museum’s 40th anniversary. Jeff Foust explores what is new about the gallery, and what’s missing.
Two SLS to Jupiter: The motivations and ramifications of the Europa mission’s launch vehicle mandate
At the direction of Congress, NASA is not only working on a mission to send an orbiter and lander to Jupiter's moon Europa, it's also planning to launch them on the Space Launch System heavy-lift rockets. Cody Knipfer examines both the benefits and drawbacks to this approach.
Venture capital investment, once a rarity for entrepreneurial space companies, is becoming increasingly commonplace. Jeff Foust reports on some of trends that both investors and companies see in the market, and how long that surge of investment might last.
One year ago this week, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, providing our first close-up views of that distant world. Dwayne Day examines what's changed, and what hasn't, in the year since the spacecraft encounter.
As Iridium prepares to launch its next-generation satellite system, it's worth remembering that, 16 years ago, the original satellite constellation was on the verge of being deorbited. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts how one retired businessman led the effort that eventually saved the system.
Seattle is working to make a name for itself as a hub for the entrepreneurial space industry. Jeff Foust reports on what companies and local officials think make the region stand out, and what obstacles it faces.
During the 1960s, the United States ramped up its development of signals intelligence satellites, and found new uses for them as well. Dwayne Day describes how satellites developed for identifying radars in the Soviet Union also played a role in the Vietnam War.
A new white paper by the Atlantic Council offers proposals to revise the current US national security space policy. Christopher Stone argues that the new proposal is in many ways similar to the current policy, and has the same flaws.
The International Space Station is an outpost for research and preparation for future exploration, but is it also an architectural landmark? Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes that argument as it provides a history of the station’s development.