Human Spaceflight

Stepping stone

January 2, 2019

Assuring safety to the maximum extent possible for a human mission to Mars depends in large part on proving technologies and procedures through human exploration of the moon. Once those techniques and procedures are proven, there should be no need for a human precursor orbital mission to Mars. Mike Helton, a retired risk management expert who once worked on the Apollo missions, explains.

Returning to flight

By Tom Jones

January 2, 2019

In spaceflight, failures are inevitable. If a commercial launch vehicle fails while flying NASA astronauts, how would NASA and the service provider return their systems to flight and assure astronaut safety? Veteran astronaut Tom Jones examines how NASA might cope with catastrophe.

Safety requires the right culture

October 31, 2018

Russia’s botched launch last month of an astronaut and cosmonaut to the International Space Station was good news in that no one died, and in another sense too. NASA and Roscosmos received a non-fatal wake-up call about spaceflight safety. Those involved in this brush with tragedy should dig below the proximate technical causes of the failure of the Soyuz rocket to examine cultural factors. James Oberg, a Houston-based space expert, explains. 

The perilous road to Mars

By Adam Hadhazy

October 31, 2018

Mission planners are now fully coming to grips with the twin hazards posed to astronauts by long durations in weightlessness and exposure to cosmic radiation. Scientists and engineers are working on faster propulsion technologies to cut down on trip time, as well as a suite of countermeasures, aimed at bringing the red planet safely within human reach.

Once we went to the moon

By John M. Logsdon

September 27, 2018

The circumstances that led the U.S. to undertake the Apollo 11 lunar mission 50 years ago next July, and the five landings that followed, were unique, and they won’t be repeated. Even so, space historian John M. Logsdon sees reason to anticipate that U.S. astronauts will in the next decade return to the moon.

Quantum promises

By Amanda Miller

September 27, 2018

Precise navigation will be a necessity for safe human exploration of Mars and other celestial bodies in deep space. A pair of experiments about to get underway could change the way this navigation is done, and for the better.

Moon ship rising

By Tom Jones

August 31, 2018

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is intended to fly astronauts into lunar orbit on regular visits to a planned deep-space platform called the gateway. Veteran astronaut Tom Jones recently visited the Orion assembly line at Kennedy Space Center to assess the craft’s progress and path into translunar space.

Dreaming big

By Amanda Miller

July 1, 2018

If all goes as Sierra Nevada Corp. hopes, you’ll soon be hearing a lot more about Dream Chaser, the spacecraft with a history of ups and downs. Amanda Miller toured the new Colorado facility where the first spaceflight version of Dream Chaser will be built.

An astronaut remembers John Young

By Tom Jones

May 31, 2018

Astronaut John W. Young died at age 87 on Jan. 5. He was the ninth human to walk on the moon, flew six space missions, and served as an astronaut for over four decades. Veteran astronaut Tom Jones, who trained and flew (aircraft) with Young, remembers his personality and character.

2001: Space futurism

By Tom Risen

March 30, 2018

Michael Benson chronicles the making of the Oscar-winning film 50 years later

Reaching Europa

By Tom Risen

March 30, 2018

The White House wants to steer the launch of NASA’s proposed Europa Clipper spacecraft to a commercial rocket

Exploration telepresence

By Tom Jones

September 28, 2017

Astronauts in Mars orbit could orchestrate complex exploration of the surface

Lunar thriller

By Tom Risen

August 31, 2017

“The Martian” author Andy Weir weaves science with more complex characters living in a city on the moon.

Strategizing about Mars

By Tom Risen

May 1, 2017

Scientists and policymakers talk about the best path ahead for human space exploration

Blackout busters

By Keith Button

April 17, 2017

Engineers to test a solution to re-entry communication problem

Fly when it’s safe

By Tom Jones

April 17, 2017

It would be a mistake to rush a crew aboard untried NASA vehicles

Correcting NASA’s course

By Tom Jones

January 27, 2017

While we should expect a hard look at NASA from his administration, President Donald Trump should give NASA the tools and resources it needs to open space to explorers and commerce.

Building Orion

By Tom Jones

November 22, 2016

NASA prepares its deep-space module to fly past the moon

An asteroid companion

By Tom Jones

November 21, 2016

NASA planners see opportunities for robotic and human exploration

Destination Mars

By Kristin Davis

September 13, 2016

Leonard David’s “Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet”


By John Cook

August 31, 2016

Lessons for exploration from the International Space Station