Boeing and SpaceX are poised to make 2019 the breakthrough year in the nearly decadelong effort to get the U.S. back in the business of launching astronauts to the space station and bringing them home. Amanda Miller looks at the stakes and steps ahead for the Commercial Crew program.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.