In the context of last year’s final flight of NASA’s space shuttle, critics and supporters of the federal agency speculated about the future of human space flight — and the role of government in such endeavors. Private industry and several entrepreneurs have sought for many years to create a role for non-governmental space flight. Now one of the leaders in the aerospace industry is projecting a future for human exploration of the solar system with a far less astronomical price tag than those that have accompanied governmental space programs.
Many were surprised when the prediction by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of potential major disruptions of power grids, Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and internet communications as a result of a solar storm failed to materialize. Most were likely totally unaware of the threat.
It was in the fall of 1962 that President John F. Kennedy set forth his vision of seeing Americans successful land on the Moon and return safely by the end of the decade, but an important step on the race to the Moon had already been taken seven months earlier. On February 20, 1962, a 40-year-old Marine Corps pilot from the state of Ohio became the first American to orbit the Earth. Now, 50 years later, former Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) still insists he never saw himself as a hero, but a nation that was in the depths of the Cold War at the time of his flight aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft would have disagreed.
The field of private space ventures is gaining a new competitor, Stratolaunch Systems, the brainchild of former Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. According to press reports, Allen is prepared to commit at least $200 million of his own fortune to the creation of a launch vehicle he believes will allow for inexpensive launches of satellites into low Earth orbit.
A flawless launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on November 26 has NASA’s latest mission to Mars safely on its nearly nine-month journey to the red planet. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, a rover that has also been given the name Curiosity, is the American space agency’s most advanced rover to date, and its mission is nothing less than to continue the search for life on Mars and prepare for future human exploration.
As NASA prepares for the November 25 launch of America’s next mission to Mars, the recent experience of the joint Russian-Chinese Phobos-Grunt probe (pictured at left) is a poignant reminder of how many missions to the Red Planet have ended in failure.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has taken the somewhat unusual step of declaring that the Earth most certainly will not be destroyed by a massive solar flare. But for adherents of various versions of “end of the world” theories related to the ancient Mayan calendar, it is unlikely NASA’s efforts will do any good.
A classic example of the blind faith in scientific speculation required by Scientism is on display in a discussion of the role of comets in the origin of life.
A new competitor in private industry’s “space race” has drawn the attention — and financial support — of a major airline. Space Expedition Curaçao (SXC) hopes to eventually shuttle human beings between distant points on the Earth in less than two hours, and it appears that Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) is betting that SXC will accomplish that goal.
After days of media hype, NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell into the Pacific Ocean without — it would seem — having harmed so much as the proverbial fly. The satellite had orbited Earth for 20 years without receiving much public attention. Launched by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991, UARS had quietly gone about its work until its inevitable, inexorable descent hurtled the six-ton satellite into the public spotlight at the very hour of its death.
In 1958, Congress created NASA, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. The rationale for America's first venture into outer space was national security: to insure that the country could defend itself against any threat from space. The Soviets appeared to have a head start through Sputnik and similar short space flights. The United States quickly realized the invaluable military benefits of satellites and developed "smart" weapons using geosynchronous communication systems to deliver ordnance precisely. Thus, all the first astronauts were military officers.