Project Prometheus: Nuclear Propulsion to the Moons of Jupiter

Nuclear power has had a long and complex history in outer space. Starting in the 1960s, both the US and USSR deployed full-on fission reactors aboard Earth-observing satellites; more recently, high-profile probes---Cassini, Curiosity, New Horizons---have all used safer but far less powerful radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which extract energy from the waste heat of decaying... Continue Reading →

Cradle of Humanity

A think piece for today: If you want to get a rise out of space nerds, bring up Mars colonization1. These days it's the subject of countless op-eds and heated Facebook discussions. The Elon Musks and Robert Zubrins of the world are fierce proponents, viewing the expansion of humanity as a matter of survival; on... Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Rockets or Spaceplanes?

Hello! I've been absent for a bit---with midterms bearing down on me, I needed a two-week break---but I'm back with a guest post from my good friend Eamon Minges, who wrote about orbital skyhooks last year. He will be making a case for horizontally launched spaceplanes, as opposed to SpaceX's vertically launched Starship model. Enjoy!... Continue Reading →

Man in Space by 1948?

On June 20, 1944, a test launch of the German V-2 missile reached an altitude of 176 kilometers, becoming the first object to cross the Kármán line1 and enter space. It was not intended to be a triumph of science; the milestone was simply a byproduct of Nazi weapons research, not recognized for many years.... Continue Reading →

Dawn: Exploring Vesta and Ceres

When I was young, Ceres and Pluto were the biggest blank spots on the map of the Solar System. Most of the other interesting places had been long since explored, from Mercury all the way out to the moons of Neptune, but when I opened my astronomy books to the two minor planets, I saw... Continue Reading →

The Decline and Fall of Mars One

Sometimes, the underdog really does win against the odds. Sometimes, a small, plucky band of visionaries, armed only with a dream, really can rise to dizzying heights and reshape the world into something better. Sometimes, their success is so profound and transformative that later generations think it was inevitable all along. Mars One was not... Continue Reading →

The X-20: America’s Space Fighter

Everyone knows space fighters are an absurd idea, right? It's practically the first rule of hard science fiction: this isn't Star Wars you're writing, so no fighters, period. They make no economic or military sense, and they're exceedingly small and vulnerable, and they're not nearly as maneuverable as you'd think because space has no air... Continue Reading →

Polyus: The Soviet Battle Station

I would like to begin this post by acknowledging a grave failure: a recent shortage of Soviet-related posts. It is simply an intolerable situation. The Soviet space program is a cornerstone of this website, but the last time I wrote anything about it was in November! So, to rectify this, I will today discuss one... Continue Reading →

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