Human Space Flight

Human Space Flight

“In half a century, space exploration has achieved goals that matched the dreams and speculations of us BIS space cadets in the 1930’s! We must rekindle that spirit in a new generation of 21st century astronauts, to seize the opportunities that are now opening up for low cost access to space” Sir Arthur C. Clarke (September 2007)

As the world’s longest established space exploration society, being formed by British visionaries like Arthur C. Clarke in the 1930’s, the BIS is committed to ensuring that the UK joins with the rest of the industrialised world and takes part in human space activities.

This webpage provides information regarding the current British human space flight campaign. It explains what can be done in terms of lobbying approaches to government, national space policy makers and relevant organisations in the UK. It also provides information about a possible low-cost approach to getting “Britons in Space”, via access to the International Space Station (ISS).

The campaign has been supported by a host of celebrities and scientists, including Brian Blessed, Myleene Klass, Harriet Scott, the late Sir Patrick Moore, Dr. Michael Foale, the late Prof Colin Pillinger and Dr Heather Couper.


The BIS is delighted that in May 2009 the European Space Agency (ESA) appointed Major Tim Peake of the UK as a new “European” astronaut. Now Tim has flown on Expedition 46/47 to the ISS in December 2015, via Soyuz, which is excellent for the UK.

Also, in November in 2012 the UK’s Science Minister David Willetts confirmed at the ESA Ministerial meeting that £12 million would be put into the ELIPS microgravity research initiative and £16 million will help support UK involvement in the NASA Orion crewed spacecraft for the future.

However, despite being one of the world’s largest economies, the UK still has no large scale manned space presence or interest in human space industry activities. Although the UK does manufacture some unmanned satellites (via companies such as EADS Astrium and SSTL), there is still only a limited support to human space research or its related space infrastructure.

Whilst the rest of Europe, the US, Russia, China, Japan and many emerging industrialised nations (for example Brazil, Malaysia, South Korea and India) all explore space through human approaches, the UK has missed out – this is against the national good.

Following a 2006 revue of the perceived scientific and educational value of human spaceflight, the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) resolved that the UK would strongly benefit from a modest astronaut presence. This view follows the independent report of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in October 2005, where Prof Frank Close and his team drew attention to the wide ranging scientific and cultural benefits of human space flight – they recommended that the UK committed more money to the human exploration of space, at least to a figure in line with the UK’s partners in the European Space Agency (ESA).

Other recent scientific studies have also recognised potential human space benefits for the UK. In 2003, the independent Microgravity Review Panel recommended the UK join microgravity research on the International Space Station (ISS). In May 2004, the Cross Research Council Report called for the UK to join the manned aspects of the ESA’s Aurora programme, one day leading to the human exploration of the Moon, Mars and the solar system.

Recent Expert Recommendations to Government

Following representations by many in the space community, in July 2007 the Commons Select Committee recommended that the UK government abandon its ‘in-principle’ block on UK human spaceflight missions.

In September 2007, the UK Space Exploration Working group (SEWG) issued its wide-ranging report on space policy and firmly endorsed the “pro-UK astronaut” case. It effectively endorsed the BIS low-cost campaign proposals (see below) by advising the then BNSC (now the UK Space Agency, “UKSA”) and the Space Minister that a modest UK astronaut corps could be established and that flights to the ISS could begin by 2010-12 via Soyuz spacecraft.

This “Space Exploration Review” is now built into the UK Space Strategy 2008-2012. The BNSC’s specialist panel reported back to the subsequent Minister, Lord Drayson, and the Secretary of State John Denham, with options for the future including the expansion of the UK civil space budget by a modest amount to engage in human spaceflight activity. This approach needs to now be implemented by government financial commitment via the recently formed (2010) UKSA.

  • The UK government’s investment in space is about one quarter of that of equivalent European nations like Germany and France.
  • The UK has the second largest aerospace industry, but only 3% is space-related (Europe is 10-15% and the US is 25%).
  • The only UK astronaut, Helen Sharman, flew into space (in 1991) with no government backing – the mission was paid for by the then Soviet Union.
  • NASA astronauts Michael Foale, Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick were British born. Michael Foale has joint nationality but Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick had to become American citizens to fly into space. Space tourist Richard Garriott is a US citizen though he was born in the UK.
  • During the 2008 ESA astronaut selection, over 850 applicants (10% and the 4th largest of the ESA total) were from the UK.
  • Drug research on the ISS could potentially lead to bone and muscle atrophy treatments for older people on Earth.
  • UK science and technology education desperately needs boosting – physics graduate courses have dropped by 17% in ten years. Human space flight is very inspirational for young people.

Low Cost British HSF Project

The modest BIS/SEWG programme involves a £60-75 million “precursor” programme over 5 years. It would establish a small but viable UK astronaut corps of 3-4 scientist-astronauts. Two science-education 10-day missions could then visit the ISS as part of a microgravity research programme, via Soyuz spacecraft. Important science research, perhaps including biomedical, climate change monitoring and materials experiments linked to schools and Universities activities, could then occur.

After the flights, the UK scientist astronauts could undertake inspirational schools education outreach work, helping to reverse the trend of declining science and technology course take-up. The cost involved would only require an increase of the UK space budget, currently about £240 million, by about 5% a year.

This low cost astronaut programme could be expanded for the future, eventually leading to committed British human involvement with the return to the Moon plans of ESA, NASA deep space Orion missions and the international exploration of Mars and the Solar System.

Campaign Action

The following can be done to help change current UK policy:

    Contact the UKSA ( [email protected] ) and the Science Minister, Jo Johnson ( [email protected] ) and ask that the current UK government takes the advice of the BIS, the Select Committee and the SER report and reverses the current very low funding of UK human space flight.

Wastewater recycling project could someday improve human space flight

Human space flight

Wastewater recycling project could someday improve human space flight
by Michaela Jarvis for Embry-Riddle News
Daytona Beach FL (SPX) Mar 03, 2020

Embry-Riddle Student John Trzinski works on a research project to filter waste water using a non-mechanical osmosis process. (Embry-Riddle/Daryl LaBello)

When Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student John Trzinski was a sophomore, he took two classes that cross-pollinated, resulting in an idea that won the first-place prize for individual projects in a recent Undergraduate Research Symposium – and could help solve a real-life problem.

While studying the life support systems on the International Space Station, Trzinski learned that filtration of the station’s precious water is one of the station’s most “energy-draining and inefficient” systems, he said. At the same time, Trzinski was taking a biology class, where he learned about how cells transport water – that is, through a passive, energy-neutral process known as osmosis.

Trzinski figured “it’d be great if the astronauts on the International Space Station didn’t have to filter waste water mechanically.” He further wondered if wastewater could be put into one chamber of a filtration system, separated by a semi-permeable membrane from another chamber full of a high-concentration liquid. By osmosis, Trzinski reasoned, water from the wastewater would flow to dilute the high-concentration liquid, leaving behind the contaminants in the wastewater.

“The most exciting thing is that this is research I feel could make a difference in the world of human space flight,” said Trzinski. “And the university has provided me a platform to do it.”

Toward the end of his sophomore year, Trzinski contacted scientists at NASA who were working on water filtration. “I figured they’d be the best subject experts to reach out to,” Trzinski, now a senior, said in a recent interview.

Trzinski’s research explores the effectiveness of using forward osmosis to remove urea from a synthesized form of urine. The project relies on synthetic urine so that its content is consistent. The high-concentration fluid that Trzinski uses to draw water out of the synthetic urine contains salt, with the idea that the resultant solution could be used for washing or industrial purposes aboard the International Space Station. Otherwise, the salt could be removed easily through a second simple filtration process, Trzinski said.

Converting Urine into Clean Water
“In terms of real-world applications, this could greatly benefit people like soldiers or hikers since it could be used to convert urine into clean, safe drinking water,” said AJ McGahran, assistant professor of chemistry and chemistry lab manager at Embry-Riddle.

“We are also hopeful that this would be useful for manned space missions. In all of these instances, storage space is a precious commodity, so being able to minimize the amount of equipment these individuals need to carry in order to maintain a consistent supply of potable water would be incredibly beneficial. For space applications, there is the added benefit of this being a very low-energy process.”

Trzinski is testing the filtered water using two forms of spectrometry, which shine a light beam through the liquid for a precise reading of the liquids’ purity. He will also use H nuclear magnetic resonance.

If Trzinski’s method proves viable, huge amounts of cargo weight could be avoided on space missions. Resupply missions, Trzinski said, often include replacement filtration pumps and the carbon filters that are used in mechanical filtration. The vinyl filters used in forward osmosis can filter ten to 20 times the water that the same weight of carbon filters would process.

“On a standard International Space Station, they have resupply missions, including filtration system parts, every few weeks,” said Trzinski. “You want to avoid the heavy, metallic parts that wear out and need to be replaced.”

As Trzinski moves toward graduation in the spring, he is actively seeking a successor to continue his research. He is considering continuing to work on his project in at least an advisory role. Meanwhile, Trzinski worked last summer at a French firm that produces closed-loop water systems, and he may continue along that path.

“As John conducts this research, he is gaining valuable experience in chemical synthesis, spectroscopy and data analysis,” said McGahran. “While this is a chemistry-heavy project, many of the skills such as handling dangerous materials, designing projects, interpreting data and analyzing results to draw conclusions will translate over to other workplaces. This project will help him continue to develop skills necessary to succeed in a STEM career, and I am excited to work on it with him.”


Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook – our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don’t have a paywall – with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

Space Infrastructures – Space

Human space flight

Automated transfer vehicle (ATV)

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) dubbed the ISS’s lifeline to Earth, ferried propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS between 2008 and 2015.

Once docked, an ATV used its own engines to:

  • Correct the station’s orbit
  • Compensate for a regular loss of altitude due to drag
  • Contribute to collision and debris avoidance

At the end of a mission, the ATV was filled with waste, de-docked and burned up as it headed back into the Earth’s atmosphere. The ground-breaking innovations and learnings obtained during the ATV development and missions now serve as a fundamental basis for the development of the Orion ESM.

ATV – the story of success

Orion European Service Module

Orion, NASA’s next-generation spaceship designed for manned space exploration missions of destinations beyond low Earth orbit (asteroids, the Moon, Mars), will be powered by a European Service Module (ESM) developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space. This ESM will power the Orion capsule and its crew deeper into space than ever before, providing propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen as well as keeping the spacecraft at the right temperature and on course.

Learn more about Orion ESM through Orion´s blog

#1 European supplier for a NASA spacecraft
1st uncrewed flight
planned for 2020
Up to 4 astronauts can be sent to space

Drawing on their experience with the International Space Station (ISS), they know by heart what life support systems need to look like. NASA cannot fly without us, and we cannot fly without them.

Oliver Juckenhoefel, Airbus Defence and Space

Orion European Service Module for NASA’s spacecraft

The commercial use of the ISS is increasing, leading to new and low-cost opportunities to access to space. Whatever the mission in low Earth orbit, Airbus offers affordable and “all-in-one” mission service on-board the International Space Station by hosting either external payloads or experiments inside the ISS.

Named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, the Bartolomeo platform is attached to the European Columbus Module and operated by Airbus Defence and Space. Bartolomeo application areas include (but are not limited to) Earth observation, robotics, material science or astrophysics. This all-in-one Mission Service comprises all mission elements into one commercial contract (mission preparation, payload launch, payload on-orbit installation, commissioning, operation, payload data processing and delivery), in order to provide the customer a reliable integrated mission solution. The offer includes:

  • Launch opportunities are available on every servicing mission to the ISS, payloads can be launched pressurised or unpressurised.
  • Easy mission preparation: payload sizes, interfaces, preparation steps and integration processes largely standardised.
  • Highly Cost-Efficient: customers can save significantly compared to traditional mission cost. This makes Bartolomeo ideal for research and development missions, e.g. technology demonstrations.
A 10-year experience
in integrating/operating payloads
Only 12 months
of lead time
20 years of experience in cargo transportation/operation

Our ‘ISS balcony’ provides a highly cost-and-time-efficient means to perform a space mission in low Earth orbit or to test and validate new technology in orbit.

Five human spaceflight missions to look forward to in the next decade

Five human spaceflight missions to look forward to in the next decade


Research Fellow/Lecturer, Lancaster University

Disclosure statement

Chris Arridge receives funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Royal Society. He chairs the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Solar System Advisory Panel which advises UK research councils and the UK Space Agency on solar system research.


Lancaster University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

From astronauts breaking records for the longest amount of time spent in space to experiments growing food and keeping bacteria in orbit, the past decade of human spaceflight has been fascinating. There has also been an explosion of privately-funded spaceflight companies providing access to space, including delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The next decade will see a remarkable mix of countries and companies getting involved. Plans include taking humans from low-Earth orbit back to the moon and even an asteroid in the 2020s – all designed to help prepare for the ultimate goal of a human mission to Mars in the 2030s.

1. First inflatable, commercial space station

The company Bigelow Aerospace is planning on launching the first privately-funded commercial space station – the B330 – in 2020. The station will be able to accommodate a crew of six with more space – an internal volume of 330 cubic meters – than a typical semi-detached house. The project is already underway. On 8 April, the Dragon cargo spacecraft, developed by the company SpaceX, set off for the ISS with a test of this technology: the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. This has now been attached to the ISS and will be inflated shortly, giving the astronauts there the chance of being the first humans to test an inflatable habitat in space.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (the balloon-like structure in the top centre) connected to the Tranquility node of ISS. NASA

If successful it means that large space stations will be much cheaper to establish than with current technology, potentially paving the way for a large number of commercial space stations. Bigelow is working with NASA to test the technology further, which they are hoping can help launch missions to the moon and Mars in the future.

2. Chinese and Russian space stations

The ISS was originally scheduled to be decommissioned by 2016 but this has now been extended to at least 2020. But before ISS is retired, Russia has plans to take the Russian parts from ISS and use them to build a new experimental space station called OPSEK – Orbital Piloted Assembly and Experiment Complex. This should happen sometime in the 2020s as part of the decommissioning process. The station would be used to assemble manned interplanetary spacecraft for targets in our solar system – including the moon, Mars and potentially Saturn – and would act as a sort of departure and arrival point in low Earth orbit.

China also has plans for a multi-module space station, similar to Mir and ISS, but significantly smaller. In 2011, it launched a precursor space module, Tiangong-1 and the last crew left Tiangong-1 in 2013. It will be replaced with Tiangong-2, which will launch in 2016 followed by Tiangong-3 in 2022, supporting a crew of three for 40 days. The final station should be completed in the next decade and would carry on the science and technology work carried out on the ISS.

3. The moon

The European Space Agency’s Space Exploration strategy places the moon as part of a roadmap of human and robotic exploration eventually leading to Mars. However, astronaut Buzz Aldrin has challenged ideas of returning to the Moon as more like “reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs”.

Will ESA put people back on the moon? NASA

But the Moon is scientifically interesting and the Moon 2020-2030 initiative represents a renewed interest. While the timeline for human missions to the moon are quite uncertain, we may see them in the next decade. Russia and China have also discussed human missions to the moon in the mid-2020s. But the moon is also a potential tourist destination. Space Adventures, which launched the first tourist into space in 2001, is in the process of developing tourist rides going to the moon and circling around its far side.

4. Asteroids

At the end of this decade, NASA plans to launch a robotic spacecraft to capture a multi-tonne boulder from a large asteroid using a robotic arm. The boulder – effectively a new asteroid – will then be redirected into a stable orbit around the moon. In the mid-2020s, astronauts will travel to study it during spacewalks and will also return samples to Earth. As asteroids are part of the debris left over from the formation of the solar system, these samples will represent a significant boost in our search to understand the birth of our solar system.

What the asteroid redirect mission will do.

The mission will also provide a vital test for NASA’s Orion spacecraft which is designed to take humans on longer-haul flights than ever before and is part of NASA’s plans for a human mission to Mars in the 2030s.

5. Mars

NASA is currently developing a powerful expendable launch rocket, the Space Launch System, capable of sending humans to Mars, and shaving years off travel times for robotic missions to the outer solar system. It is expected to be launched in the next few years to test a vehicle capable of sending 20 tonnes to the moon, more than twice the performance of current technology. To be able to go to Mars, we will have to be able to send around 50 tonnes.

Humans on Mars. NASA

NASA, which is aiming to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, is already analysing data from the Curiosity rover on Mars to learn more about how to protect astronauts from radiation and other hazards. Another rover is due to be launched in 2020 to look for signs of life and help demonstrate new technologies that could ultimately help astronauts survive on Mars.

One project that has gained significant publicity has been Mars One. It can’t be accused of lacking ambition – aiming to have humans living on Mars by 2027, with with cargo deliveries scheduled to arrive by 2024. It’s a one way journey and has attracted thousands of applications for places. But the organisation will need to raise the $6bn required for the first launches. And many experts have raised doubts about whether the mission will actually get beyond the planning stage, arguing the technology is not yet quite there.

But the European Space Agency also has a programme for Mars exploration, including the ExoMars mission of which the first spacecraft – Trace Gas Orbiter – has just launched. Its long-term plan is for a robotic mission to return samples from Mars in the 2020s and for humans to get there in the 2030s.

America Is About to Take Back Human Spaceflight, and It – s a Lot More Than Just Flag-Waving

America Is About to Take Back Human Spaceflight, and It’s a Lot More Than Just Flag-Waving

Crewed missions, launched by private companies, will be seen as an American achievement. But really, it’s a global one.

There’s an American flag affixed to a hatch on the International Space Station, circling about 250 miles above the planet. The crew of the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, carried that very flag in 1981. The final shuttle flight, in 2011, left the flag behind in orbit to be claimed by the next crew to fly into space from U.S. soil.

This is the year the flag comes home.

A Long-Awaited Return

After years of radical invention, aerospace design, political feuding, and faith in ingenuity—and eight years since the shuttle retirement—the United States is on the cusp of recapturing the ability to reach space from U.S. soil. Two companies, Boeing and SpaceX, are assembling hardware for testing capsule launches, a dress rehearsal for future crewed flights.

It’s a big moment for the U.S. For one, the launches represent a break from renting Russian hardware to launch astronauts. With recent feats by China in orbit and on the moon, the impulse among many Americans will be extreme pride verging on jingoism, and the return of the U.S. flag, stranded in orbit for the past eight years, will be a useful symbol.

The flights planned from Florida in 2019 will change the way the world approaches human spaceflight.

Of course, some pride is warranted. After all, the modern NASA space program is doing something uniquely American—unleashing the private sector by opening space to commercial interests. Instead of owning the spacecraft and rockets, NASA pays for their development and enables companies to sell rides to anyone who wants a ticket.

But it’s crucial that this achievement not be lost amid the flag-waving. There’s more at stake with these human launches than feeling good about the U.S. The flights planned from Florida in 2019 will change the way the world approaches human spaceflight.

Impending Astronauts

Observers and space freaks flocked to Kennedy Space Center yesterday to see the most tangible, dramatic sign of NASA’s commercial crew program progress yet. Shrouded in fog, SpaceX brought its Falcon 9 rocket, mated with the Dragon 2 capsule, to launch pad 39A for prelaunch testing. The capsule’s flight is scheduled for December 17, 2019.

Boeing will get its turn in March when its Starliner spacecraft will launch on an Atlas V rocket. These empty capsules will travel to orbit, rendezvous with the ISS, dock, detach, and return for splash-down in the Atlantic.

The second demonstration flights will have two test pilot astronauts each. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley, and Sunita Williams have been preparing for the missions for years, while also developing the capsules and training procedures for the operational missions.

This return to flight will likely happen this summer, around the time that the U.S. celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. Although reminiscent of the Cold War, these launches will be a declaration of independence from the Soyuz capsule.

A space program is still seen as a qualification of a true global superpower, but these manned space missions have an inflated importance when it comes to geopolitical perceptions. In terms of immediate economic impact and national security, CubeSats in low-Earth orbit are more important than any crewed spaceship.

But that will change as space programs mature and the exploration and industrialization of space begins. To see the full, dramatic impact of 2019’s flights requires looking at spaceflight on a longer timeline.

One of the things that becomes clear—looking past the contract to deliver astronauts to ISS—is that American spacecraft will also enable other nations to access space. The customer base for these spacecraft will extend to Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. The Dragon 2 and Starliner will fly Americans at first, but the whole point is to sell them on the open market.

The American space program could even help geopolitical foes, particularly if export laws are relaxed. John Lodgson, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, once listed some potential customers in an interview with Popular Mechanics.

“Thinking off the top of my head, the United Arab Emirates,” Lodgson says when prodded to name for possible customers. “Nigeria? Iran always wanted a human spaceflight program.”

He also said that China’s program could benefit. “China has said that its space station is open to non-Chinese visitors,” he said. “So where does that fit in to the future of human spaceflight?”

Entering a New Spacefaring Future

In the grand scheme of humanity’s exploration of space, the commercial crew achievement in Florida seems less like an American victory and more like a global moment.

It’s a major transition away from government control, and while this hopefully will have major economic and national security advantages, it’s hard to see NASA’s outsourcing as the pinnacle of government success.

Even with delays and engineering snafus, the coming success of this program should put an end to the debate over whether private businesses can be trusted with crewed spaceflight. NASA has adopted the model that the Commercial Crew program will create a new generation of lunar landers. If these work as planned, the NASA-sponsored landers will be touching down to start planning a lunar outpost, around the same time as other nations are doing the same.

There are many red flags surrounding the American timelines for human missions to the moon and Mars. Administrations change, budgets shift, and missions are killed off with spreadsheet keystrokes. But if—or when—Uncle Sam cuts exploration funds, the private companies who created the hardware will still be in the race, using the moon equipment originally designed for NASA.

The space industry could finally have what it always needed and something the Chinese already enjoy—a steadily funded space program with unchanging destinations and an immunization from political point-scoring. The private sector may be the way to keep some continuity in human space exploration. That is, if there’s money to be made.

2019: A New Era

So be proud of the American victory we will witness in Florida this year. Be happy that the Soyuz contracts will be replaced by something better. Be relieved that the space hardware will no longer be a political football between Moscow and Washington, DC. Be inspired by the engineering on display and the political courage inside and out of NASA to loosen their grip.

But don’t wave the flag too hard. If you do, you might just miss the bigger picture—2019 is the year humanity democratized spaceflight and created a reliable gateway to a new frontier for future generations.

A New Health Risk in Human Spaceflight – The Atlantic

An Alarming Discovery in an Astronaut’s Bloodstream

A study has turned up a side effect of human spaceflight that no one had observed before.

Astronauts are more than cosmic travelers. They’re also research subjects in the careful study of what exactly outer space does to the human body. On the ground, researchers measure vitals, draw blood, swab cheeks, and more. In orbit around the Earth, the astronauts do the work themselves.

That’s how they found the blood clot.

An astronaut was carrying out an ultrasound on their own body as part of a new study, guided in real time by a specialist on the ground. A similar test before the astronaut launched to space had come back normal. But now the scan showed a clump of blood.

“We were not expecting this,” says Karina Marshall-Goebel, a senior scientist at NASA and the author of the study, published earlier this month. “This has never been reported before.”

NASA doctors took over. The astronaut wasn’t showing any symptoms stemming from the clot, but was still pulled out of the study and treated with blood-thinning drugs for the rest of their time in orbit. The researchers had discovered a new risk in human spaceflight.

The study was designed to study different, well-known side effects of space travel. A decade ago, scientists started noticing that astronauts who spent months on the International Space Station came home with swollen optic nerves, slightly flattened eyeballs, and changes in vision. NASA started putting glasses on board the station for astronauts who found that their eyesight had worsened. Scientists have suspected that the cause involves an accumulation of the body’s fluids such as blood and water. Free from the steady tug of gravity, the fluids float toward the head and can increase pressure inside the skull.

To investigate this theory, Marshall-Goebel and her team targeted a jugular vein on the left side of the neck, which delivers blood from the head to the heart. The study’s astronaut subjects included nine men and two women. (The study did not disclose their identities.) Before the astronauts launched, researchers measured blood flow in their jugular vein in seated, supine, and tilted positions. The readings looked normal. The researchers had the astronauts repeat the ultrasounds during their missions on the ISS.

Scans showed that blood flow in the vein stalled in five of the 11 astronauts. “Sometimes it was sloshing back and forth a bit, but there was no net-forward movement,” Marshall-Goebel says. Seeing stagnant blood flow in this kind of vein is rare, she says; the condition usually occurs in the legs, such as when people sit still for hours on a plane. The finding was concerning. Stagnant blood, whether it’s in the neck or in the legs, can clot. Blood clots can dissolve on their own or with the help of anticoagulants, but the blockages can also cause serious problems, such as lung damage.

In two astronauts, blood in the vessel actually started moving in the opposite direction, from the heart toward the head, which is “extremely abnormal” for this vein, according to Marshall-Goebel. The researchers think the blood switched directions because of a blockage somewhere downstream. The phenomenon has been reported in non-astronauts with tumors or masses that forced blood to find a different path to the heart.

“It’s almost like a detour, when you’re in your car and you sometimes have to go down the wrong street to get where you need to go,” Marshall-Goebel says. Perhaps something similar was happening in the astronauts; like their bodily fluids, the organs in their torsos had shifted upward and blocked off certain veins. Marshall-Goebel says she was rather impressed by this—the body, plunged into an environment unlike anything it had experienced before, found a small way to adapt.

The researchers had astronauts spend some time inside a special suit that Russian cosmonauts use to prepare for their return to Earth. The suit, which looks like a pair of puffy pants, uses suction to simulate gravity and draw some fluids back toward the lower body. Blood flow improved in some astronauts, but not in others.

The researchers attribute the effects they observed to the space environment. All the astronauts were considered to be in good health before they launched. And when they came home, the conditions vanished in nearly all of them. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that a second astronaut may have developed a blood clot no one had seen while they were in orbit. But no one experienced any health troubles. “None of the crew members actually had any negative clinical outcomes,” Marshall-Goebel says.

Researchers who study astronaut health and were not involved in this work say that the findings are compelling and require further investigation. “We definitely have enough evidence to consider this to be an important risk to human health in spaceflight that warrants additional research,” says Virginia Wotring, an associate professor of space medicine at the International Space University, in France. “I think we need to understand this before we embark on long-duration missions where the astronaut would be so far away that we wouldn’t be able to help them in the case of a medical emergency.”

Wotring says she’d like to see a study that probes differences in risk for male and female astronauts. The researchers warn that their findings may have implications for women who use birth-control pills, which increase the risk of developing blood clots, to suppress their period during their missions. (Menstruating in space, contrary to suggestions in early spaceflight history, is not dangerous, but some women avoid it out of convenience.) “There are an awful lot of effects of space on the human body that we’re not aware of yet,” Wotring says.

The researchers say that shifting blood flow in an astronaut about 260 miles above Earth isn’t as dire as it sounds. It’s possible that many other spacefarers have experienced the same conditions, without anyone noticing. “Time is needed to develop a clot when flow is stagnant, but you don’t need several months for this to occur,” says Michael Stenger, the head of the Cardiovascular and Vision Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and one of the study’s co-authors. “It can happen in hours and days.” These days, astronauts usually spend six months on the ISS, and some stay for nearly a year.

But the clot was an uncomfortable surprise. “I think it was probably scary for everybody,” Marshall-Goebel says. “But I think the fact that we found this now is really, really good news, because it’s something that—if you know this is a risk factor of spaceflight, it’s something that you can monitor and prevent.” If something goes wrong now, astronauts can be back on the ground in a matter of hours. On the moon, they’d be days away, and on Mars, months.

A NASA spokesperson says the agency is now drawing up plans for a formal ultrasound program to monitor all of its astronauts while they’re in orbit. It has also made sure that the ISS “is equipped with appropriate treatments in the medical kit available to crew members.”

After nearly 60 years of human space exploration, scientists know quite a bit about how the body behaves in space. Before the first men went up, some worried that weightlessness would wreck simple functions such as swallowing. Research has shown that the human body doesn’t love spending months being weightless, but it manages pretty well.

But unknowns remain, and the risks may become more pressing if commercial companies such as SpaceX follow through on their promise to send paying customers into space. Christopher Mason, a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medicine who has studied spaceflight-related changes in the twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, wonders how members of the general population might fare. “We take these super-fit astronauts up and they can adapt and be okay, but what will it look like when we send two random people?” Mason says. “Hopefully they’ll be fine, but we don’t have really any data on it, so it’s hard to tell.”

India gears up for crewed space missions with its new Human Space Flight Center

India gears up for crewed space missions with its new Human Space Flight Center

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said last Thursday that it has launched a Human Space Flight Centre in the south Indian city of Bangalore, in line with plans for its first crewed mission in 2021.

Human Space Flight Centre is operational now after its inauguration by Dr K Kasturirangan, ex-Chairman, ISRO. Chairman Dr K Sivan and other officials too were present. The facility is next to ISRO HQ. A full-scale #Gaganyaan crew module model also unveiled.

Only the US, Russia (Soviet Union), and China have accomplished crewed missions to space that were planned and executed completely on their respective home soil. The main reason for this is because space shuttles remain prohibitively expensive.

For instance, NASA’s space shuttle programme that started in the 1970s hoped to lower the cost of space travel to under a few tens of millions of dollars per launch. But even in 2011, the total estimated cost of the used shuttles was $209 billion – nearly $1.6 billion per flight.

With the Gaganyaan mission, India has an opportunity to enter this elite list of countries and announce its entry into the space mining race. While space mining is still in a nascent stage, should the geopolitical conditions open the door for countries to start operations, India could be one of the first countries to get started.

ISRO aims to send humans to space by December 2021 through its Gaganyaan mission, which, according to the agency, is its “highest priority” in 2019. It plans to launch the first unmanned flight for the mission in December 2020, and the second in July 2021. Following these critical steps, the final objective of the mission is to carry a three-member crew to low earth orbit , and return them safely to a predefined destination on earth.

Gaganyaan was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address last year. “We have resolved that by 2022, when India celebrates 75 years of independence, or maybe even before that, certainly some of our young boys and girls will unfurl the tri-colour in space,” Modi said.

But even before Prime Minister Modi’s Independence Day announcement, Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao, one of the key architects of India’s space program, told in 2017 that crewed missions were a necessity for India , particularly to compete against neighboring China in the future market of space mining. Speaking to FactorDaily, he said :

Manned missions are a necessity! There are incredible resources out there. The moon has sufficient helium to power the entire globe. We will have an energy crisis soon and we’re depleting all of our resources here on earth. Whoever controls valuable resources found in space will control the world. Colonising Mars is a natural step in our evolution.

He likened India slacking in the space race against China to its past failure to build a native ecosystem for an electronics industry. China, however, capitalized on the electronics boom and has become the global hub for manufacturing electronic devices and components.

Rao also noted in the interview about the growing competition faced by India with China in the space frontier . “Why are the Chinese doing it (investing in space)? Not because they have excess money to throw around. They are looking at controlling the entire planet’s access to resources in future,” he said.

However, a crewed mission is unlike any challenge ISRO has faced. All its efforts so far, including its missions to Mars and the Moon , did not involve bringing a spacecraft back into earth’s atmosphere. With Gaganyaan, ISRO not only has to develop the ability to bring back the spacecraft, it also has to do so safely without endangering the lives of the astronauts aboard. Additionally, it also to ensure that the crew can live in Earth-like conditions in space.

When a spacecraft re-enters Earth, it needs to withstand high temperatures created due to friction with the atmosphere. So during re-entry both the speed and angle of the spacecraft need to be precise to minimize friction, and even slight changes could end in a disaster.

The Human Space Flight Centre in Bangalore will reportedly be responsible for planning the project, developing the engineering systems for its crew to survive in space, and selecting and training crew members (both men and women will reportedly be considered).

The WIRED Guide to Commercial Human Space Flight, WIRED

The WIRED Guide to Commercial Human Space Flight

On the morning of December 13, 2018, the Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo wheeled down a stark runway in Mojave, California, ready to take off. Whining like a regular passenger jet, the twin-hulled catamaran of an airplane passed by owner Richard Branson, who stood clapping in an aviator jacket on the pavement. But WhiteKnightTwo wasn’t just any plane: Hooked between the two hulls was a space plane called SpaceShipTwo, set to be the first private craft to regularly carry tourists away from this planet.

WhiteKnightTwo rumbled along and lifted off, getting ready to climb to an altitude of 50,000 feet. From that height, the jet would release SpaceShipTwo; its two pilots would fire the engines and boost the craft into space.

“3 … 2 … 1 …” came the words over the radio.

SpaceShipTwo dropped like a sleek stone, free.

“Fire, fire,” said a controller.

On command, flame shot from the craft’s engines. A contrail smoked over the folds of the mountains as the spaceship flew up and up and up. Soon, both contrail and fire stopped: SpaceShipTwo was simply floating. The arc of Earth curved across its window, up against the blackness of the rest of the universe. A hanging dashboard ornament, shaped like a snowflake, wheeled in the microgravity of the cabin.

“Welcome to space,” said base. And with that, Virgin Galactic had flown its first astronauts, who were not the government-sponsored heroes of old but private citizens working for a private company.

For most of the history of spaceflight, humans have left such exploits to governments. From the midcentury Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo days to the 30-year-long shuttle program, NASA has dominated the United States’ spacefaring pursuits. But today, companies run by powerful billionaires—who made their big bucks in other industries and are now using them to fulfill starry-eyed dreams—are taking the torch, or at least part of its fire.

Projection range of potential revenue from space tourism in 2022.

Virgin Galactic, for its part, styles itself as a tourism outfit, and space-hopefuls of this sort often speak of the philosophical uplift—the perspective shift that happens when humans view Earth as an actual planet in for-real space. Other companies want to help set up permanent residence on the moon and/or Mars, and they sometimes speak of destiny and salvation. There’s much gesturing toward the strength of the human spirit and the irrepressible exploratory nature of our species.

But let us not forget, of course, that there’s the money to be theoretically made; and the federal government isn’t itself actually flying astronauts anymore. After the closure of the space shuttle program in 2011, the US no longer had the ability to send humans to space and has since relied on Russia. But that’s about to change: Today, two private companies—Boeing and SpaceX—have contracts to fly humans to the International Space Station.

But even before NASA’s programs for sending people to space started to dwindle, business magnates recognized what they could do if they had their own private rockets. They could ferry supplies to the Space Station for the budget-conscious government. They could launch satellites. They could take tourists on suborbital jaunts. They could foster industrial infrastructure in deep space. They could settle the moon and Mars. Humans could become the spacetime-defying species they were always meant to be, and travel often—or even live long-term—away from Earth. It’s exciting: After all, science fiction—that great predictor and creator of the future—has told us for decades that space is the next (the final) frontier, and we should (will, can) not just go but also live there.

Global launch industry revenue in 2017

The private space companies are taking small steps toward that long-term, large-scale presence in space, and 2019 holds more promise than most years. But the deadlines keep slipping: Like cold fusion, private human space travel is perpetually just around the corner. Perhaps part of the lag is because private human space travel—and especially extended private human space travel—is a nearly untested business model, and most of these companies make much of their money on enterprises that have little to do with humans: Often, the operations that generate revenue in the here and now involve schlepping satellites and supplies close by, not sending humans far off. But because the most promising plans are backed by billionaires with big agendas—and are, in some sense, aimed at other rich people—science fiction could nevertheless become space fact.

Today, the capitalists of the space-jet set call their industry New Space, although in earlier days forward-thinkers spoke about “” You could say it all started in 1982, when a company called Space Services launched the first privately funded rocket: a modified Minuteman missile, which it christened Conestoga I (after the wagon, get it?). The flight was just a demonstration, deploying a dummy payload of 40 pounds of water. But two years later, the US passed the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, clearing the pad for more private activity.

Human passengers climbed aboard in 2001, when a financier named Dennis Tito bought a seat on a Russian Soyuz rocket and took a $20 million, nearly eight-day vacation to the Space Station. Space Adventures, which arranged this pricey flight, would go on to send six more astro-dilettantes to orbit through the Russian Space Agency.

That same year, some guy named Elon Musk, about to be rich from selling PayPal, announced a plan called Mars Oasis. With his many monies, he wanted to amp up public support for human settlement on the Red Planet, so that public pressure would impel Congress to mandate a mission to Mars. Through an organization he founded called the Life to Mars Foundation, Musk proposed the following privately funded opening shot: a $20 million Mars lander, carrying a greenhouse that could fill itself with martian soil, to be launched maybe in 2005.

Potential value of NASA’s contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to take astronauts to and from the Space Station.

This, let us note, never happened—in part because the cost of launching such a future-garden was so high. A US rocket would have cost him $65 million (around $92 million in 2018 dollars), a reconstituted Russian ICBM around $10 million. A year later, Musk set out to lower the rocket barrier. Switching from “foundation” to “corporation,” he started SpaceX, a rocket company with the explicit end-goal of Mars habitation.

In the early aughts, Musk wasn’t the only one who wanted to send people to space. Pilot (and then astronaut) Mike Melvill flew SpaceShipOne, which resembled a bullet that grew frog legs, to space in 2004. After that test flight and two subsequent trips, SpaceShipOne won a $10 million X-Prize. These flights brought together two New Space dreams: a privately developed craft and private astronaut pilots. After the victory, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites developed the high-flying technology into SpaceShipTwo. Unveiled by Virgin in 2009, this passenger vessel was intented to send tourists to space … for the cost of an average house. (After all, why have a home forever when you can go to space for five minutes??)

Value of NASA’s first contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrop Grumman) to deliver supplies to the ISS, from 2009 to 2016

Virgin Galactic has always kept its focus close to home and on short but frequent flights that stay suborbital. Musk, though, has stuck to his original martian mission. After launching its first rocket to orbit in 2008, SpaceX won a NASA contract to bus supplies to and from the Space Station, and it’s still shuttling cargo there for the agency. But the startup really got its legs in 2012 and 2013, when it launched a squatty rocket called the Grasshopper. Though it didn’t hop high into the air, it landed back on the launch pad, from where it could go up again (like, say, a grasshopper). This recyclability paved the way for today’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, which have gone up and down and helped transform the ethos of rocket science from one of dispensability to one of recyclability.

From Virgin Records to the airline Virgin Atlantic to the cell provider Virgin Mobile, Richard Branson has made money around the block.

The beknighted Virgin Galactic plane carries a space plane that can ferry up to six passengers and two pilots just over the border of space, so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and an incredible view. Richard Branson hopes to go up himself toward the middle of this year, with tourists soon to follow.

Musk’s goal, since the failure of Mars Oasis, has always been to cut launch costs. Today, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusable rockets cost $50–60 million—still a lot, but less than the $100 million-plus of some of its competitors. Getting to space, the thinking goes, should not be the biggest barrier a would-be space-farer faces. If SpaceX can accomplish that, the company can—someday, theoretically—send to Mars the many shipments of supplies and humans that are necessary to fulfill Musk’s “MAKE LIFE MULTIPLANETARY” tagline.

But the road to multiplanetarity hasn’t always been smooth for SpaceX. Its reusable rockets have crashed into the ocean, tipped over in the sea, crashed into barges, tipped over on ships, tumbled through the air, spun out, exploded midflight, and exploded on the launch pad.

The course of true New Space, though, never did run smooth, and SpaceX is far from the only company that has experienced crashes. Virgin Galactic, for instance, faced tragedy in 2014 when pilot Pete Siebold and copilot Michael Alsbury were in SpaceShipTwo underneath the WhiteKnight jet.

Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame and fortune, is still very much married to space pursuits.

Blue Origin’s reusable rocket will take crews and payloads on 11-minute suborbital flights, landing as softly as the feather painted on its body. The goal is to send the first crew up this year.

Blue Origin says it wants this heavy-lift, recyclable rocket to “build a road to space.” This launcher will likely debut in 2021.

The flight of SpaceShipTwo did not go as planned. SpaceShipTwo has a “feathering mechanism” that, when unlocked and enabled, slows the ship so that it can land safely. But Alsbury unlocked it early, and it dragged the craft while its rockets were still firing. The aerodynamic forces ripped SpaceShipTwo apart, killing Alsbury. Siebold parachuted, alive, to the ground. A few customers canceled. Most still wanted to go to space, even though the industry has higher-risk and lower-regulation than lower-altitude commercial flights.

Meanwhile, another major corporation—Blue Origin—was quietly crafting its human-mission plans. This celestial venture, funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, started in 2000—before Musk started SpaceX—but stayed pretty stealthy for years. Then, in an April 2015 test launch, the would-be-reusable New Shepard rocket lifted off. It successfully deployed a capsule but failed to land. That November, though, a New Shepard did what it was supposed to: touched back down, beating SpaceX to that launch-and-land goal.

Blue Origin, like Virgin Galactic, wants to use its little rocket to send up suborbital space tourists. And it wants, with bigger dick–lookalike rockets, to help facilitate a permanent moon colony. Bezos has suggested heavy industry should happen off this planet, in places that kind of suck already but have minable resources. The first lunar touchdown, he says, could be in 2023, facilitating an Earth that’s zoned mostly residential and light-industrial.

SpaceX, too, has big 2023 plans. The company announced last September that in 2023 it will send Japanese magnate Yusaka Maezawa and a passel of artist companions on a trip around the moon. NASA has also contracted with the company, and with Boeing, to shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS as part of the commercial crew program, which begins human testing later this year.

Still, for all the hype around these wider-vision companies, Virgin Galactic remains the only private enterprise that has actually sent a private someone to space on a private vehicle.

The way these companies see the future, they (humbly, of course) will be the ones to normalize space travel—whether that travel takes you just over the Karman line or to another celestial body. Space planes will ferry passengers and experiments to suborbital spots, touching back down in less time than it takes to watch The Right Stuff. Rockets will launch and land and launch again, sending up satellites and ferrying physical and biological cargo to an industrial base on the moon or the martian home base, where settlers will ensure the species persists even if there’s an apocalypse (nuclear, climatic) on terra firma. Homo sapiens will have manifested its destiny, shown itself to be the brave pioneer it always knew it was. And the idea that we don’t have to be stuck in one cosmic spot forever is exciting!

But all of these enterprises are businesses, not philanthropic vision boards. Is making life casually spacefaring and seriously interplanetary actually a plausible financial prospect? And—more important—is it actually a desirable one?

Let’s start with low-key suborbital space tourism, of the type Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin would like to offer. Some economists see this as fairly feasible: If we know one thing about the world, it’s that some subset of the population will always have too much money and will get to spend it on cool things unattainable for the plebs. If such flights become routine, though, their price could go down, and space tourism could follow the trajectory of the commercial aviation industry, which used to be for the wealthy and is now home to Spirit Airlines. Some also speculate that longer, orbital flights—and sleepovers in cushy six-star space hotels (the extra star is for the space part)—could follow.

After there’s a market for space hotels, more infrastructure could follow. And if you’re going to build something for space, it might be easier and cheaper to build it in space, with materials from space, rather than spending billions to launch all the materials you need. Maybe moon miners and manufacturers could establish a proto-colony, which could lead to some people living there permanently.

Or not. Who knows? I can’t see the future, and neither can you, and neither can these billionaires.

But with long journeys or permanent residence come problems more complicated than whether money is makeable or whether it’s possible to build a cute town square out of moon dust. The most complicated part of human space exploration will always be the human.

We weak creatures evolved in the environment of this planet. Mutations and adaptations cropped up to make us uniquely suited to living here—and so uniquely not suited to living in space, or in Valles Marineris. It’s too cold or too hot; there’s no air to breathe; you can’t eat potatoes grown in your own shit for the rest of your unnatural life. Your personal microbes may influence everything from digestion to immunity to mood, in ways scientists don’t yet understand, and although they also don’t understand how space affects that microbiome, it probably won’t be the same if you live on an extraterrestrial crater as it would be in your apartment.

Plus, in lower gravity, your muscles go slack. The fluids inside you pool strangely. Drugs don’t always works as expected. The shape of your brain changes. Your mind goes foggy. The backs of your eyeballs flatten. And then there’s the radiation, which can deteriorate tissue, cause cardiovascular disease, mess with your nervous system, give you cancer, or just induce straight-up radiation sickness till you die. If your body holds up, you still might lose it on your fellow crew members, get homesick (planetsick), and you will certainly be bored out of your skull on the journey and during the tedium and toil to follow.

Maybe there’s a technological future in which we can mitigate all of those effects. After all, many things that were once unimaginable—from vaccines to quantum mechanics—are now fairly well understood. But the billionaires don’t, for the most part, work on the people problems: When they speak of space cities, they leave out the details—and their money goes toward the physics, not the biology.

They also don’t talk so much about the cost or the ways to offset it. But Blue Origin and SpaceX both hope to collaborate with NASA (i.e. use federal money) for their far-off-Earth ventures, making this particular kind of private spaceflight more of a public-private partnership. They’ve both already gotten many millions in contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense for nearer-term projects, like launching national-security satellites and developing more infrastructure to do so more often. Virgin, meanwhile, has a division called Virgin Orbit that will send up small satellites, and SpaceX aims to create its own giant smallsat constellation to provide global internet coverage. And at least for the foreseeable future, it’s likely their income will continue to flow more from satellites than from off-world infrastructure. In that sense, even though they’re New Space, they’re just conventional government contractors.

Elon Musk made his first fortune on PayPal.

SpaceX will also be ferrying astronauts and accessories to the International Space Station for NASA, and after its journey, the Falcon will land itself, while the Dragon capsule will splash down. Bonus: The company boasts that passengers can set the internal temperature anywhere from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Its first crewed test could occur in mid-2019.

Formerly called BFR (Big Falcon Rocket or Big Fucking Rocket, depending on what kind of person you are talking to), this SpaceX craft and its human capsule are supposed to take 100 people and 150 tons of cargo to the Red Planet. Musk unveiled a smaller, suborbital prototype in January, and its shiny silver sides and vintage sci-fi shape look like if a ‘50s diner dreamed it became a rocket. Its first test should take place sometime this year.

So, if the money is steadier nearby, why look farther off than Earth orbit? Why not stick to the lucrative business of sending up satellites or enabling communications? Yes, yes, the human spirit. OK, sure, survivability. Both noble, energizing goals. But the backers may also be interested in creating international-waters-type space states, full of the people who could afford the trip (or perhaps indentured workers who will labor in exchange for the ticket). Maybe the celestial population will coalesce into a utopian society, free of the messes we’ve made of this planet. Humans could start from scratch somewhere else, scribble something new and better on extraterrestrial tabula rasa soil. Or maybe, as it does on Earth, history would repeat itself, and human baggage will be the heaviest cargo on the colonial ships. After all, wherever you go, there you are.

Maybe we’d be better off as a species if we stayed home and looked our problems straight in the eye. That’s the conclusion science fiction author Gary Westfahl comes to in an essay called “The Case Against Space.” Westfahl doesn’t think innovation happens when you switch up your surroundings and run from your difficulties, but rather when you stick around and deal with the situation you created.

No billionaire here. Just the military-industrial complex joining forces with itself. Within the past 15 years, this rocket has had a 100 percent success rate.

The Atlas V rocket made by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, will join with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule to send astronauts and science experiments to the ISS. The Starliner can fly 10 times, as long as it gets a six-month refractory period—for refurbishing and tests—between each trip. Its first crewed test could occur in mid-2019.

Besides, most Americans don’t think big-shot human space travel is a national must-do at all, at least not with their money. According to a 2018 Pew poll, more than 60 percent of people say NASA’s top priorities should be to monitor the climate and watch for Earth-smashing asteroids. Just 18 and 13 percent think the same of a human trip to Mars or the moon, respectively. The People, in other words, are more interested in caring for this planet, and preserving the life on it, than they are in making some other world livable.

But maybe that doesn’t matter: History is full of billionaires who do what they want, and it’s full of societal twists and turns dictated by their direction. Besides, if even a fraction of a percent of the US population signed on to a long-term space mission, their spaceship would still carry the biggest extraterrestrial settlement ever to travel the solar system. And even if it wasn’t an oasis, or a utopia, it would still be a giant leap.

It’s Time to Rethink Who’s Best Suited for Space Travel
The definition of the “right stuff” has changed since the military test-pilot astronauts of old became the first US astronauts. Maybe it should expand to include people with disabilities.

Meet the Astronauts Who Will Fly the First Private “Space Taxis”
Soon, NASA will be sending up its first cohort of commercial astronauts. Here’s who they are.

The Race to Get Suborital Tourists to Space Is Heating Up
There’s a new space race, and this time you’re not paying for it with your tax dollars but with your discretionary income.

The Japanese Space Bots That Could Build “Moon Valley”
If humans do develop a long-term presence in space, they’ll definitely need to help of a few good robots.

Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good
A billionaire’s got to dream, right? Here’s what Bezos and his money see in space’s future.

Last updated January 30, 2019

Enjoyed this deep dive? Check out more WIRED Guides.

This year may finally fulfill the promise of private human spaceflight, Ars Technica

This year may finally fulfill the promise of private human spaceflight

Big and small rockets. The Moon and Mars. Lots of asteroid stuff, too.

reader comments

Share this story

This year could see the fulfillment of a number of long-promised achievements in human spaceflight. For the first time, private companies could launch humans into orbit in 2020, and two different companies could send paying tourists on suborbital missions. The aerospace community has been watching and waiting for these milestones for years, but 2020 is probably the year for both.

We may also see a number of new rocket debuts this year, both big and small. A record number of missions—four—are also due to launch to Mars from four different space agencies. That’s just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting year; here’s a look at what we’re most eagerly anticipating in the coming 11.5 months.

Commercial crew

Yes, it’s happening. Probably. Both SpaceX and Boeing have made considerable progress toward launching humans to the International Space Station from Florida. They’ve also had setbacks. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon performed a successful test back in March, but a month later the capsule exploded during a thruster test. Boeing completed an orbital uncrewed test flight in December, but it was hampered by a software issue and unable to perform the primary task of its flight, approaching and docking with the International Space Station.

These issues are likely surmountable. SpaceX plans to conduct a test of its in-flight abort systems on Saturday—using a slightly modified version of the SuperDraco thrusters that caused problems in April. Success with this test could set up a crewed launch in late spring depending on how fast NASA can review data from that and other tests before signing off on Crew Dragon’s readiness for flight.

Further Reading

Less clear is how long Boeing’s software issues will set the company back. Starliner also experienced some thruster issues during its test flight. NASA has said it will spend the next two months reviewing the issue before deciding how to proceed. The bottom line is that it seems likely that one or both companies probably will get crewed flights off in 2020. We can’t wait.

Space tourism

Let’s face it: we’ve heard this before. Richard Branson has been promising to take tourists on a suborbital space ride for a long time. As far back as July 2008, Sir Richard said Virgin Galactic would be ready to bring its first paying customers into space within 18 months. More than a decade has since passed since then, but Virgin appears to be getting close.

The company has completed two successful suborbital test flights to the edge of space with its VSS Unity spacecraft, and Virgin has since begun refitting the cabin interior for customer missions. The first paying customers will likely fly later this year—including Sir Richard himself.

IAA-ISRO-ASI Symposium on Human Space Flight and Exploration was organised at Bangalore

Human space flight

Department of Space, Indian Space Research Organisation


IAA-ISRO-ASI Symposium on Human Space Flight and Exploration was organised at Bangalore

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and Astronautical Society of India (ASI) jointly organised an ‘International Symposium on Human Spaceflight Programme” at Bengaluru during January 22- 24, 2020 under the theme ‘Human Space Flight and Exploration – Present Challenges and Future Trends’. More than 500 delegates, including national and international technical experts in human spaceflight related technologies from space agencies, astronauts, representatives of International space industries and academic institutes, young professionals and students participated in the Symposium.

The Symposium was inaugurated by Prof. K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India in the presence of Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO on 22nd January, 2020. Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi conveyed a special message to the participants of the symposium. In his message, he highlighted that the benefits of India’s Space programme are shared with entire world in line with India’s wisdom of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam (World is one family in Sanskrit).

Shri P Kunhikrishnan, Director, URSC and Chairman, Local Organising Committee, welcomed the participants. Dr B N Suresh, Honorary Distinguished Professor, ISRO and Dr Jean Marc Astorg, Director Launch Vehicle Directorate, CNES, France, the International Programme Committee Co-Chairs addressed the gathering.

The ‘Heads of Space Agencies Panel’ had the space agency chiefs from India and Romania and heads of the human space flight programme of CNES (France), NASA (USA), JAXA (Japan), ASI (Italy), and ROSCOSOMS (Russia). The agency heads made deliberations on the progress and future plans of respective Space Agencies under the changing landscape and economics of human spaceflight and deep space exploration. Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall, President CNES addressed the gathering on January 24, 2020 on the Indo – French partnership in human space flight.

Another significant event in the Symposium was the ‘Astronaut Panel’ held on January 23, 2020 with the participation of five astronauts from France, Germany, Russia, USA and UAE and the panel was moderated by Air Commodore (Retd) Mr Ravish Malhotra. The astronauts presented reminiscence of the space flight, challenges in technical, physiological and psychological aspects of humans during spaceflight.

The Symposium received good response from the Industries. One exclusive industry panel was also organised to give an opportunity for Indian and foreign space industry leaders to discuss on their perspectives on human spaceflight and exploration.

19 invited and plenary lectures were delivered by eminent experts in Human spaceflight area from USA, Russia, France, Japan, Italy, Germany and UAE. Around 100 contributed technical papers were presented by the delegates from different countries under 5 major topics, namely, Challenges, Enabling Technologies, Ground Systems, Scientific and Societal Relevance, Policy Aspects and Economics of human spaceflight.

In order to give special focus on young generation, an exclusive student session was held on January 23, 2020. 60 selected students of premium academic institutions across the country participated in the session and 10 selected papers were presented by students.

An exhibition of technologies and products related to Human Spaceflight including space food was organised part of the symposium. Full size model of Crew Module, half humanoid for the unmanned mission, scaled models of Crew Escape System and space station concept were showcased.

During this event, IAA presented the IAA award for best book in engineering science to Dr K Sivan, Chairman ISRO / Secretary DOS for the book titled ‘Integrated Design for Space Transportation System’ co-authored by him along with Dr B N Suresh.

The three-day Symposium has enabled exchange of information among the delegates on the latest trends in human spaceflight exploration.