Leroy Chiao

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NASA Is Returning to the Moon This Week. Why Do We Feel Conflicted?

NASA  plans this week to return to the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972. The effort is part of a series of spaceflights under the agency’s  Artemis program. After multiple delays, the first Artemis launch — a test flight without crew members — is slated for early Wednesday. (No doubt NASA’s fingers are crossed.)

Eventually, the program will launch a crew of astronauts, including the first woman and the first person of color to land on the moon, with the  goal to establish a long-term lunar presence.

Space journalist Shannon Stirone hosted a written online conversation with Leroy Chiao, a retired NASA astronaut, Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA, and David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, about the big questions surrounding the Artemis launch, including whether the financial costs are worth it and what’s gained, or not, by sending humans to space.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has been an eventful few weeks for space news.

First came the launch failure of an unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket and cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, which started a conversation in the media about the wisdom of relying on commercial carriers for transporting cargo (and later, crew) to the space station.

Days later came the fatal crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo during a flight test. The media discussion expanded to include the question of whether it would be ethical to launch members of the general public to space in the future, as nonprofessionals seeking the experience.

Regardless of the misconceptions (NASA has always relied upon commercial companies to design and manufacture its spacecraft and rockets) and arguments either way, the fact is that the public suddenly became aware that we are doing a lot of things in space.…  Seguir leyendo »

It seems people only pay attention anymore when the rocket blows up.

Just seconds into its launch Tuesday evening, the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket, carrying supplies to the International Space Station, suffered an explosion in the aft end of its first stage, fell back onto the launch pad and blew up in a spectacular fireball.

Within minutes, the major news organizations had picked up the story and began running live interviews of eyewitnesses and experts. We learned of the experiments that were being transported to the ISS, including several student/school science projects.

Had all gone as planned, the news of the launch would have earned scant mention, and certainly very few in the general public would have known anything about what was on board.…  Seguir leyendo »