Jason Davis' blogs from 2016
‘Apollo on steroids’: The rise and fall of NASA’s Constellation moon program
From 2005 through 2009, the space agency strove to recapture the glory of the space race—with less than half the funding
In part 2 of our series on the evolution of NASA's Journey to Mars, Michael Griffin gives the Constellation moon program a new look in an attempt to shorten America's International Space Station access gap after the space shuttles retire. But by 2009, the program is behind schedule and over budget.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/05/27 03:44 CDT
NASA will try again tomorrow to expand BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. During a press teleconference this afternoon, officials said they were confident the module was going to expand—it's just a question of when.
Fifteen Russian rockets have failed in the past 6 years. Of those mishaps, all but two involved upper stages. So what's going on? The problem may actually lie far beyond the country's aerospace industry.
Tomorrow morning at 10:05 a.m. EDT (14:05 UTC), NASA and Orbital ATK are test-firing the world's largest solid rocket booster in northern Utah. You can follow along live on NASA TV.
It's been a few weeks since LightSail 2 passed its day-in-the-life test at Cal Poly. Here's a roundup of updates that were made in response to the test results, and a look at the project's next steps.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/03/09 01:30 CST
An veteran engine from the space shuttle program will be test-fired tomorrow at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, kicking off the next round of Space Launch System flight preparations.
LightSail has completed its first round of flight testing. The spacecraft is now armed with new software that will transmit almost three times as much health and status data back to Earth than it did during last year's test flight.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/01/13 01:32 CST
This Friday, astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake will perform a spacewalk to replace a failed power regulator on one of the outermost sections of the International Space Station.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/05/13 07:26 CDT
The crew of the tugboat hauling the last unflown space shuttle external fuel tank to California reports they have rescued four passengers from a fishing boat that sunk off the coast of Mexico.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/03/22 06:32 CDT
Just days after receiving three new crew members, the ISS is about to become a veritable shipping hub, as three cargo ships launch to the orbital laboratory in as little as three weeks.
NASA is set to fill a new space station module called BEAM with air Thursday morning. But does BEAM inflate, or expand?
Two years after a devastating explosion, Orbital ATK is set to return its Antares rocket to flight. The commercial spaceflight company discusses its upgraded launcher, Cygnus supply spacecraft, and future ambitions, which include cislunar space.
NASA is building a giant rocket called the Space Launch System to send humans to Mars. In part 4 of our Horizon Goal series, we recap the messy tangle of politics and engineering that led to the vehicle's creation in 2011.
SpaceX continued its impressive string of first stage recoveries today, sticking a Falcon 9 drone ship landing during the successful launch of THAICOM 8, a communications satellite.
Since 2011, a once-in-a-generation transformation has been sweeping through NASA's human spaceflight centers in preparation for the era of SLS and Orion. How have the programs fared, and what first steps is NASA taking as it prepares for the journey to Mars?
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/11/16 05:10 CST
During the run-up to her third mission, veteran NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has shifted the focus from herself to the team of trainers and technicians at Johnson Space Center.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/07/06 06:31 CDT
Expedition 48 crewmembers Kate Rubins, Takuya Onishi and Anatoly Ivanishin begin a two-day trip to the International Space Station tonight aboard a newly upgraded Soyuz MS spacecraft.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/07/14 08:20 CDT
A test stand problem cut short today's test-firing of a Space Launch System development engine at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/06/06 12:55 CDT
BEAM, the International Space Station's new expandable habitat module, is open for business. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka entered the module at 4:47 a.m. EDT (9:47 UTC) this morning.
As the stressful election season draws to a close, a stunning new video tour of the International Space Station offers a reminder of what humans can do when we put aside our differences and work together.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral this morning. Here's what we know and don't know.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/01/17 04:40 CST
The Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite reached orbit today, but SpaceX's third attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship came up short.
SpaceX is set to launch a sea level-monitoring satellite from the California coast this Sunday, while attempting to land the rocket's spent first stage on a floating drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
SpaceX overcame high propellant temperatures, a boat too close to the launch pad, and pesky weather to launch a communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit this evening.
NASA and Bigelow Aerospace weren't able to get the space station's newest module up and running this morning. Another attempt could come as early as Friday.
Space in transition: How Obama's White House charted a new course for NASA
In 2009 and 2010, the Obama administration orchestrated a major shift for NASA’s human spaceflight program
Our Horizon Goal series on NASA's human spaceflight program continues with part 3, in which newly elected President Barack Obama and his transition team search for a NASA administrator, commission a review of the Constellation program and decide whether to extend the life of the ISS.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/02/17 12:09 CST
The SLS core stage pathfinder is a 65-meter-long, full-size mockup of the actual rocket's main section. Just like SLS, building, assembling and utilizing the pathfinder involves multiple contractors and NASA centers around the southern U.S.
Two modern engineering marvels crossed paths this week here in Central America, as the last unflown space shuttle external fuel tank passed through the Panama Canal during a multi-week voyage from New Orleans to Los Angeles.
After a 41-day journey marked by stormy seas, a trip through the Panama Canal and a rescue off the Baja California coast, the last unflown space shuttle external fuel tank has arrived at its new home here in Los Angeles.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/03/29 06:34 CDT
A miniature DVD containing images of space fans and names of Planetary Society members and supporters is ready to fly in space.
This afternoon, NASA started a fire aboard a trash-filled cargo spacecraft, but it was all in the name of science. Engineers at the agency's Glenn Research Center are studying how large-scale fires spread in space.
A Russian newspaper report, confirmed today by NASA, says Roscosmos may lower its ISS cosmonaut complement from three to two.
How will we tell if LightSail 2's booms are fully deployed? With fiducials—visual reference guides that feature our signature Planetary Society logo.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/11/28 07:18 CST
The Planetary Society debuts a new, five-part video series on NASA's human spaceflight program. We went on a 10-day, 450-mile journey throughout the southern U.S. to see how the agency is preparing to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.
Jason Davis reviews a new photo book showcasing a stunning collection of images taken by NASA's Apollo astronauts from 1968 through 1972.
In a review of the new sci-fi film Arrival, Jason Davis says there's a lot to like about the movie's surprising message of happiness and hope for humanity.
Ewen Whitaker was one of the founding members of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, one of the world's first research institutions dedicated to studying the moon and planets.
The used rocket booster SpaceX flown back to Cape Canaveral for an upright landing is undamaged and ready to be test fired, said company CEO Elon Musk.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/02/23 12:35 CST
SpaceX is launching the SES-9 communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. But the company says a successful first stage drone ship landing is "not expected."
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/06/25 03:35 CDT
China's new Long March 7 rocket successfully blasted off on its inaugural mission today at 8:00 p.m. Beijing time (12:00 UTC, 7:00 a.m. EDT).
A new initiative to send a fleet of tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri is connected to The Planetary Society through its founders and efforts to advance solar sailing technology.
Late last year, a small team from Honeybee Robotics went to a gypsum quarry to test Planetary Deep Drill, a technology prototype designed to chew tens—and eventually, hundreds—of meters beneath icy planetary surfaces.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/05/16 12:31 CDT
Two-and-a-half days after a dramatic sea rescue, the tugboat crew hauling a space shuttle fuel tank to California bid farewell to some unexpected passengers last night in San Diego.
Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko are back on Earth this morning following a picture-perfect landing on the sunny Kazakhstan steppe.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is safely en route to asteroid Bennu following an evening liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/03/01 11:44 CST
Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are safely back on Earth today after 340 days in space. The one-year crew duo, along with Sergey Volkov, touched down in Kazahkstan Wednesday morning.
One year ago today, LightSail 1 rode an Atlas V rocket into space. Now, the program stands on the brink of another major milestone, as engineers prepare for a full systems test of LightSail 2, a successor CubeSat that will attempt the first controlled solar sail flight in low-Earth orbit.
Tomorrow morning, Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko are coming home from the International Space Station. But if you live in the United States or Europe, you're going to have to get up pretty early—or stay up late—to see it happen.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/05/06 06:04 CDT
A team of scientists at the University of Arizona continue their efforts to extract data from more than 90,000 images captured during NASA's Surveyor program. In the meantime, new first-look images and an animation have been released.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/01/22 05:03 CST
The place NASA intends to the land the first humans on Mars could be selected during the next presidential administration, according to the agency’s planetary science division director, Jim Green.
NASA is adding a miniature space shuttle to its fleet of commercial spacecraft capable of ferrying cargo to the International Space Station.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/07/06 10:58 CDT
Expedition 48 crewmembers Kate Rubins, Takuya Onishi and Anatoly Ivanishin are safely in orbit following an early morning launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/06/15 06:41 CDT
SpaceX placed two communications satellites into orbit today, but the company's attempt to go four-in-a-row on first stage drone ship recoveries fell short.
Yesterday in West Texas, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard spacecraft on its sixth suborbital test flight. The capsule normally descends using three parachutes, but on Sunday, just two were used to show the spacecraft could still land safely in the event of a parachute mishap.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/07/20 12:35 CDT
Four days of cargo craft mania came to a close at the International Space Station this morning, as astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams snagged an approaching SpaceX Dragon vehicle and berthed it to the laboratory's Harmony module.
The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft breezed through a major systems test today, demonstrating the CubeSat can successfully deploy its antenna and solar panels, communicate with the ground, and unfurl its 32-square-meter solar sails in space.
The Planetary Society's solar sailing CubeSat has a new designation: LightSail 2. To celebrate the name change, we're releasing a new video showing footage from a late January sail deployment at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
NASA's next Mars rover is rolling off the drawing board and into its final design and fabrication phase, the agency announced today, during a televised event at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that highlighted some of the mission's technology.
Tomorrow afternoon, SpaceX plans to launch its Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station for the first time since a catastrophic accident last June.
The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 (.-.. / ... / ..---) spacecraft will identify itself from orbit using Morse code, and you can make the sound your ringtone.
LightSail 2 and Prox-1 are expected to meet for integration by the end of the year. Here's an update roundup, including a sneak peek of new animations and the abstract from a recently accepted paper on the spacecraft's attitude control system.
It's been a busy two months of system testing for The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft. More trials are on the horizon, including a trip to a special magnetic cage at Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/04/11 04:03 CDT
The last unflown space shuttle external fuel tank was loaded onto a barge at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility Sunday in New Orleans. It will ship to the California Science Center in Los Angeles to be joined with space shuttle Endeavour.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/10/28 06:04 CDT
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is returning to Earth from the International Space Station. During her mission, she became the first person to sequence DNA in space.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/09/02 06:02 CDT
From September 6-16, The Planetary Society is visiting four NASA centers focused predominantly on the agency’s Journey to Mars program. Follow us on social media with the hashtag #RocketRoadTrip.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/12/01 09:49 CST
This morning's launch of an uncrewed Russian Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station went awry. Following a third-stage failure, the vehicle reentered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart over southern Siberia in Russia.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/03/31 04:18 CDT
Russian ISS controllers are in the process of swapping out a trash-filled cargo ship for a new one bearing fresh supplies, following the successful launch of a Progress spacecraft from Kazakhstan today.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/02/05 10:33 CST
The shell of NASA's next Orion spacecraft has been welded together and shipped to Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Here's a photo recap of the assembly and transport process.
Early this morning, Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra released a trash-filled Cygnus cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station. Orbital ATK flight controllers will send Cygnus into Earth's atmosphere for a controlled reentry Saturday morning.
Here's a photo roundup from last night's Atlas V launch, which sent a Cygnus cargo craft on its way to the International Space Station.
China is sending two astronauts on a month-long mission to the country's new space station. What are China's long-term space goals? Does the narrative of a space race between the U.S. and China fit? If so, what happens if America loses?
We're embarking on a multi-part series with the Huffington Post about the world's largest human spaceflight program. In part 1, we look at how the Columbia accident prompted NASA and the George W. Bush administration to create a new vision for space exploration.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/12/06 08:34 CST
LightSail 2 successfully demonstrated all of its critical functions during what may have been the CubeSat's final end-to-end systems test at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/04/13 11:20 CDT
The last unflown space shuttle fuel tank is underway to California, following a full-circle ceremony in view of hardware built for the shuttle's heavy lift successor, the Space Launch System.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/04/08 11:56 CDT
Follow along with The Planetary Society as SpaceX launches a Dragon spacecraft to the ISS and attempts to land a used booster rocket on a drone ship in the ocean. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:43 p.m. EDT (20:43 UTC).
Follow along with The Planetary Society as the crew of Expedition 47 launches to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 5:26 p.m. EDT (21:26 UTC); docking and hatch opening starts six hours later.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/06/03 08:06 CDT
This timelapse video follows some of the space shuttle external tank's 19-hour journey from Marina del Rey to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
On the five-year anniversary of the final space shuttle launch, Jason Davis shares five of his favorite stories about the program.
We're back from our #RocketRoadTrip through four states with NASA field centers involved in the agency's Journey to Mars program. We'll be sorting through our material for quite some time, but meanwhile, here are five key things we learned.
A rocket engine that once blasted space shuttles into orbit was test-fired today in Mississippi, in preparation for its upcoming duty launching an astronaut crew to the moon.
The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft successfully deployed its solar sails Thursday, wrapping up an initial round of system-level tests to prepare the CubeSat for flight.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/03/17 06:30 CDT
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams embarks on his fourth trip to the ISS tomorrow. He launches aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur with cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka at 5:26 p.m. EDT (21:26 UTC).
OSIRIS-REx is ready to begin its journey to Bennu and back. The asteroid was named by a Planetary Society contest winner, and the spacecraft bears the names of 440,000 well-wishers.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/07/15 11:33 CDT
Two cargo spacecraft are heading to the International Space Station as part of a choreographed, four-day dance that begins this weekend. Here's a quick guide.
NASA and Orbital ATK successfully completed a qualification motor firing of a five-segment solid rocket booster that will fly on the Space Launch System in 2018.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/05/28 11:18 CDT
BEAM is expanded and pressurized! The International Space Station's newest module, which will serve as a technology demonstrator for in-space expandable habitats, was fully filled with air this afternoon.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2016/08/08 06:00 CDT
From Cal Poly to Georgia Tech, university students working on SmallSat projects gain critical real-world spaceflight experience, preparing them for promising careers in the space industry.
The RS-25 powered the space shuttle for three decades, and will soon be used on the Space Launch System. Is it still the Ferrari of rocket engines? A deep dive on performance, reliability and the politics of rocket science.
Sometime between Saturday and Wednesday, China plans to launch a brand new rocket from a brand new launch site, and conduct a small-scale test of its next-generation crew capsule.
This Friday, SpaceX plans to launch a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the ISS. Packed inside Dragon's trunk is a new inflatable station module called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.
Thanks to social media, we get to know individual astronauts better than we have at any other time in the history of spaceflight.
After much anticipation, Elon Musk revealed his plans to colonize Mars. Here are the details, some questions yet to be answered, and a few thoughts on how this could change the way we think about human spaceflight.
Our Advocacy Program provides each Society member a voice in the process.
Funding is critical. The more we have, the more effective we can be, translating into more missions, more science, and more exploration.