Human Spaceflight Changing Worldwide

By Frank Morring, Jr.
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
October 01, 2012

Frank Morring, Jr. Washington

A journey of 1,000 parsecs begins with a single step, to paraphrase Lao Tzu. Before humans can explore the stars—or the Solar System—in person, we still must travel that first 100-km step through Earth’s atmosphere.

Now that the space shuttle is a museum piece, human access to low Earth orbit is down to two spacecraft—Russia’s venerable Soyuz capsule, and China’s new Soyuz-derived Shenzhou. Today Shenzhou is the most modern operational human spacecraft flying, and it is likely to remain so for at least five more years.

Work is underway around the world on new ways to orbit humans and keep them alive in space. At least seven different orbital human-spaceflight vehicles are in development—most of them in the U.S.—and other longer-term work is beginning to take shape in India, Europe and elsewhere.

Not all of the vehicles in the computer-aided design (CAD) workstations today will fly, and some of those that manage to get off the ground once or twice won’t be able to keep flying for lack of passengers. As it struggles to replace the shuttle, NASA has set up a competition to hold down development costs and perhaps influence the per-seat price of astronaut travel. But the U.S. agency does not plan to use all of the competing vehicles once the commercial crew capability becomes operational.

Read more: Human Spaceflight Changing Worldwide — Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Home           Top of page