Ask Me Anything AMA Tariq Malik Editor in Chief Space.com

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sward

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Hi space team!

Our special guest for Exploration Week is none other then space.com's own editor in Chief, Tariq Malik!



ARTICLES BY: TARIQ MALIK

More about Tariq

Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University.

He'll be answering questions this week on space.com about his predictions for the year in space news, so post a question for him here ready for him to answer on the 22nd!
 
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tariqmalik

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Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Hey, space fans! Do you have space questions for 2020? Let me know!


We've got a lot to look forward to with not one, but FOUR new crewed spacecraft coming online this year. SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are all slated to begin launching astronauts or passengers this year.

There's no less that four more Mars missions launching later this year, and loads of night sky stuff to see. (Hint: Venus looks AMAZING in the evening sky right now.)

Want to know when SpaceX will start launching astronauts into space? I've got you.
Want to know what happens to the Spitzer Space Telescope when it dies this year? Me, too.
And what's the deal with all the amazing science fiction on television right now? ("Star Trek: Picard" is only the beginning, trust me.)

I look forward to your questions about this exciting year in space this week.

-- Tariq
 
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jpishgar

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Aug 22, 2019
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I have many questions.

1. We know how to get to Mars. Why haven't we had a manned mission to Mars yet?

2. What's the most absurd space tech that you've encountered or reported on?

3. What are your thoughts on the militarization of space?

4. Personal preference and why - planetarium or wilderness stargazing?
 

CParsons

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Out of all organizations involved (SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin, etc.) and initiatives that are coming up, which are you most excited about?
 
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Jan 21, 2020
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Does NASA still have the final word in regard to the sequence of manned flights since we seem to have different companies involved?
 

tariqmalik

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Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Those are excellent questions to start with, jpishgar!

1) We haven't seen a crewed mission to Mars yet largely because of two things: the physical cost on the human body, and funding. Scientists really aren't sure what the long-term effects of flying in deep-space might be on the human body because a Mars trip would send astronauts on a 6-month trip beyond Earth's magnetic field, where they'd be hit by cosmic radiation and other hazards that NASA isn't confident enough yet that it knows what to deal with.

The bigger challenge is the cashy money. It's expensive to mount a mission to Mars, and one of the reasons we haven't returned to the moon since the Apollo era was the sheer cost of it all. Today, the U.S. doesn't have a Cold War adversary to compete against, so the political will hasn't always been there to throw money behind moonshots.

That may be changing now with the Moon by 2024 push under the Trump Administration, and the fact that China has landed on the far side of the moon, while India, Russia, Israel and others planning their own missions.

NASA has always said that a crewed mission to Mars is the goal. But in nearly 20 years of space reporting for me, it's always been 20 years away.

2) The weirdest space tech I've ever seen has to be NASA's Robonaut with legs. Robonaut is a humanoid robot helper for astronauts on the International Space Station and in 2014, NASA have it prehensile legs that were just creepy. Russia's humanoid Skybot is a definite runner-up.

I once saw an X Prize rocket concept in the early 2000s that was like a train, with each booster segment connected by cables, with the top one pulling the ones below and then dropping away. That was pretty weird, but I can't find it and am starting to wonder if I dreamed it!

3) The militarization of space is an intriguing question. The United States officially has a Space Force, and while that may be alarming for some, I think that the militarization of space is something that's been around since the Space Age began.

The first rockets were developed as military efforts that were later adapted to carry satellites and people into space. So in a sense, a militarized space has been with us from the beginning, and it gave things like GPS satellites, communications satellites and Earth-observation networks.

What I, personally, am concerned about is the weaponization of space - placing actual weapons in space to attack other satellites or countries. There is a treaty preventing that, but satellite jamming and anti-satellite weapons are out there now, with India testing an anti-satellite missile last year. That kind of thing could affect the technology we all depend on every day.

4. I think planetariums are wonderful places and have fond memories of the one at Delta College in Stockton, California where I grew up. But there's no substitute for looking at the night sky from a dark site in nature.

I live in New Jersey now, which is pretty built up, so it's hard to find a truly dark patch of sky. But as a Boy Scout in California, we'd go on camp outs every month and seeing the Milky Way for the first time is one of my favorite memories.
 

Mknott

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Oct 1, 2019
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Hi Tariq!

I have a couple of questions from Facebook:

"With our current technology, even expanded out 25 years, what is the highest velocity we can/will achieve during space travel?"

Secondly, an old discussion that tends to strike up whenever people talk about space flight and missions that you'll likely have a lot of great personal thoughts on. Why do we look to space when there are so many issues on earth?
 
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Jan 22, 2020
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Hi Tariq!

Last year we had an amazing picture of a black hole to gaze at which seemingly came out of no where... can we expect anything else like that this year? I know you can't predict the unexpected lol, but is there any news 'bubbling' that might come to fruition this year?

Thanks!
 
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Jan 22, 2020
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Hi Tariq! With all the problems posed by micro-G, how likely is it that the first earth-mars manned mission architectures will incorporate artificial gravity? Why haven't we seen more progress in this area?
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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What is your expectation as to how the new Moon mission by NASA will go?
NASA's Moon-by-2024 mission definitely seems to be something to watch. Since I joined Space.com in 2001, I've seen three major deep-space programs: The Constellation Moon-Mars program of the George W. Bush era, the Obama administration's Asteroid Redirect Mission to bring a piece of an asteroid to the moon for astronaut to retrieve and now the Moon 2024 push by the Trump Administration. And that's just the last two decades. Many programs came and went in the decades before that.

So I am always wary of a new presidential space goal like Moon 2024. Both Contellation and Asteroid Redirect fell apart because of funding and bug tech hurdles, but mostly funding.

Moon 2024, however, does seem to be getting significant investment from Congress, and because some of it uses components of Constellation and Asteroid Redirect (namely the Orion spacecraft), it did have a running start.

I can say, SpaceMason, that the vibe for Moon 2024 does seem different. There is more outreach for commercial participation, and that may be a key gamechanger to making it actually happen.

2024 is not that far away, and NASA still needs to launch a brand new rocket, the Space Launch System, to make it happen. So I'm watching that component closely, as it may dictate whether NASA is able to send people to the moon there by 2024 or not.
 
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sward

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Do you think in the future, as more people go to the ISS, expand it's holding capacity and stay there, people may fall out with each other or get fired for whatever reason, and if so, how on earth (no pun intended) would being fired from the ISS work? :D

Like they can't just send you home on Friday, can they?
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Hi Tariq,

Do you think SpaceX will launch Demo 2 with USA astronauts aboard this year?
Hi Grincher99, that's the billion-dollar question on everyone's mind!

Given SpaceX's successful in-flight abort on Sunday, the company seems well on the way to crewed flight. After the launch, Elon Musk gave a guarded estimate of some time in the 2nd quarter of this year, so April-June. A few days earlier, NASA's Kathy Lueders of the Commercial Crew program said March could be on the table.

Musk's 2nd-quarter estimate sounds solid. That gives SpaceX several months to iron out some final tests of its Mark 3 parachutes for Crew Dragon, dot all its 'i's and cross all its 't's.

So yes, I think Demo 2 will launch astronauts on a Crew Dragon by this summer.

Boeing, though, that may come later.
 
Jan 22, 2020
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Hey Tariq,
With the Boeing Starliner's failed attempt to dock / berth with the ISS last month, does it mean that Boeing still needs to complete an unmanned test of the Starliner where it does dock with the ISS before it will be certified to send people?
If so, do they have enough time to complete their investigation of the problems with the December launch, make corrections, do another test launch, and to finally send a new mission with actual people before the end of the year?
If not, why not (why don't they need to achieve the uncrewed mission to the ISS)?
Thanks for your insights!
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
29
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Do you think in the future, as more people go to the ISS, expand it's holding capacity and stay there, people may fall out with each other or get fired for whatever reason, and if so, how on earth (no pun intended) would being fired from the ISS work? :D

Like they can't just send you home on Friday, can they?
This is an EXCELLENT question and not as laughable as you might think. Last year, NASA announced that the International Space Station will officially be open to hosting visiting astronauts from private companies or tourists, beyond the rather limited missions of the past. If you want to pay $35,000 a night for a month, you could fly to the International Space Station.

Right now, the space station's crew is set at between 3 and 6 people, though NASA hopes to increase it to at maybe 7 once SpaceX and Boeing start flying. And while that doesn't seem like a lot, if NASA does start hosting regular commercial passengers or tourists, you could see the potential of interpersonal conflict.

Most ISS crews go through 2 years of training together as a team, so there's time to weed out any issues during that time. But if private astronaut visits to the station become a regular thing, then making sure those paying passengers have the right training and team support will be important.

As for getting fired in space, well, that's a new frontier for space exploration. I'd be interested in how that might work, too.
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Hi Tariq!

Last year we had an amazing picture of a black hole to gaze at which seemingly came out of no where... can we expect anything else like that this year? I know you can't predict the unexpected lol, but is there any news 'bubbling' that might come to fruition this year?

Thanks!
Hi Johnny!

The first photo of a black hole last year was certainly exciting. I was actually in Washington for that announcement and the scientists were ecstatic. There's a few key stories out there that we're tracking for sure.

I've talked about spaceflight a lot (I'm sort of all about spaceships) and so the rise of crewed spaceflight in the U.S. is a big thing this year.

But if I had to pick two science things to watch in 2020, it's Mars and the asteroid Ryugu.

This summer, NASA, the European Space Agency, China and the United Arab Emirates are all launching orbiters or rovers to Mars. Currently , we expect them all to launch in July, which is something I've never seen before. If it all goes well, we're about to invade Mars like never before.

In December, the first samples from asteroid Ryugu return to Earth aboard Japan's Haybusa2 spacecraft. Japan has made a name for itself in asteroid sample-return after its first Hayabusa probe snagged samples of asteroid Itokawa despite a series of challenges. So it will be exciting to see what asteroid details Hayabusa2 will return.

I'm also hoping we'll find out what will happen with the Thirty Meter Telescope. That giant telescope slated for construction atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii has been the focus of much debate and protests by indigenous groups. So we are watching to see how that situation will be resolved, and how it might affect future giant telescopes.
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Hey Tariq,
With the Boeing Starliner's failed attempt to dock / berth with the ISS last month, does it mean that Boeing still needs to complete an unmanned test of the Starliner where it does dock with the ISS before it will be certified to send people?
If so, do they have enough time to complete their investigation of the problems with the December launch, make corrections, do another test launch, and to finally send a new mission with actual people before the end of the year?
If not, why not (why don't they need to achieve the uncrewed mission to the ISS)?
Thanks for your insights!
This is a great question JhonSolo.

The fact that Boeing wasn't able to reach the International Space Station during its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) has thrown a wrench in the company's test flight program for sure. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has left the door open for Boeing to potentially fly its first crewed flight without a docking demonstration.

After Boeing's OFT Starliner returned to Earth last month, Bridenstine reminded reporters that the first space shuttle docking at the International Space Station had astronauts aboard, as did first dockings between other spacecraft in history.

So I wouldn't be surprised if NASA green-lights a piloted docking test without an extra uncrewed flight test. But that would depend on how basic the fix is to prevent the mission clock problem from the first flight. If it's simple, then Boeing likely completed enough life support and other tests on OFT for NASA to proceed.

That said, it is a brand-new vehicle, so I don't want to assume how NASA's decision will all. I CAN say that since Boeing does not plan to launch an in-flight abort test like SpaceX just did, that could make it easier for the company to move forward.

Construction of the next Starliner is already well underway in Florida and should be completed relatively soon.
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Out of all organizations involved (SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin, etc.) and initiatives that are coming up, which are you most excited about?
This may seem like a cop out, CParsons,but ALL OF THE ABOVE.

What I'm most excited about is the fact that today, there is not just one U.S. space program or way to get to space. With SpaceX, Boeing Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and NASA (remember, Orion?), there are now five very different programs trying to launch people into space.

I think SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are the farthest along because of their rather longer-lead development time. SpaceX was able to adapt its Cargo Dragon into a crew vehicle and has been reusing Falcon 9 rockets for years. Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, is now in its 16th year, and launching test flights to space with passenger stand-ins. Both are posed to launch their first operational flights by the end of the year.

With SpaceX, you get reusable boosters and capsules, with ocean capsule recovery.

With Virigin Galactic, you get a pretty sleek space plane for suborbital tourist and science flights.

With Boeing, you get a veteran company from the Space Age tackling reusable Starliner capsules with airbag landings.

With Blue Origin, we've already seen a series of reusable flights. So I'm really interested to see how they'll roll out their passenger service.
 
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Jan 22, 2020
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Hi Tariq,

I’ve been trying to share this story with yourself, or Hanneke, for many months, via e-mail, without success.


I’m curious if you can add anything to what I’ve gathered myself, or if you have a view on this Space Adventures project actually happening, in 2021?
 

CParsons

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Dec 4, 2019
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This may seem like a cop out, CParsons, but ALL OF THE ABOVE.
Nah, that's a perfectly acceptable answer and I suspected as much since there's just so much going on from across the board. It's a fantastic time to be interested in space and I think all these new initiatives and projects are really reinvigorating people's love of space exploration. Thank you for your thoughtful answer and enthusiasm @tariqmalik, I really appreciate it.
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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Why does SpaceX insist on flooding the skies with satellites and is there any way to stop that?
SpaceX's planned megaconstellation of Starlink satellites has its share of detractors for sure. In fact, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Hawaii last week, scientists called out SpaceX specifically as they try to figure out what satellite megaconstellations mean for the future of astronomy.

SpaceX has a business plan to sell access to its Starlink satellite internet and use that revenue to help fund its Starship Mars colony ship project. The company also hopes to bring internet access to remote parts of the world that normally don't have it.

There are some scientists who think the FCC should not have given SpaceX approval for its Starlink plan, so that is something to watch in the months and years to come. For now, SpaceX has all the approvals it needs for its Starlink program. The company has also pledged to make its Starlink satellites darker, and is testing one such approach in space right now.

And note: while SpaceX plans to launch 12,000 of its satellites (and possibly up to 30,000 in all), the company is only one of several firms working on giant satellite constellations for internet or communications access. Amazon, OneWeb and Telesat all have plans for megaconstellations, though none as large as Starlink.

So far, SpaceX has launched 180 Starlink satellites, 60 at a time, in three launches. The fourth batch of Starlink satellites is scheduled to launch on Friday, Jan. 24.
 
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