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

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Jan 22, 2020
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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.
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Also, these satellites will be sending radio signals to destinations all around the globe. Although the satellites will be made darker, to minimize interference with observations using Optical telescopes, the electromagnetic radiation (communication signals) could potentially wreak havoc on radio based observations.

Will SETI now have to discern between signs of alien communications, and people chatting on social media?
 
Oct 25, 2019
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Since last year it has been said that we have been getting pelted by radio waves from deep space. Do you think that we will figure out if these are just natural radio waves or actually from Alien civilizations from somewhere in our galaxy if not the universe itself?
 
Jan 22, 2020
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Do you think we’ll find any creative ways to combat moon dust this year? And how much of a challenge do you think the dust will pose to potential lunar settlements?
 
Jan 22, 2020
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Will NASA have manned rockets in the USA again? Do you think NASA will ever get government funding for manned rocket launches again?
 
Jan 22, 2020
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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
When are we physically going to mars?
 
Jan 22, 2020
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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.
I was wondering why Boeing seems to have gotten the lions share of contracts compared to SpaceX?
 
Jan 22, 2020
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Also, these satellites will be sending radio signals to destinations all around the globe. Although the satellites will be made darker, to minimize interference with observations using Optical telescopes, the electromagnetic radiation (communication signals) could potentially wreak havoc on radio based observations.

Will SETI now have to discern between signs of alien communications, and people chatting on social media?
So the question is, has this issue been raised by anyone in the scientific community? And, has SpaceX addressed this concern?
 
Jan 23, 2020
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With all the advancements made recently by Space X and others allowing us a real shot at a trip to mars and a moon base. Do you think there is going to be a need for a push on education/re-training for new earth based space jobs that will support these projects?
 
Oct 14, 2019
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My question is not quite on "space," but rather, I am curious about how you ended up following a career in space journalism. I love Space.com so I'd love to hear about your path to becoming EIC here. Anything you want to share about your education, career choices and paths you've taken. Thanks!
 
Oct 14, 2019
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Hello Mr. Malek,
I keep reading about people going to space, to live, work or explore. You get to see a huge amount of information about our upcoming movement to space as a species. I am definitely interested in becoming a SpaceMonkey(tm) but I would like to know...

What would it take in terms of technology or administration to make YOU feel comfortable in moving to a space station or other planet?
 
Oct 14, 2019
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We are surrounded by politics, now more than ever, and much of it not very encouraging. After 10,000 of civil society, we are still not civil for long. Therefore, my question for you is, how do you feel international (or even regional) claims over planets, asteroids and other things that avaricious humans would consider "real estate" and resources?
I know it's not a fun topic, but I am very interested in your take on this.
 
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Oct 23, 2019
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So the question is, has this issue been raised by anyone in the scientific community? And, has SpaceX addressed this concern?
From what I understand SpaceX has all but ignored the voice of opinion that they're polluting the celestial nighttime view. I am not an astronomer or working in the community but have a club membership to the local observatory. I shall voice my concerns there and see if anyone has any ideas. Tarik's answer was great. Someone has to put those sats on a leash.
 
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Jan 21, 2020
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THX! I haven’t read forward, yet here goes;
Fusion/Gravity Control (Fusion Containment) & thus, SuperLuminal Speed travel inside 4 decades? Have a fine weekend!
 

tariqmalik

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

Thanks for sending this one. I'm definitely curious about this mission, and I do have to admit that we're still waiting to learn more on the mission from Roscosmos and Space Adventures, so I was surprised to learn Johanna Maislinger is in training.

We do know that Russia is working with Space Adventures to launch two private space travelers into space in 2021 on a Soyuz. They'd fly with a cosmonaut, spend a week or two on the International Space Station and then return to Earth. But we're still waiting to learn more on their identities, so I'll certainly be following up on this.

Space Adventures has brokered flights for a series of space tourists (and even a 2nd flight for one), but sometimes things fall through. Back in 2015, singer Sarah Brightman was in talks for a Space Adventures trip on a Soyuz, but it fell through and a cosmonaut from Kazakhstan flew instead.

N'Sync's Lance Bass was also training to launch once upon a time, but it never happened.

So I do look forward to tracking this mission, and will definitely follow up on it.
 
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tariqmalik

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

Artificial gravity like what we see in science fiction still seems to be quite a ways off. We don't have gravity plating like on Star Trek or an artificial gravity generator.

There have been studies about building centrifuge modules that would spin up for some gravity, and the International Space Station was originally supposed to have a Centrifuge Accommodations Module built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency but it was canceled due to funding and other issues.

NASA has since launched a tiny centrifuge built by Techshot that can be set to different gravity levels for experiments. But there have been studies on how to upgrade the ISS with an inflatable ring for gravity (here's one from 2015), but so far, NASA has been focused on more conventional exercise approaches to bone/muscle maintenance for long-duration missions.
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
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What good to Astronomy will bring James Web Telescope ?
Hi Tana77,

The James Webb Space Telescope, or Webb as NASA's calling it now, promises to provide the deepest look back into the history of our universe ever.

That's a bold claim, but the infrared space telescope's powerful vision is designed to peer back closer to the Big Bang than ever before, and astronomers hope it could help them understand a wide range of cosmic mysteries. A key one is how the universe emerged from a period known as the Dark Ages and evolved into the stars and galaxies we see today. Understanding that cosmic dawn a few hundred million years after the Big Bang is a major hope for astrophysicists using Webb.

NASA also hopes to use Webb to spot exoplanets around other stars by tracking the infrared signals from those distant star systems. The telescope could spot dark, cool objects in the Kuiper Belt, comets and so much more.

Webb has had its problems, though. It's cost has swelled to $9.7 billion and its launch has been delayed to 2021 because of technical challenges, and even errors, that have since been resolved.

Note: It IS an infrared space telescope. We won't get the spectacular visible light images of planets and stars that you may be used to from the Hubble Space Telescope. But Webb should reveal some tantalizing new science about our universe when if finally comes online.

As a spaceship fan, I am a little sad Webb wasn't built to be upgraded over time like the Hubble Space Telescope. It's orbit 1 million miles from Earth is MUCH farther from Hubble's orbit in low Earth orbit (a few hundred miles), so Webb designers built the observatory as a one-off mission.

That does mean that if there's a problem with Webb - like there was with Hubble - astronauts won't be able to fly up and make repairs.
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 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?
Hi Mknott!

Right now, the fastest spacecraft speed of all time will be clocked by NASA's Parker Solar Probe when it hits its max-speed of 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h) as it whips around the sun. (The spacecraft is already traveling over 213,200 mph!).

Scientists with Breakthrough Starshot want to try to send a fleet of tiny spacecraft to the next star system over, Proxima Centauri, to study the planet Proxima b there. That project envisions using tiny "nanosail" probes propelled by lasers to reach Proxima b in just 20 years. That sounds like a long time, but Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light-years away. (That's over 24 TRILLION miles away!)

Breakthrough Starshot hopes to reach 20% the speed of light with its nanosails. That would be pretty fast.

In a vacuum, the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second). That's 670,616,629 mph.

So if Breakthrough Starshot succeeds, the project will send nanosails hurtling through space at a mind-blowing 134,123,325 mph!

That'll be pretty fast.
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
34
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560
If time travel were possible whether it be forward or back in time . then what rules should be borne in mind -if any
I subscribe to the Star Trek rules for time travel: Warp around the sun to go backward or forward in time.

A Mr. Fusion-powered Delorean is an acceptable substitute.

PS: I'd love it if time travel were really possible, but trying to iron out the rules makes my head hurt!
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
34
43
560

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
34
43
560
My question is not quite on "space," but rather, I am curious about how you ended up following a career in space journalism. I love Space.com so I'd love to hear about your path to becoming EIC here. Anything you want to share about your education, career choices and paths you've taken. Thanks!
Hi KingstonJ,

I love space exploration and always have since I was a kid growing up in Stockton, California. But I never dreamed that "Space Journalist" was something you could do for a living until I reached graduate school at New York University.

In short, I knew in high school that I wanted to write for a living (science fiction sounded fun), and decided that journalism would be a good place to start. I studied print journalism at the University of Southern California and joined the Los Angeles Times in 1999 (as an intern) and in 2000 full time as a City and Education writer in Orange County.

I left the times in 2001 due to layoffs (I was the City reporter for the Times' Huntington Beach Independent weekly) and joined the Science and Environmental Reporting Program at NYU in September 2001. I'd covered a series of environmental stories in Huntington Beach, California and SHERP was founded by Bill Burrows, an AWESOME space reporter and author. (Seriously, read his books, people!) So that seemed like a good starting place.

While at SHERP, I learned about Space.com and applied to be an intern, and I've worked here pretty much ever since. At first I was part-time and there was a 3-month stretch when I interned for Scientific American, but Space.com took me back soon after and I've stayed ever since. I became a staff writer in 2004, senior writer a few years later, managing editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in May 2019.

It's been an awesome ride and I feel extremely lucky to have found Space.com. They actually pay me to write about rocketships!

In high school, my parents sent me to Space Camp and I asked my mother once if she ever thought it would turn out like this. "It's the best investment I ever made," she said.

Fun Fact: My 1st space story was in July 1999 about the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and Buzz Aldrin, who put his moon bootprints in concrete at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. The Yorba Linda bureau at the Times knew I loved space and thought it would be good for an intern. I was thrilled and got an autograph from Buzz Aldrin. I still have it framed somewhere.
 
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tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
34
43
560
From what I understand SpaceX has all but ignored the voice of opinion that they're polluting the celestial nighttime view. I am not an astronomer or working in the community but have a club membership to the local observatory. I shall voice my concerns there and see if anyone has any ideas. Tarik's answer was great. Someone has to put those sats on a leash.
SpaceX has acknowledged the concerns of astronomers and is now testing ways to make the satellites dimmer. The American Astronomical Society meeting in Hawaii this month had an entire panel dedicated to light pollution and astronomy concerns for satellite constellations. You can watch that here.

It does seem like these constellations will be here to stay.
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
34
43
560
Does NASA still have the final word in regard to the sequence of manned flights since we seem to have different companies involved?
Hi Nednerb,

For SpaceX and Boeing, NASA has contracts in place that state exactly what conditions both parties agree need to be met before astronauts start flying. If NASA has concerns about the vehicles its astronauts will fly on, they work the providers to make sure they're addressed.

But for Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, they are developing passenger ships on their own and developing their own criteria. Blue Origin has already launched several NASA experiments on its suborbital flights, so it's clear NASA is seeing the value of those vehicles as well.
 

tariqmalik

Editor-in-Chief
Space.com Editorial
Oct 24, 2019
34
43
560
Will NASA have manned rockets in the USA again? Do you think NASA will ever get government funding for manned rocket launches again?
Hi puppyart88,

NASA has been directed by the Trump administration to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. To do this, NASA is receiving funding to build a massive rocket, called the Space Launch System, and a new crew vehicle (a capsule called Orion).

The first Space Launch System test flight is expected to fly sometime in 2021 on an uncrewed trip around the moon. The Orion space capsule is being built by Lockheed Martin, while the European Space Agency is building the spacecraft's service module (the part with solar arrays and the engine).
 
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