This Week in Space

Mar 1st 2024

This Week in Space 100

Riding to Space on Virgin Galactic

Hosted by Tariq Malik

Odysseus on the Moon, Air Leak on ISS, Crew-8 Launch When?

New episodes posted every Friday.
Guests: Alan Stern
Category: News

It's safe to say we all would love a chance to fly to space, but there's wanting to reach space and then ACTUALLY launching into space. This week, as we hit Episode 100, we welcome back Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute to tell us exactly what it's like to fly on a private spaceplane. Alan, a planetary scientist and principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond, launched on a suborbital spaceflight in November 2023 on Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane. He'll dish on what that experience is like, what it promises for future space science, and more. We also discussed Intuitive Machines' private Odysseus moon lander's farewell, a new air leak on the International Space Station, and when SpaceX may launch its Crew-8 mission to the ISS.


  • Odysseus Moon Lander Incident: Intuitive Machines’ lander successfully touched down on the moon but tipped over and broke a leg upon landing. Despite this mishap, the mission achieved many firsts and exceeded expectations.
  • International Space Station (ISS) Air Leak: An update on a minor but increasing air leak in the Russian segment of the ISS, detailing efforts to pinpoint and fix the leak to ensure crew safety.
  • SpaceX Crew-8 Mission Delays: Overview of the delayed SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the ISS, due to weather concerns and scheduling conflicts with the Odysseus moon lander launch.

Main Topic: Dr. Alan Stern’s Virgin Galactic Flight

  • Dr. Alan Stern’s Background: Stern recounts his lifelong passion for space exploration, his involvement in over 30 NASA and European Space Agency missions, and his recent suborbital spaceflight with Virgin Galactic.
  • The Experience of Spaceflight: Stern describes the flight as the best workday ever, detailing the rocket’s ascent, time in microgravity, and the camaraderie among the crew. He also mentions successfully completing all nine objectives of the flight.
  • Future of Commercial Spaceflight: Discussion on the potential of commercial spaceflight to transform space science by making suborbital and orbital missions more accessible and affordable. Stern emphasizes the importance of human-led experiments in space and predicts a future where booking a spaceflight could be as common as booking an airline ticket.
  • Risk and Reward of Space Travel: Stern shares his perspective on the risks associated with space travel, comparing it to the early days of aviation and expressing optimism for the future safety and normalization of space exploration.
  • New Horizons Update: Alan talks on the New Horizons extended mission to study Kuiper Belt objects through 2028/2029. The Kuiper Belt structure itself continues to reveal its vast scale.

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