The NewSpace Age

Humanity is looking once again to the heavens, ushering in a significant period of space exploration

The rockets get most of the attention. Big and powerful and full of fiery thrust, the Space Launch System rocket NASA wants to use to propel astronauts into moon orbit is a monster, taller than the Statue of Liberty. As is SpaceX’s Starship, which NASA plans to use to ferry the astronauts to the lunar surface and back.

But those rockets represent only one element of the grand ambitions possessed by the United States, international space agencies and the many private companies that have set their sights on space over the past two decades. There are efforts underway to make space tourism accessible for the masses. There are hopes of one day having the infrastructure and technology to form permanent colonies in deep space. And there is a plan to finally put a woman and person of color on the moon.

Space travel is booming, creating an energy around the exploration of our solar system that hasn’t been seen since the days of Apollo — and leading to no shortage of questions. Why does NASA want to go back to the moon? What toll does space travel take on the human body? And what are the consequences of the increasing amount of space debris littering the atmosphere?

The New Space Age will seek to answer those questions, and many more, with a comprehensive look at this significant moment in the history of human spaceflight.

The moon beckons once again, and this time NASA wants to stay

Why are we going back to the moon? To research, to practice and to build a gas station in space.

The many, many reasons space travel is bad for the human body

Humans evolved in conditions of plentiful gravity and relatively scant radiation. Space is the reverse — and it upends almost every system inside of us.

Space Dodgers! An interactive game about a real-world problem.

Can you navigate the debris field in orbit? It’s a worsening problem in real life.

A woman on the moon: How has one small step taken so long?

As columnist Monica Hesse writes, the question has had more to do with culture and sociology than it has science and technology.

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Lunar relations: The U.S., China and a new brand of space race

NASA is hopeful that a new international coalition will help propel its return to the moon.

Inside the rockets that NASA and SpaceX plan to take to the moon

In the way they are manufactured, financed and designed to work, NASA’s SLS and SpaceX’s Starship represent very different approaches.

This astronaut trains by flying fighter jets. We went along for the ride.

Jared Isaacman, who commissioned a private astronaut flight to orbit last year, has purchased three more trips from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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Why scientists and officials are taking UFOs more seriously

At a time when our knowledge of the universe is expanding, many scientists and government officials are paying more attention to the objects we haven’t been able to identify.

About this project

This section examines the significance of this current period of space exploration, including the boom of the private space industry, the ambitions of NASA and foreign space agencies, and the potential consequences for society.

Topper image provided by NASA, ESA, SCA, STSCI. Illustrations by Brian Monroe, Ibrahim Rayintakath, Elizabeth von Oehsen, Christina Chung, and Jose Berrio. Graphics by William Neff and Aaron Steckelberg with editing by Kate Rabinowitz and Manuel Canales. Video by Daron Taylor, Tom LeGro, Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi and James Cornsilk. Photography by Jonathan Newton.

Art direction, design, development and photo editing by Betty Chavarria. Editing by Jeff Dooley, Betty Chavarria, Wayne Lockwood and Elizabeth McGehee.