Space 2000: Meeting the Challenge of a New Era

Space 2000: Meeting the Challenge of a New Era

Space 2000: Meeting the Challenge of a New Era

Space 2000: Meeting the Challenge of a New Era

Excerpt

Space is the next frontier. It was not until the 1950s that the exploration of space began with the dramatic launch of Sputnik 1. Since then, the space program has taken people to the moon, shown us the exotic, fascinating beauties of the near and distant universe, and created a global village by weaving a communications net over the earth. Human activities in space range from planetary exploration to star wars, from mapping to spying, from astronomy to space-based materials-processing.

What we are doing, and will do, in space will determine where we go next. The American space station, initially inhabitable in the mid-1990s, will open the door to a wide range of applications. At first, those pioneers who have already reached toward the heavens, who have begun to use the space environment for various purposes, will remain as the major players in the space game. Others will soon follow. Their wants and needs will determine the next major goal beyond the space station.

The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 sent resounding shock waves through the entire space program, and the effects of this tragedy will be felt for the better part of a decade. In the short run, NASA and the space community will have their hands full rebuilding the shuttle fleet, constructing the space station, and maintaining a balanced program of space science and applications so that America and its partners can do something with the space station once it is built. The next ten years will be difficult, but we can look beyond them to a frontier of opportunity.

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