Can Democracies Fly in Space? The Challenge of Revitalizing the U.S. Space Program

By W. D. Kay | Go to book overview

1
A Program Adrift
Over the last two decades it has become increasingly obvious that something is terribly wrong with the U.S. space program. Particularly when compared with the stunning achievements of the 1960s and early 1970s--Surveyor, the Lunar Orbiter missions, the Mariner series, Voyager, the Viking Mars landings, and of course projects Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab--recent American ventures into space often appear to be little more than exercises in frustration. Over the past ten years, an inordinate number of missions sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have suffered from serious delays, massive cost overruns, or mechanical breakdowns:
On August 21, 1993, the Mars Observer spacecraft suddenly stopped transmitting just as it was preparing to enter Martian orbit. Despite repeated efforts by NASA scientists and engineers, it was never heard from again. The precise reason for the failure of the $1 billion probe remains unknown. Its loss has seriously affected the research of hundreds of scientists, postdoctorate and graduate students, and future investigators, and will also have an impact on a number of upcoming Mars missions that had planned to make use of its data. 1
The $2 billion Hubble Space Telescope was found in 1990 to have a "spherical aberration" on its main reflective mirror, which prevented the telescope from focusing properly. Until its repair in 1993, most of the images received from the device were quite blurred, and in some cases no better than pictures taken from ground-based telescopes. 2
The Galileo probe, which is scheduled to go into orbit around the planet Jupiter in 1995, has been unable to extend fully its primary antenna. In a three-week period during late 1992 and early 1993, scientists made more

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Can Democracies Fly in Space? The Challenge of Revitalizing the U.S. Space Program
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I - Introduction: WHERE DID WE GO WRONG? 1
  • 1: A Program Adrift 3
  • 2 - In Search of the Magic Bullet: Critiques of U.S. Space Policy 13
  • Notes 28
  • Part II - THE SPACE PROGRAM FROM THE GROUND UP 37
  • 3 - Nasa: The Eye of the Storm 39
  • Notes 62
  • 4 - And a Cast of Thousands 69
  • Notes 94
  • Notes 104
  • CONCLUSION: NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND THE DEMOCRATIC DILEMMA 120
  • Notes 122
  • Part III - PROSPECTS FOR REFORM 127
  • 6 - A World Without Borders 129
  • Notes 148
  • 7 - From Henry Ford to Captain Kirk 161
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 197
  • Index 237
  • About the Author 245
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