Revving up for new voyages
NASA announces plans for a Jupiter probe and a space station
The explosion of the shuttle Challenger nearly two years ago threw the US space program into such staggering disarray that officials have shied away from predicting when the program would get back on track, much less undertake new ventures. Though the shuttle’s return to service is still at least six months away, NASA officials last week managed to look beyond that crippling disaster and announced plans for two ambitious programs for the next decade.
In 1989, the space agency declared, it will finally launch its long-delayed unmanned Galileo project to Jupiter, a 2.3 billion-mile mission that is expected to last eight years. NASA also awarded four contracts for the construction of the long-planned space station that will serve as the nation’s first permanent outpost in space.
While the projects each offer exciting prospects, they amount to something less than the fully rethought agenda that many space experts have urged on NASA. For one thing, both depend on the restored health of the shuttle program, which will be used to launch the Galileo mission to Jupiter and provide transport for the components of the space station. For another, both the space station and the shuttle program confront major budget uncertainties.