What’s the Latest Development?
Space shuttle Endeavor’s launch on May 16 from Cape Canaveral, Florida was the second-to-last shuttle launch before N.A.S.A. is scheduled to terminate the program due to budget cuts. This will make the U.S. reliant on the Russian space program to carry American astronauts and equipment to the International Space Station (I.S.S.), whose life has been extended through 2020. These interim years when the U.S. will lack its own capabilities for sending its astronauts into space will be known as The Gap. N.A.S.A. Administrator Charles Bolden said it is important for Americans not to grow complacent with Russian assistance and to be insistent about returning America’s space program to its glory days.
What’s the Big Idea?
The balance of power among nations in space is changing. China plans to launch a space station module later this year with the hopes of completing a viable space station by 2020, the year that the I.S.S. is slated to be decommissioned. In order to rebuild America’s space tradition, N.A.S.A. is making changes in how it does businesses and in what kinds of missions it will fly in the future. It will rely increasingly on private enterprise for space vehicles while retaining control of engineering specs and safety regulations; it has scrapped former President Bush’s poorly funded plans for a moon landing in favor of current President Obama’s ambitions for an asteroid landing and an eventual manned mission to Mars.