The tragic loss of the space shuttle Challenger has not only disrupted the U.S. space program, it has also disrupted the process for planning the program. The current debate over the manned space station and the commercially developed space facility, an unmanned platform that would be launched and serviced by the shuttle in the early 1990s, is symptomatic of the present disarray.
NASA’s problem is that it continues to employ a supply-side policy of investing in space. This is true for both the large manned space station and the industrial space facility (ISF). The development of hardware for the space station, for example, is far ahead of the development of experiments for the station. The science community that is dependent on NASA funding is properly concerned that, as with the shuttle, the station budget will make demands on NASA’s budget at the expense of planetary and space science.
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