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When The Space Shuttle Flies Again, Let's Use It Better

[Editor's note: If all had gone according to plan, the space shuttle Discovery would have already blasted into orbit to usher in a new, if more modest, era of manned space flight in the United States. It didn't happen; delays have pushed the expected launch date back to at least next month. To some space scientists, like James Van Allen (see below), Discovery's plight is just another sorry reminder of NASA's wrongheaded policies. By relying almost exclusively on the shuttle to launch payloads, V

Anthony England
[Editor's note: If all had gone according to plan, the space shuttle Discovery would have already blasted into orbit to usher in a new, if more modest, era of manned space flight in the United States. It didn't happen; delays have pushed the expected launch date back to at least next month.

To some space scientists, like James Van Allen (see below), Discovery's plight is just another sorry reminder of NASA's wrongheaded policies. By relying almost exclusively on the shuttle to launch payloads, Van Allen argues, the agency has seriously set back U.S. space science.

Other scientists are more sanguine about the shuttle's role in space science. Burton Edelson (see below) points out that the manned orbiter has opened up entirely new areas such as microgravity experimentation and manufacturing.

For many of NASA's own scientist/astronauts, however, it is abundantly clear that the shuttle has not lived up to its full...

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