The United States has, in one forum or another, been debating whether to create a permanent human outpost in orbit several hundred miles above Earth--a space station--for more than three decades.

The debate has become more intense since President Ronald Reagan, in January 1984, directed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop such a facility, and peaked in the last year as a consensus among scientists developed that the station NASA was proposing should not be built. Now, under pressure from both the White House and Congress, the space agency has come forward with a "restructured" station proposal.

Up-Or-Down Decision

The question remains: Is this space station worth building? I think it is, if it is outfitted properly. Moreover, I believe that the only sustainable reason for developing a space station--that is, as part of the process of human exploration of the solar system--has finally been put forth. This...

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