Space Program

February 24, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 8
Can NASA set a new course for human exploration?
By John Felton


The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from Kennedy Space Center (AFP/Getty Images/Bruce Weaver)
End of an Era: The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on July 8, 2011, carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station. It was the shuttle program's last flight. The United States now must depend on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry Americans to the orbiting laboratory. (AFP/Getty Images/Bruce Weaver)

More than 40 years after astronauts first walked on the moon, the U.S. space program is in search of direction. With the end of the space shuttle program last year, the United States must rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to send Americans into space. Private contractors are building spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and beyond, but those won't be ready for years. Meanwhile, budget cutters have pared NASA spending, and President Obama has angered some space enthusiasts by proposing to shift funds from two international Mars missions to a new telescope slated to replace the aging Hubble observatory. Mars remains a tantalizing destination, and a sophisticated rover is scheduled to land there in August to search for signs of life. But a human landing may be decades away. Obama has rejected returning to the moon as a stepping stone to Mars, preferring to send astronauts to an asteroid.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Space Exploration
Jul. 23, 2021  Space Exploration
Feb. 21, 2020  The Mars Mission
Aug. 04, 2017  New Space Race
Jun. 20, 2014  Search for Life On New Planets
Feb. 24, 2012  Space Program
Aug. 16, 2011  Weapons in Space
Oct. 16, 2009  Human Spaceflight
May 23, 2003  NASA's Future
Jul. 23, 1999  New Challenges in Space
Apr. 25, 1997  Space Program's Future
Dec. 24, 1993  Space Program's Future
Mar. 29, 1991  Uncertain Future for Man in Space
Jul. 31, 1987  Space Race
Feb. 07, 1986  Space Decisions after Challenger
Feb. 18, 1983  American Options in Space
Nov. 10, 1978  Changing U.S. Space Policy
Jul. 04, 1975  Cooperation in Space
Mar. 15, 1972  Space Shuttle Controversy
Oct. 01, 1969  Mission to Mars: Benefits Vs. Costs
Nov. 13, 1968  Goals in Space
Jun. 29, 1966  Future of Space Exploration
May 08, 1963  Moon Race Controversy
Jun. 27, 1962  Peaceful Use of Outer Space
Nov. 01, 1961  Space Exploration
Dec. 09, 1959  National Space Policy
Feb. 19, 1958  Control of Outer Space
Space Sciences and Exploration