Friday, September 12, 2008

Space Shuttles and Space Stations

The flight of Apollo 17 in 1972 was the last manned lunar mission, but not the end of the U.S. manned space program. On April 12, 1981, the first Space Shuttle, a reusable spacecraft (the previous space capsules had been one-shot vehicles) was launched. The Shuttle was intended to transport personnel and cargo back and forth from a manned space station, planned for Earth orbit. So far, Shuttle missions have carried out a variety of experiments, have delivered satellites into orbit, and have even repaired and upgraded the Hubble Space. In 1999, it started its most ambitious mission: the construction of an international space station, to be built in conjunction with Russia, Japan, and the European Space Agency (ESA). The realities of politics and economics mean that, in the twenty-first century, countries will be much more likely to cooperate in the race to space.

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