Into The K Future

WHEN FUTURE HISTORIANS write the story of mankind's early steps into space from a more distant perspective, 30 October 2000 may be a date of special significance - the last day on which humanity was entirely confined to Earth. The following afternoon, a Soyuz rocket lifted the first crew of the International Space Station into orbit, ready to occupy what should be our first permanent outpost in space. It seems fitting that the station is a collaborative effort between once-hostile nations.

But the ISS is a mere staging post to the Solar System - where next? NASA has lately committed itself to an ambitious project that will see astronauts return to the Moon and establish a semi-permanent base near the south pole, and a younger space power, China, has launched its first manned spacecraft, with longer-term plans that also involve space stations and lunar bases. With these goals fulfilled, it will be time for mankind to look further afield - first to Mars, then deeper into the Solar System, and perhaps, one day, to the stars.

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Star Wars Project Soviet Union

MIR 2

Authorized in 1976 as an eventual successor to Mir, the Mir 2 design went through many changes until, in response to the US Star Wars project, it threatened to become an orbiting battle platform.

POWER TETHER

In the early 1990s, two Shuttle missions flew an experiment called the Tethered Satellite System (TSS). Linked to the Shuttle by a long conducting wire, its movement through the Earth's magnetic field created electricity. At the time, this technology was considered for use on future space stations.

US President Ronald Reagan, 25 January 1984

Star Wars Project Soviet Union

SPACE TAXI

NASA considered various options for crew tronsport to the space station - one was the HL-20 lifting body, which got as for as this enaineerina

1961 -

1982-

1983-

1984

1986

1987"

1988-

1989-

The arrival of the Russian Zvezda module makes the station ready for occupation.

25 January 1984

US President Ronald Reagan announces the development of a new US space station to be called Freedom.

23 June 1993

After nine years of planning, constant revisions, and huge budget reductions, Freedom barely survives a Congressional vote on its proposed cancellation.

1 November 1993

NASA announces a partnership with Russia to develop a truly international space station.

29 June 1995

The Shuttle Atlantis docks with the Russian space station Mir, beginning a new phase of cooperation.

20 November 1998

The Russian Zarya Functional Cargo Block, the first element of the ISS, is launched.

7 December 1998

The Space Shuttle Endeavour links the US Unity module with Zarya.

26 July 2000

The arrival of the Russian Zvezda module makes the station ready for occupation.

The ISS concept

SPACE TAXI

NASA considered various options for crew tronsport to the space station - one was the HL-20 lifting body, which got as for as this enaineerina

Conceived in the 1980s as the West's answer to Salyut and Mir, the US space station Freedom eventually evolved into a truly global project - the International Space Station.

In the early 1970s, budget cuts had forced NASA to choose between the Space Shuttle and a large space station, but in the early 1980s the political winds changed again. Shuttle flights were finally becoming routine, and relations between the superpowers were cooling into a new phase of the Cold War that might again extend into orbit (see panel, opposite). In 1984, President Reagan announced that the United States was at last going to build a permanent space station - with the politically loaded name Freedom.

From competition to collaboration

The new station's development was long and tortuous. Initial plans called for a truly huge outpost with a crew of 12, and the European, Japanese, and Canadian space agencies soon joined the project, agreeing to provide their own laboratory modules and other elements. Various designs were proposed, and projected costs spiralled, even as each successive redesign reduced the station's capability. Meanwhile, Shuttle flights carried various experiments to test

"We can follow

MIR 2

Authorized in 1976 as an eventual successor to Mir, the Mir 2 design went through many changes until, in response to the US Star Wars project, it threatened to become an orbiting battle platform.

techniques and technologies that might be used on the station. But the loss of the Challenger was a blow to US confidence in human spaceflight, while the liberalization and eventual disintegration of the Soviet Union brought an end to the Cold War rivalry that helped to justify Freedom. In 1993 the project survived a call for cancellation in the US Congress by a single vote.

The writing was on the wall for Freedom, but the improved relationship with Russia led to a new way forward. Despite the poor state of their economy, the Russians had space-station experience that could help NASA make its station a reality. In 1993, officials from the US and Russian space agencies met to agree on a joint enterprise: the resulting station would be a hybrid of elements from Freedom and Russia's own stalled Mir 2. At first called Space Station Alpha, before long it became simply the International Space Station (ISS).

Construction begins

The new collaborative spirit was tested by the Shuttle-Mir missions of the mid-1990s (see p.216). When these came to an end, it was time to build.

The first element put into orbit was the Russian-built Functional Cargo Block. Known as Zarya, this module had a dual purpose. During the early stages

POWER TETHER

In the early 1990s, two Shuttle missions flew an experiment called the Tethered Satellite System (TSS). Linked to the Shuttle by a long conducting wire, its movement through the Earth's magnetic field created electricity. At the time, this technology was considered for use on future space stations.

our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space ..."

US President Ronald Reagan, 25 January 1984

Future Soviet

TECHNOLOGY

SPACE STATION FREEDOM

By the early 1990s, constant budget cuts and redesigns had seen the Freedom station evolve into a smaller configuration that bears some resemblance to the ISS. The moin similarity is the use of the horizontal truss with solar arrays at each end ond pressurized modules in the centre.

of construction, it would act as the station's heart, generating power and providing propulsion. As the ISS grew larger and these functions moved elsewhere, it would become a storage facility.

Endeavour rendezvoused with Zarya in December 1998, bringing with it NASA's Unity module, the first of three connecting nodes that would join the station's various elements together. However, there was a long delay before the next crucial element, Russia's Zvezda service module arrived. This provided living accommodation, life support, and environmental controls. Once it had docked in July 2000, the ISS was at last ready for its first crew.

TECHNOLOGY

STAR WARS

One of President Reagan's schemes to keep the upper hand in the new Cold War was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), better known as the Star Wars programme. Reagan's advisors persuaded him that the United States, and perhaps its allies, could be protected from nuclear attack by a network of missile-detecting satellites and an array of science-fiction weapons. The proposed SDI arsenal included satellite-based interceptor missiles, energy weapons such as lasers, and ground-based missile-defence systems. Development stalled due to engineering problems and budget restrictions, although some of its technologies are still being pursued. Had SDI succeeded, it would have given the US a decisive lead in the Cold War arms race - but the effects of that could have been unpredictable and dangerous.

TECHNOLOGY

A PERMANENT OUTPOST IN SPACE fJtiife;«!

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