If America plans to continue its space exploration program, the question that must be asked next is: “Where do we go from here?” America has made major strides in space exploration in this century. We have built enormous rockets that can carry three men and their supplies to the moon and back. We have mastered the physics that are involved in shooting a rocket out of our atmosphere and bringing the return capsule back again. The next step in the space exploration process should be to build an orbiting space station.
A space station could be used to learn many things about spending large amounts of time in space. If man plans on further exploring the vastness of space, we must understand what the effect of space will be on our bodies. Once we understand this concept, then we can start engineering projects that can send humans far out into space. A space station in orbit around the earth will also teach us about what preparations will need to be made when we decide to set up a colony on the moon. The only way we can learn about these things is if we experiment with them in a space station. How could we know what to expect when we start colonizing the moon if we don’t first simulate the experience in a controlled environment?
The space station will also serve as a stopping point for future missions out into space. The station could be used like a pit stop in space where astronauts could refuel and make any necessary repairs before starting their journey into outer space. This will prove very useful since there is a limit to how much fuel can be carried on board a rocket leaving earth because of gravity. There would be no weight restrictions out in space and the amount of fuel needed for a long trip out into space will no longer be as much of a problem.
NASA has been hoping to build a space station since the end of the Apollo program. Interestingly enough is that Werner Von Braun is a very enthusiastic proponent of a space station. According to Sam Hoffman, Von Braun felt that “the missiles and other things were just steps along the way [to a space station.]
It is very interesting to me that Von Braun would be such an advocate of the space station when he himself has always been more interested in rockets. He must feel that he had to invent a way to get out into space before he could start to design a way to live out in space. To Von Braun a space station seemed to be the next logical step in space exploration. First we proved to ourselves that we could safely send men and equipment out into space and bring them back safely then we start to figure out a way to stay out in space.
An alternative to a space station could be to spend more money on projects developing rockets that run on nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. These rockets would be much more powerful than the conventional rockets used today. With this new rocket technology, it would be possible to send rockets out to the moon in a single stage. These new rockets would open up many new doors in space exploration.
A major advocate of these new rockets is retired NASA engineer Homer H. Hickam Jr. In his opinion, we are “losing ground in the highly competitive launch industry.” He believes that NASA should not spend so much money on its International Space Station and start devoting more time and effort to bigger and better rockets. America needs to continue to dominate space exploration and one way to do it is to develop more powerful rockets.
An enormous space station built and designed by NASA orbiting the earth would send a message to the rest of the world that America is a leader. It seems to be the next logical step to me. I believe that space exploration needs to move toward people essentially living in space. I would like to see people living on the moon in my lifetime. I don’t think that this is such a hard task to achieve because we have already shown that we can send men and supplies there and back.
Also there are bio-spheres out in the deserts of the West that are working on designing environments that can exist without an atmosphere like the one here on earth. They use plants to provide food and oxygen for humans. They are close to developing a way for humans to live on the moon. A stepping stone to colonizing the moon is a space station. The space station will teach us a great deal about life in space and will be a great asset.
I also think that at the same time NASA should allocate some of its resources to other programs like developing more powerful rockets. I believe that both areas can be given enough attention that both projects could eventually be completed successfully. In conclusion, I am glad that NASA has chosen to build an International Space Station because I believe it will be very beneficial to space exploration and to America as well.