Now that America’s space shuttle program has been terminated, others’ ambitions to explore space are getting more attention. China, India and Iran are the most rapidly rising space explorers. China plans to orbit a space station by the year 2020, the year the International Space Station is scheduled to be shut down. And sometimes after 2020, China plans to land astronauts on the moon. India knows it is not the first in space, but has already launched a lunar probe and is increasing its budget for space exploration. Iran will send a monkey into space this summer.
What’s the Big Idea?
Did America lose something when space shuttle Atlantis last landed, effectively ending the shuttle program? Some argued the shuttle was a cost-inefficient program from the beginning, born of political compromise that equally compromised the science behind our most adventurous ambition. Until the American private sector, which is working hard for N.A.S.A. contracts, can help regain our dominance in space, other nations will invest their growing resources into the kinds of exploration programs that help the U.S. eventually get to the moon.