- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the Nation section of the Nov. 21 edition of The Washington Times, Associated Press writer Marcia Dunn reported that the “Space station celebrates 10 years.” While attending a gathering of space scientists and astronauts at Woods Hole, Mass., in 1991, under the sponsorship of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, I met with many of the attendees who expressed the view that the space station was simply not necessary.

According to the attendees, virtually all experiments requiring weightlessness, currently carried out by the space station, could be accomplished on small, unmanned orbital missions. Initial long-term human endurance in space had already been explored by both Soviet and American space programs. Miss Dunn points out that with the unexpectedly long time taken to build the station and the ever-increasing costs, scientific results have been less than envisioned.

Perhaps now is the time, following the 10-year celebration, to scuttle the space station. It no longer serves a useful purpose. In these times of constrained budgets, the Russian space-station-program participant in the venture may agree that the station can now be profitably phased out. With continuing national interests in space and renewed NASA interest in the moon, it is probably time to activate plans for a moon-station colony for Earth and space observation, scientific experiments, and use as a transit site for extended exploration of nearby planets and of outer space.

Space-exploration competitors such as China, Russia, India, Japan and other countries with advanced technological capabilities are moving forward with moon programs. The NASA Mars program is a long reach. On the other hand, the United States has already set foot on the moon - almost 40 years ago. A renewed U.S. moon program would halt the hemorrhage of dollars for an unproductive shuttle and international space station, and it could turn waste dollars into productive dollars.

RICHARD F. KOTT

Fort Washington

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