Around the World

U.S. Lagging in Modern-Day Space Race

When the Space Shuttle Atlantis made its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center in July 2011, NASA's future plans to launch astronauts were left up in the air.  This, even as other countries, notably China, said they had concrete exploration plans and committed budgets.

In the original space race of the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union launched the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit in 1961.  The United States gradually caught up; Neil Armstrong was first to walk on the moon in 1969.

In the decades that followed, Russia concentrated on space stations while the U.S. tried to turn its space shuttle into an affordable way to launch astronauts and satellites.  But after the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003, the U.S. decided to wind the program down.   It is now trying to outsource some launches to private companies such as SpaceX, while NASA, working with a limited budget, develops plans for deep space exploration.

Meanwhile, the Chinese space program moves slowly along.  In June it launched its first female "taikonaut" -- as Chinese astronauts are known -- and performed a docking with an orbiting laboratory.  It talks of establishing its own space station by 2020 and later sending explorers to the moon.

The member states of the European Space Agency have committed more than 10 billion Euro to upgrade their own rockets.  The Europeans will provide the propulsion unit for NASA's newest spaceship, Orion, which has a scheduled test launch in September of next year. But with no mandate from the Obama Administration or Congress, plans to send astronauts back to the moon or on to Mars are, for now, going nowhere.

This week Christiane speaks with George Abbey, a senior fellow in Space Policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, and, from 1996 to 2001, the director of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Loading...
  • Business Highlights

    ___ Market jolt is reality check for investors Sometimes a little fear is healthy for stock investors. A violent lurch lower nine days ago knocked the Standard & Poor's 500 index down as much as 7.4 percent ...

  • Ford profit falls in third quarter on truck costs
    Ford profit falls in third quarter on truck costs

    Ford's new aluminum-sided F-150 will be a lot lighter and more efficient when it goes on sale later this year. But for now it's a serious drag on profits. Net income dropped 34 percent to $835 million ...

  • SpaceX returns to Earth loaded with lab results
    SpaceX returns to Earth loaded with lab results

    SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday carrying a heavy load of NASA cargo and scientific samples from the International Space Station that experts hope could yield significant results. A boat was ferrying the spacecraft to a port near Los Angeles, where NASA said the haul of 1.5 tonnes of experiment results and other materials will be removed and returned to the space agency by late Monday for scientists to pick apart. The investigations in the cargo could help develop more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, as well as grow plants better suited for space and improve sustainable agriculture, according to NASA. "This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA's goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space," said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA headquarters.

  • U.S., allies stage 22 air strikes in Iraq: U.S. Central Command
    U.S., allies stage 22 air strikes in Iraq: U.S. Central Command

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies conducted 22 air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq on Friday and Saturday, the U.S. Central Command said. U.S. warplanes also destroyed an Islamic State artillery piece near Kobani, Syria, officials said Saturday. The 22 strikes in Iraq included attacks in the frequently targeted areas near the vital Mosul dam, the city of Fallujah and the northern city of Bayji, home of an oil refinery. The Iraq strikes hit large and small Islamic State units, buildings, vehicles and fighting positions, Central Command said. ...

  • Pistorius shoves race, crime and punishment in S. Africa's face

    By Ed Cropley PRETORIA (Reuters) - As Oscar Pistorius spent his first day behind bars this week, a suspected child rapist and murderer went on trial at the same Pretoria court in a case that has also provoked fierce debate about crime and punishment in post-apartheid South Africa. Although the two defendants, one wealthy and white, the other poor and black, are from opposite ends of a still-divided society, both cases have revealed an alarming lack of faith in the justice system of the "Rainbow Nation". ...

  • Canada PM 'hid in a closet' during attack
    Canada PM 'hid in a closet' during attack

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was shoved into a closet when a gunmen stormed parliament, local newspapers said Friday. According to MPs cited anonymously by the daily Globe & Mail and others, Harper spent as much as 15 minutes in the tiny space off a meeting room where he and his Conservative caucus were meeting. "Someone knew there was a closet there, so they stuck him in there," a source told the Globe & Mail.

  • Kuwait urges Gulf reforms as oil prices fall
    Kuwait urges Gulf reforms as oil prices fall

    Kuwait's finance minister on Saturday called for economic reforms by energy-dependent Gulf states to cope with a drop in oil prices that has hurt their public finances. Saleh said the Gulf states must diversify their economies and "reduce dependence on oil". "Implementing these policies has become inevitable," Saleh told the meeting, which International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde was also attending. Forecasts indicate a healthy economic growth for the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) averaging 4.5 percent in 2014-2015, Saleh said.

  • Washington school shooter Jaylen Fryberg's personal struggles revealed on social media
    Washington school shooter Jaylen Fryberg's personal struggles revealed on social media

    Social media posts penned by the shooter in Friday’s rampage at a Washington State high school portray a head-over-heels teenager who grew more and more tormented when the relationship fell apart.

Loading...