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...
  • US: No link to Russian gov't in plane downing
    US: No link to Russian gov't in plane downing

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

  • Bodies, black boxes handed over from Ukraine crash site
    Bodies, black boxes handed over from Ukraine crash site

    By Anton Zverev and Peter Graff DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) - The remains of some of the nearly 300 victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed over Ukraine were making their way to the Netherlands on Tuesday as a senior Ukrainian separatist leader handed over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian experts. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference on Monday that a train carrying around 200 body bags was on its way to rebel-held Donetsk and then to Kharkiv, which is in Ukrainian government hands, from where the bodies would be taken back to the Netherlands to be identified. The train left the crash site after the Malaysian prime minister reached agreement with the separatists for recovered bodies to be handed over to authorities in the Netherlands, where the largest number of victims came from.

  • First lady tells America to 'Drink Up' more water
    First lady tells America to 'Drink Up' more water

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama is expanding her push for America to drink more water, as the White House claims partial responsibility for helping to boost nearly $1 million in bottled water sales among consumers since the national "Drink Up" campaign launched in September.

  • UN school sheltering Gaza displaced hit by Israel shells: UNRWA
    UN school sheltering Gaza displaced hit by Israel shells: UNRWA

    A United Nations school sheltering displaced Palestinians in central Gaza came under Israeli fire on Tuesday as a team was inspecting damage from a day earlier, a UN official said. The official said a team, with Israeli clearance, was at the school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA in Al-Maghazi when Israeli tank shelling resumed, hitting the building on Tuesday afternoon. The school has been evacuated and UNRWA has submitted a formal letter about the shelling to Israel, he added. UNRWA is sheltering more than 100,000 people at more than 60 of its schools throughout the Gaza Strip.

  • NASA Probe Sees Apollo 11 Moon Landing Site from Space (Video)
    NASA Probe Sees Apollo 11 Moon Landing Site from Space (Video)

    A NASA probe orbiting the moon has recently beamed back new images of what Apollo 11's Tranquility Base looks like now. An amazing new moon video created from data collected by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter gives space fans a new look at the Apollo 11 landing site years after astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the moon's surface behind. "Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20th, 1969, a little after 4:00 in the afternoon Eastern Daylight Time," NASA officials wrote in a video description. "The Lunar Module, nicknamed Eagle and flown by Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, touched down near the southern rim of the Sea of Tranquility, one of the large, dark basins that contribute to the Man in the Moon visible from Earth.

  • Missing New Hampshire teen home after 9 months
    Missing New Hampshire teen home after 9 months

    A 15-year-old New Hampshire girl who disappeared while on her way home from school nine months ago is safely home with her family, the state attorney general said Monday.

  • Hardline Muslims tried to impose Islam in British city's schools: government report

    By William James LONDON (Reuters) - A British government inquiry has found that hardline Muslims tried to impose an "intolerant and aggressive" Islamic agenda on some schools in the city of Birmingham, including separation of boys and girls in lessons and banning Christmas celebrations. Some of the majority-Moslem schools invited speakers with known extremist views to assemblies and promoted organizations that would be categorized as 'extremist' under government classifications, according to the report by Peter Clarke, former head of London Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command. "There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham," Clarke said.

  • Paterno's son and other ex-coach sue Penn State for lost careers
    Paterno's son and other ex-coach sue Penn State for lost careers

    Two former assistant football coaches at Penn State University, including the son of disgraced former head coach Joe Paterno, are suing the school for actions they say wrecked their careers in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal.

Loading...