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Your place in space.

Say you were to gaze skyward one clear evening in the year 2000--you might see a light race swiftly among the stars. If NASA's plans hold out, that would be space station Freedom, a laboratory and living environment orbiting more than 200 miles above Earth's surface. People will be up there, working, eating, and sleeping, because NASA aims to have the station occupied around the clock by 2000.

What's more, in the next few decades, NASA wants to establish an outpost on the Moon and ship astronauts off to Mars, a journey that might last two years.

Big plans--if NASA can drum up the dollars. You see, keeping people in space for long periods of time costs big bucks. Since 1984, engineers have redesigned space station Freedom over and over again, because each previous design was just too expensive. In fact, a lot of people question whether it's worth the money at all. Wouldn't it be better to spend the money solving problems on Earth, they argue, rather than solving problems that wouldn't even exist if some people didn't have the urge to live in space?

Problems like what to eat. In space, you can't just pop out to the corner store for groceries. Do you bring two months of food with you? Remember: Boosting supplies into space costs a small fortune in rocket fuel. And where does your water come from in space? What about electricity? And how do you get rid of waste? Open a door and take out the garbage? Flush it down the toilet? Those aren't options in orbit.

And then there's weightlessness. Nothing in orbit feels the pull of gravity--not pencils, people, water, not even air. Basically, everything up there floats. Check out the articles on pages 8 and 17 to see the effects this weightlessness has on living in space. Don't expect anything you do on Earth to work the same way in weightlessness.

In the current version of space station Freedom (see p. 14), NASA's engineers figure they've cured all these headaches as best they can. Now put yourself in the shores of a space-station designer. Can you think of other ways to content with the challenges of space? That's our challenge to you--to design a space station around your own ideas. So get busy: After all, 2000 is only seven years away.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Science World
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 15, 1993
Words:390
Previous Article:The metric challenge.
Next Article:Weightless and wild.
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