Returning to Space

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Final preparations are underway for the launch of the first U.S. space shuttle mission in more than two years. Engineers and managers at NASA have painstakingly picked over every detail of the shuttle Discovery, hoping to avoid an explosion like the one that claimed the lives of the seven Columbia astronauts in the winter of 2003.

But that accident got a lot of people thinking: should NASA be risking the lives of its astronauts for what often amounts to little more than delivery runs to an out-of-date space station?

President Bush has talked about the glory of manned space flight to the moon and on to Mars, but some wonder if that would be pushing NASA too far too fast. The shuttles return to space; and NASA searches for its mission.


Kelly Beatty, Executive editor Sky & Telescope Magazine

Joe Rothenberg, former NASA space flight administrator

Alex Roland, former NASA historian;