Science: Steering with Mouse Burps

One bedeviling problem facing space scientists is the difficulty of building the enormous chemical rocket engines needed to propel the ever growing payloads the U.S. wants to hurl deep into space. Last week the problem came closer to solution, not with the development of a big new chemical rocket but with the Air Force announcement that the U.S. had for the first time successfully tested an ion rocket engine in space.

Under development by Electro-Optical Systems Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., for the past four years, the ion rocket is likely to prove to be the...

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