Will Star Wars Ever Fly?

Not at this rate, despite six years of research and $17 billion

A space rocket that stalled helplessly on a White Sands, N. Mex., test stand last week seemed to symbolize the fears critics have long expressed about the Strategic Defense Initiative. What fizzled was not the payload -- a satellite designed to generate Buck Rogers-style neutral-particle beams in space -- but a thoroughly conventional solid-fuel Aries booster. Coming after an aborted mission in March using a Delta launcher, the unsuccessful mission crystallized suspicion that SDI is so riddled with potential failures that it will never get off the ground.

Last week's failure occurred as President Bush and his advisers huddled to formulate...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!