Space: Crippled Birds in Search of Wings

Earthbound and demoralized, the U.S. looks uneasily to the future

Not since the orbiting satellite Sputnik 1 first beep-beep-beeped its way across the night sky 30 years ago have the Soviets mounted a more palpable challenge to U.S. technological prowess. President John F. Kennedy responded to the original challenge in 1961 by proclaiming that Americans would land on the moon within the decade, and so they did. Today there are no such stirring commitments. The only manned spacecraft orbiting the earth is the Soviet space station Mir.

"The United States," says ex-Astronaut Joe Allen, who flew on shuttle missions in 1982 and 1984, "is flirting with becoming to the space age...

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