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Evolution vs. Revolution: The 1970s Battle for NASA’s Future

8 Jun 2012, 06:09 UTC
Evolution vs. Revolution: The 1970s Battle for NASA’s Future
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In the 1970s, NASA split over its course after the Space Shuttle became operational. Some wanted low-cost evolutionary development based on Skylab, Shuttle, and Spacelab technology. Others wanted a revolution in the form of an all-new giant space station. The revolutionaries won - sort of. Beyond Apollo blogger David S. F. Portree examines proposed evolutionary hardware and the long collapse of NASA's 1980s spaceflight revolution.

Image: Junior Miranda.
According to historians Andrew Dunar and Stephen Waring, writing in their 1999 book Power to Explore: A History of Marshall Space Flight Center, in the 1970s two lines of thought emerged within NASA concerning manned spaceflight’s course after the Space Shuttle became operational. On the one hand, there was the “revolutionary” line taken by Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. On the other was the “evolutionary” line of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama.
At JSC, many managers assumed that, as soon as the Shuttle became operational, NASA would get a green light to assemble a large, new-design, multipurpose space station in low-Earth orbit (LEO). They envisioned that a future President would make a speech much like President John F. Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 “moon speech.” Visionary goal ...

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