US eyes a space base next

Now that the US space shuttle has proved itself, the space agency is beginning to push for development of a permanent space base to serve as a manned service station in orbit.

Dr. Alan M. Lovelace, acting head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, signaled the agency's desire at a congressional hearing praising the shuttle pilots, John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen.

The space operations center would differ vastly from the Skylab station, which showed that people could stay in space for weeks and months at a time. The new center would be a permanent modular assembly designed to handle practical jobs, such as servicing spacecraft and serving as a construction base for large orbiting platforms like communications relay posts. It would be assembled from modules hauled one by one into orbit in the shuttle's 15-by-60 -foot cargo hold.

The center would initially house up to eight people for three to six, months at a time. It would have enough supplies and backup facilities to allow the crew to remain without the continuous presence of a shuttle

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