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Once the smoke clears from the three-year debate over U.S. space policy ushered in by the return of a Democratic administration to the White House, NASA’s human-spaceflight activities will look a lot like those planned and started under the preceding Republican administration.

As was the case then, astronauts will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russian Soyuz vehicles while they wait for a new capsule/launch vehicle combination that owes more in basic design and operation to Apollo and its predecessors than to the space shuttle. And NASA will be working on a heavy-lift rocket comparable to the Saturn V, hopeful that it will take humans beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) someday.

Perhaps the biggest difference in the old approach and the new will be the time lost while the politicians and contractors sorted out the details. And only time will tell if the new approach is faster—and cheaper, as NASA’s leaders promise.

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Category: Science