National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Houston, Texas 77058
Space stations have long been seen as a laboratories for learning about the effects of space conditions and as a springboard to the Moon and Mars. In the United States, the Apollo lunar program preempted early station efforts in the early 1960s, and changing priorities in the U.S. deferred post-Apollo station efforts to the 1980s. Since 1984, space station design has evolved in response to budgetary, programmatic, and political pressures, becoming increasingly international in the process. This evolution has culminated in the International Space Station, orbital assembly of which will begin in 1998.
The concept of a staffed outpost in Earth orbit dates from just after the Civil War. In 1869, American writer Edward
Everett Hale published a science fiction tale called “The Brick Moon” in the . Hale’s manned satellite was a navigational aid for ships at sea. Hale proved prophetic. The fictional designers of the Brick Moon encountered many of the same problems with redesigns and funding that NASA would with its station
more than a century later.
In 1923, Hermann Oberth, a Romanian, coined the term “space station.” Oberth’s station was the starting point for flights to the Moon and Mars. Herman Noordung, an Austrian, published the first space station blueprint in 1928. Like today’s International Space Station, it had modules with different functions. Both men wrote that space station parts would be launched into space by rockets.
In 1926, American Robert Goddard made a major breakthrough by launching the first liquid-fueled rocket, setting the stage for the large, powerful rockets needed to