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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.

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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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