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On the way to Spacelab

Congratulations to astronauts Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton and to the entire shuttle team.

With spaceship Columbia safely on the ground, they have taken a giant step forward into a new phase of space operations and exploration.

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The shuttle has demonstrated its potential as a platform for scientific investigation, enabling experimenters to carry out a diversity of experiments on a single mission. Not the least of the benefits is the return of the instruments and experiments for analysis in the scientists' own laboratories. Future shuttle missions when an entire laboratory--Spacelab--will be available in the shuttle equipment bay offer scientists an unprecedented opportunity for research in such diverse fields as plant biology and delicate observations of faint radiations from the cosmos.

Now is the time for the United States scientific community to make the most of what the shuttle has to offer. Disappointment over cutbacks in some other areas, such as planetary research, should not blind scientists to this new challenge.

Some of these cutbacks do indeed seem unwise. It is hard to justify the threatened closure of the moon sample laboratory or shutdown of still-operating planetary probes. Nevertheless, space scientists should not allow this to mar their view of the shuttle. Planetary scientists, in particular, do themselves a disservice in dwelling on their frustrations for which they blame the priority given to development of the shuttle.

It is indeed disappointing for these scientists to see the door closing even temporarily on such missions as Voyager's surveys of the outer planets. But another door has opened on a magnificent new opportunity for space science.

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