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About the Editor
Steven J. Dick is the Chief Historian for NASA and Director of the NASA History Division. He worked as an astronomer and historian of science at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC for 24 years before coming to NASA Headquarters in 2003. Among his recent books are
Societal Impact of Spaceﬂight
(NASA SP 4801, 2007, edited with Roger Launius),
Critical Issues in the History of Spaceﬂight
(NASA SP 4702, 2006, edited with Roger Launius),
The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology
(2004, with James Strick), and
Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory
(2003). Dr. Dick is the recipient of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, two NASA Group Achievement Awards, and the 2006 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society. On the back cover: Fifty years after the Space Age began, the International Space Station orbits the Earth. It is the result of a cooperative eﬀort of 16 nations led by the United States.
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here is no doubt that the last 50 years have witnessed numerous accomplishments in what has often been termed “the new ocean” of space, harkening back to a long tradition of exploration. Earth is now circled by thousands of satellites, looking both upward into space at distant galaxies and downward toward Earth for reconnaissance, weather, communications, nav- igation, and remote sensing. Robotic space probes have explored most of the solar system, returning astonishing images of alien worlds. Space telescopes have probed the depths of the universe at many wavelengths. In the dramatic arena of human spaceﬂight, 12 men have walked on the surface of the Moon, the Space Shuttle has had 119 ﬂights, and the International Space Station—a cooperative eﬀort of 16 nations—is almost “core complete.” In addition to Russia, which put the ﬁrst human into space in April 1961, China has now joined the human spaceﬂight club with two Shenzhou ﬂights, and Europe is readying for its entry into the ﬁeld as well.
After 50 years of robotic and human space-ﬂight, and as serious plans are being implemented to return humans to the Moon and continue on to Mars, it is a good time to step back and ask questions that those in the heat of battle have had but little time to ask.What has the Space Age meant? What if the Space Age had never occurred? Has it been, and is it still, important for a creative society to explore space? How do we, and how should we, remember the Space Age? On the cover: The Space Age begins. Top left: A technician puts the ﬁnishing touches on Sputnik I in the fall of 1957. Top middle and right: The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I the ﬁrst artiﬁcial Earth satellite on October 4, 1957. Bottom: Explorer 1 America’s ﬁrst Earth satellite was launched January 31, 1958. Pictured left to right are William H. Pickering, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that built and operated the satellite; James A. van Allen of the State University of Iowa who designed and built the instrument that discovered the Van Allen Radiation Belts; and Wernher von Braun, leader of the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal team which built the ﬁrst stage Redstone rocket that launched Explorer 1. The photo was taken at a press conference at the National Academy of Sciences building in the early hours of February 1, 1958.