This month marks 50 years since Yuri Gagarin first ventured into space in the Vostok 1 mission, and 30 years since NASA's first shuttle flight. As the shuttle Endeavour prepares for its final flight, seven experts outline what NASA's priorities need to be.
On 26 August last year, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board released its assessment of the devastating space shuttle crash on 1 February 2003, which claimed seven lives and brought the US human space flight programme to a jarring halt. One year on from the report, firstname.lastname@example.org looks at the shuttle's long road to recovery, and its uncertain future.
The mission that tragically ended over Texas on 1 February was one of a vanishing breed - it was the first flight of the space shuttle in three years that was dedicated entirely to scientific research.
On 29 September, the same day that the launch of the space shuttle Discovery marked the return of the United States into space after a forces hiatus of two and a half years, the first steps were taken towards establishing a permanent manned presence in space.
The independent commission appointed by President Reagan to investigate the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger has concluded that the decision to launch the shuttle on 28 January "may have been flawed", it was announced last week.
The destruction last week of the Challenger space shuttle and the subsequent suspension of the whole US shuttle flight programme has thrown into disarray what was to have been the most ambitious year yet for space science.
As the US space shuttle achieved its first orbital test flight last week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was working on proposals for an alternative thermal protection system involving large carbon/carbon panels rather than the ceramic tiles so far.
After almost 10 years of preparation, technical delays and uncertainties are turning the final development stages of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Space Shuttle programme into something of a political cliffhanger.
"I stand before you a man who has just had his budget cut by 12 per cent", jauntily remarked Dr Thomas O. Paine, administrator of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, who was in London last week to receive various trohpies commemorating the first manned lunar landing from the British Interplanetary Society.