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A waste of space?

During its 50 years of existence, Nasa has achieved extraordinary things—not least the Apollo programme. But with a lack of political direction, and facing competition from the private sector, it is struggling to win the battle for relevance

By Natasha Loder   October 2008

Broadly speaking, there are two types of people on this planet. There are those who believe that the future of humanity lies here on earth, and there are those who believe it lies out in space. Stephen Hawking is one of the latter. One of the world’s most celebrated scientists is certain that we have no alternative but to ship out. Life on earth, says Hawking, is at ever greater risk of being wiped out by threats like nuclear war or a genetically engineered virus.

Those who believe in space exploration, such as Hawking, say that humanity needs to be…

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