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SPACE FLIGHT 2002 - The Year in Review

Space flight in 2002 again featured a number of outstanding highlights, both in human missions and in automated space exploration and commercial utilization. While the United States space budget remained on a relatively stable level, international space activities continued their trends of reduced public spending and increased pressure on the private industrial sector for more entrepreneurship, particularly in developing and providing launch services. In general, after reaching their lowest point since 1963 in 2001, down from previously exhibited growth trends, launch activities in 2002 showed some recovery and promise of further rebound in 2003. A total of 61 successful launches carried 87 payloads, compared to 57 flights in 2001 (81 in 2000). There also were four launch failures (up from two in 2001).

In its traditional leadership role among world space organizations, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) again racked up a number of remarkable accomplishments in the advancing build-up and operation of the International Space Station (ISS), the successful launches of science missions such as the HESSI (High-Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, later renamed RHESSI, the Aqua satellite of the Earth Observing System (EOS), the POES-M and the new upgrade of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), as well as interplanetary milestones such as the official begin of the science mission of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft in Mars orbit after its arrival at the Red Planet on October 24, 2001 and the last flyby of the tiny Jupiter moon Amalthea by the spacecraft Galileo before its final plunge into the giant planet calculated for September 21, 2003.

In 2002, the commercial space market, again making headlines with the second paying space tourist flying on a Russian spaceship to the ISS for a week's stay (and a third one, Lance Bass, planned but later cancelled), showed surprising recovery from the dramatic decline of the previous years. Out of the 62 successful launches worldwide, 28 (43%) were commercial launches (carrying 43 commercial payloads), compared to 22 (38%) in 2001. In the civil science satellite area, worldwide launches totaled 10, the same number as in the preceding year.

Russia's space program, despite chronic shortage of state funding, showed continued dependable participation in the build-up of the ISS. Europe's space activities in 2002 rose above the previous year's but suffered a crushing blow at year's end by the failure of the 14th Ariane 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle.

During 2002 a total of seven crewed flights from the two major space-faring nations (down from eight in 2001) carried 40 humans into space (2001: 44), including four women (2001: five), bringing the total number of people launched into space since 1958 (counting repeaters) to 955, incl. 98 women, respectively 431 individuals (37 female). Some significant space events in 2002 are listed in Table 1, and the launches and attempts are enumerated by country in Table 2.


Bibliography. Aviation Week & Space Technology (AW&ST, various '02 issues); Aerospace Daily (various '02 issues), SPACE NEWS (various '02 issues); AIAA AEROSPACE AMERICA, December 2002 issue; NASA Public Affairs Office News Releases '02; ESA Press Releases '02; various Internet sites.