The headline to a recent news article read “NASA Focuses on Station, Faces Growing Budget Crisis” [Covault, 1989], which I thought summarized NASA's present and probable future succinctly. The article was unusual: it not only discussed NASA's budget options through 2000, a long time by the normal standards of these discussions, but it also pointed out that “major design decisions over the next two years will be critical to constructing a [space] station that will endure 30 years.”

Imagine trying to think 30–40 years ahead in the space program to a time in the middle 2020s when the station will presumably cease to endure! As I will try to show, however, it is crucial for those of us in the space program to think ahead for those 30–40 years if we are going to interpret correctly the events already beginning to shape the program for those years and which must soon begin to have a dramatic effect on its viability.