Space Station Freedom was the name given to NASA's project to construct a permanently-manned earth-orbiting space station. Although approved by then-president Ronald Reagan and announced in the 1984 State of the Union Address, Freedom was never constructed or completed as orignially designed, and was eventually scaled-back and converted into the International Space Station currently in operation today.
In the early 1980s, with the space shuttle completed, NASA proposed the creation of a large, permanently-manned space station, which then-NASA-Administrator James Beggs called "the next logical step" in space. In some ways it was meant to be the U.S. answer to the Soviet Mir. NASA plans called for the station, which was later dubbed Space Station Freedom, to be 508 square feet (47 mē) large and have a crew capacity of 7. NASA said the station would function as an orbiting repair shop for satellites, an assembly point for spacecraft, an observation post for astronomers, a microgravity laboratory for scientists, and a microgravity factory for companies.
Reagan announced plans to build Space Station Freedom in 1984, stating: "We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain."
Problems with the station program
Underestimates by NASA of the station program's cost and unwillingness by the U.S. Congress to appropriate funding for the space station resulted in delays of Freedom's design and construction. Rather than being completed in a decade, as Reagan had predicted, Freedom was never built or launched.
Conversion to the International Space Station
In 1993, the administration of President Bill Clinton announced the transformation of Space Station Freedom into the International Space Station (ISS). Then-NASA-Administrator Dan Goldin supervised the addition of Russia, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency to the project. To accommodate reduced budgets, the station design was scaled-back from 508 to 353 square feet (47 to 33 mē), the crew capacity was reduced from 7 to 3, and the station's functions were reduced.
- Lyn Ragsdale, “The U.S. Space Program in the Reagan and Bush Years,” in eds. Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy, Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership (Champaign, Ill.: U of Illinois P, 1997)
- James Oberg, Star-Crossed Orbits: Inside the U.S.-Russian Space Alliance (New York: McGraw Hill, 2001)