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A $100 Billion Orbiting Lab Takes Shape. What Will It Do?

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Science  14 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5417, pp. 1102-1108
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5417.1102

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Plans have become reality for the international space station now being assembled in orbit. But only a tiny share of the research portfolio has been selected, and the megaproject's 16 partners are still hammering out a process for collaboratively choosing experiments. Moreover, the technical hurdles remain daunting, including vibrations that could wreck sensitive studies and a cloud of contamination floating around the station that may coat and possibly blind sensitive instruments. And a debate over the scientific value of the station, which could cost $100 billion to build and operate, has been boiling ever since the idea was first floated (see sidebar).