But there may be another way. Laser powered launching to orbit is an emerging space technology that may eventually provide a techno-fix for the large expense of getting payloads into orbit, a way around the high cost of Shuttle payloads. Extremely powerful lasers are now on the hi-tech horizon, and their development promises to make this new technology feasible. In July of 1986 a group of experts gathered at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to consider the key issues of laser propulsion. They focused on three basic questions: (1) What laser launching will be possible with the big lasers now under development? (2) What groundwork of research and development is needed to prepare for launch testing when the big lasers are ready? And (3) What characteristics should be pushed for in these big lasers so that they will be more useful for such launching? This Alternate View column follows some of their discussion
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