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NASA's Next Mission

NASA hopes enthusiasm for the John Glenn mission will carry over into its next major challenge: the international space station, a long-awaited project that's now just weeks away.

The Discovery crew tested a remote camera system while bringing aboard a solar telescope, CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports. The same system will be used to help assemble the space station, which has been in the works since 1984.

Meant to bring nations together to explore the next frontier, the space station has been plagued by billions of dollars in cost overruns, re-designs, and delays.

"I had hoped that the space station would come along a little bit faster than it has," Glenn said from space. "But it's going to get here one of these days."

One of these days is in two weeks, when the Russians launch the first module of the station called Zarya, Russian for sunrise. Then, next month, the shuttle Endeavor carries the first U.S. component, called Unity, to rendezvous with Zarya.
But questions persist over whether the Russian government has the resources to continue supporting its space agency.

Political pressure on NASA is intensifying after it recently gave the Russians $60 million to help them meet their commitments for the station. NASA has been forced to draw up contingency plans in case the Russians can't keep up.

If all goes well, the space station could be a valuable research laboratory for long-term studies on weightlessness. NASA needs that data to make possible a manned mission to Mars, a trip that will take a year to go just one way.

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