A variety of laser applications in space, past, present, future and far future are reviewed together with the contributions
of some of the scientists and engineers involved, especially those that happen to have South African connections.
Historically, two of the earliest laser applications in space, were atmospheric LIDAR and lunar ranging. These
applications involved atmospheric physicists, several astronauts and many of the staff recruited into the Soviet and North
American lunar exploration programmes. There is a strong interest in South Africa in both LIDAR and lunar ranging.
Shortly after the birth of the laser (and even just prior) theoretical work on photonic propulsion and space propulsion by
laser ablation was initiated by Georgii Marx, Arthur Kantrowitz and Eugen Saenger. Present or near future experimental
programs are developing in the following fields: laser ablation propulsion, possibly coupled with rail gun or gas gun
propulsion; interplanetary laser transmission; laser altimetry; gravity wave detection by space based Michelson
interferometry; the de-orbiting of space debris by high power lasers; atom laser interferometry in space. Far future
applications of laser-photonic space-propulsion were also pioneered by Carl Sagan and Robert Forward. They envisaged
means of putting Saenger's ideas into practice. Forward also invented a laser based method for manufacturing solid antimatter
or SANTIM, well before the ongoing experiments at CERN with anti-hydrogen production and laser-trapping.
SANTIM would be an ideal propellant for interstellar missions if it could be manufactured in sufficient quantities. It
would be equally useful as a power source for the transmission of information over light year distances. We briefly
mention military lasers. Last but not least, we address naturally occurring lasers in space and pose the question: "did the
Big Bang lase?"