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Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop
Coherent and realistic planning from research to operations is needed, and
Successful Earth-observation activities require high-level involvement and support (e.g., ministerial-level).
Lautenbacher concluded his remarks by observing that rising costs, economic priorities, technological and scientific needs, and expanding benefits combine to make collaboration both necessary and appealing.
Vincent Sabathier (Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS) also contributed to the opening session by discussing the efforts of CSIS to address the policy aspects of space activities at the global level. Space activities are increasingly globalized, he noted, adding that the rapid expansion of space activities in Asia, including competition relating to the Moon, is particularly striking. Looking ahead, Sabathier made reference to the growing role of the private sector and stressed the need to pursue sustainable space programs. The establishment of the Group on Earth Observations in 2003 and the subsequent efforts to create a Global Earth Observing System of Systems are important steps in this regard, he added.
The second keynote presentation, delivered by Roger Launius (National Air and Space Museum) reviewed the history of and lessons learned from governmental space cooperation and competition during and after the Cold War.3 During the Cold War, the United States pursued cooperation to advance its national interest, enhance the image of the United States, develop closer relations with other countries, and reinforce the perception of U.S. openness. In carrying out these objectives, NASA structured cooperation on a project-by-project basis and sought to ensure that the projects pursued were scientifically valid, mutually beneficial, and that they involved no exchange of funds.4 NASA has concluded more than 2,000 agreements with other nations for various international space ventures during the past 50 years—almost always as the senior partner. In the post-Cold War era, however, NASA’s role in collaborative projects has gradually changed. U.S. pre-eminence in space has begun to decline as U.S. commitment to maintain pre-eminence has waned and as other countries have developed sophisticated space capabilities. The U.S. commitment to large-scale international ventures has also diminished, in part as a result of International Traffic in Arms Regulations constraints and in part because of U.S. preferences to go it alone. As a result, the United States today is not automatically viewed as the partner of choice.
In his remarks Launius observed that the International Space Station program, begun by NASA in 1984, will be remembered not so much for its science and technological achievements (though these may be significant) but because it brought together engineers, scientists, managers, and technicians from various backgrounds and cultures who successfully worked together to achieve common goals. There may be opportunities to pursue similar initiatives in the future, he added.5
The “no exchange of funds” policy is not inviolate, however; for example, NASA has made considerable payments to the Russians in the course of the International Space Station cooperation.
Workshop participants also heard a dinner presentation by Roald Sagdeev (University of Maryland) titled “Real World Implications for International Cooperation,” in which he provided personal reflections on the history of Soviet-U.S. space cooperation.