David Southwood concurred with Freilich’s statement, but added that from his experience, in Earth science or any Earth observation activity, ESA represents the interests of Europe, whereas individual nations can play a more minor role. The reasons for this are political and can make it difficult for the United States to cooperate with Europe.

Freilich responded to David Southwood’s comments by stating that he has deep personal experience on both sides of working with Europe, starting with the ERS-1 mission in the 1980s, which was a collaboration between NASA and ESA. Today, the relationships that NASA has with European national space agencies are not necessarily overwhelmingly U.S.-dominant with a minor contribution from a European partner. In fact, when it comes to ocean altimetry, the French space agency, CNES, has taken nearly an equal role as the United States. Although the financial contribution from CNES is not the same, the bottom line is that those missions would not have happened without the participation of CNES.

Jean-Pierre Swings then pointed out that the SSB has contacted the ESSC on several occasions for suggestions of candidates to serve on decadal survey committees and their supporting panels. While the ESSC does not do decadal surveys for ESA, he envisions reciprocating this gesture with very little problem either for a similar activity or for other European planning exercises.

Discussion of COSPAR and Its Role

SSB Chair Charles Kennel asked the panelists how they would recommend capturing the creativity of looking at a challenge or opportunity from an international perspective. This is what he and others had in mind when they first suggested the open international forum at the 2008 NRC workshop on Workshop on U.S. Civil Space Policy.12 That forum would not be binding, even in the sense that CEOS is, because it would not be a governmental commitment, but Kennel thinks there is a need for a forum that looks at what can be done from an international standpoint over a long time horizon that can feed back into the decadal survey process.

David Southwood concurred with Kennel but wondered if there was not already a forum of the kind Kennel suggested that was originally established to facilitate international cooperation in space science—COSPAR.13 According to Southwood, COSPAR was set up to be the forum that has been described by Kennel, Swings, and others at this workshop; for instance, after its inception, it was the only place for international scientists to meet with their Soviet counterparts. Today, however, Southwood believes that COSPAR has become more of a scientific conference than true forum, but it could still be used as an umbrella organization for this new forum.

Lennard Fisk, who serves as the U.S. representative to COSPAR under the auspices of the SSB, said that COSPAR has a Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC)14 that he currently chairs and has for a number of years.15 According to Fisk, what has been discussed regarding an open international forum is precisely what CSAC has tried to encourage COSPAR to be. He agreed with Southwood that COSPAR is a natural starting point for the forum activity, but COSPAR will have to make some changes, including meeting more frequently and meeting in more easily accessible and less costly destinations. Although COSPAR does not have resources of its own and cannot charter studies, Fisk believes it to be a venue for international Earth and space scientists to meet to exchange information, and at times they have had heads of agencies participate in COSPAR meetings as well—although he would like that to happen more frequently.


12 NRC, Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World, 2009.

13 The Space Studies Board serves as the U.S. National Committee for COSPAR. See National Research Council, About the SSB, available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/ssb_052196.

14 See https://cosparhq.cnes.fr/content/cospar-scientific-advisory-committee-csac.

15 Workshop panelist Jean-Pierre Swings is the vice chair of the COSPAR Scientific Advisory Committee.

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