application of the results thereof."3 To its credit, NASA has actively embraced this objective for many years. The political environment within which cooperation has taken place, however, has helped determine what types of cooperative efforts would be supported by involved governments and where they would be conducted.

The reasons for an international approach to space activity from the U.S. perspective in the early years were quite clear. The more pragmatic reasons focused on the U.S. requirement for worldwide tracking locations. NASA wanted to create an international climate in which other countries would be favorably disposed toward allowing tracking sites on their territory.4 Beyond this immediate need, international cooperation helped promote certain economic and political objectives. The United States, for instance, wanted to create global markets for newly emerging communications and aerospace industries.

During the Cold War there was significant political goodwill to be gained by the United States through cooperation with Europe vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union. The NASA Task Force on International Cooperation in fact stated in 1987 that "international cooperation in space from the outset has been motivated primarily by foreign policy objectives." 5 Competition in space (including the space sciences) was part and parcel of concerted efforts made by the superpowers to convince other countries of their technical capabilities, and hence leadership. This leadership aspect was at one time sufficient reason to engage in a cooperative activity.

Finally, there were also scientific and technical objectives for cooperating. In this initial period, the benefits of technology acquisition flowed primarily from the United States to other countries. The United States, although willing to be (and indeed seeing benefit in being) generous in its cooperative efforts, nevertheless attempted to avoid unnecessary technology transfer. Space science, as a field within space activity, was deemed a benign and nonthreatening field for initial cooperative efforts.6

Basic scientific research, as opposed to applied science, has traditionally been considered a field in which open, cooperative work should be encouraged. Further, the desire of members of the international scientific community to work together to maximize the benefits accrued from each scientific effort engendered a unity of purpose that transcended national boundaries. During the first stage of U.S.-European cooperation, space science was therefore actively pursued as a cooperative venture. The initial guidelines set by NASA for cooperation were simple:7

  • Having each participating government designate a civil government agency for the negotiation and supervision of joint efforts;
  • Conducting projects and activities having scientific validity and of mutual interest;
  • Agreeing on specific projects rather than generalized programs;
  • Having each country accept financial responsibility for its own contributions to joint projects (no exchange of funds); and
  • Providing for the widest and most practicable dissemination of the results of cooperative projects.

The focus of the guidelines reinforces the statement that scientific cooperation was what the United States envisioned; thus, cooperative space efforts took on multiple forms relatively quickly. These forms ranged from handshakes in space, with Apollo-Soyuz, to Spacelab and the International Space Station (ISS). The difference between what was originally envisioned and what eventually transpired was largely determined by fluctuating economic conditions as well as national interests.


Logsdon, J.M. "U.S.-European Coorperation in Space Science: A 25-Year Perspective," Science 223:11-16, January 6, 1984.


Public Law 85-568, National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, July 29, 1958.


Marcia S. Smith, "America's International Space Activities," Society 18 (January-February), 1984. Actually there were four tracking programs being established: (1) mini-track, a north-south network throughout the Western hemisphere for scientific satellites; (2) the deep-space network; (3) the manned spaceflight ground stations; and (4) the Baker-Nunn (named for the camera design used) tracking stations for a Smithsonian astrophysics program.


Task Force on International Relations in Space, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Internatioanl Space Policy for the 1990's and Beyond, NASA, Washington, D.C., October 12, 1987, p. 18.


In his book Science with a vengeance, David DeVorkin presents an interesting history of the linkage between carly military space operations and space science. DeVorkin, D., Science with a Vengeance, Sprnger-Verlag, New York, 1993.


Division of International Affairs, National Aeronautics and space Administration, 26 Years of NASA International Programs, NASA, Washington, D.C., January 1, 1984, p.2.

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