To Infinity and Beyond? the Future of U.S.-Russia Cooperation in Space

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To Infinity and Beyond? The Future of U.S.-Russia Cooperation in Space

Arman Arkelyan, John McClure, Robert Schur, Elena Sidorova

“More than by any other imaginative concept, the mind of man is aroused by the thought of exploring the mysteries of outer space. Through such exploration, man hopes to broaden his horizons, add to his knowledge, improve his way of living on earth.[1]”

President Dwight Eisenhower, 20 June 1958

Reset and Space Exploration

Space exploration represents a multifaceted endeavor and a “grand challenge” of the 21st century. The political agendas of a growing number of nations refer to space exploration as to the main evidence of technological advancement of the whole mankind and frame it as an international cooperative adventure. While the recent Reset between the United States and Russia launched by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev makes provisions for various areas of agreement and collaboration between the two countries, the plan neglects space exploration, a historically important pursuit for both countries that has recently faded from domestic and diplomatic agendas. Nonetheless, space exploration merits pursuit not only for the scientific and adventure value that it can provide to the mankind, but also for its potential to foster cooperative and mutually beneficial relations between countries. The United States and Russia are particularly well-suited to such collaborative outer space projects because of their historically leading positions in space exploration and because of the recent efforts to reinvigorate diplomatic ties between the countries. Given each country’s vast stables of distinct space technologies, collaboration in future space ventures could prove fruitful not only to both countries’ scientific knowledge, but also to that of mankind at large.[2] In response to the lackluster governmental efforts in outer space, private companies in both the United States and Russia have begun to produce space technologies independent of the governmental organizations that until very recently had controlled spaceflight. While some of these companies have successfully launched men and machines into sub-orbital space (namely SpaceX and RKK Energia), many have served as contractors to NASA and Roscosmos rather than launching their own vehicles (for instance, the company ILS). In this sense, NASA and Roscosmos along with other national space agencies at present remain the dominant providers of space exploration to the world. Given the budgetary constraints facing national space agencies, the abundance of private space contractors theoretically provides an attractive cost-cutting measure that will allow for development of new technologies with diminished expense. With the advent of a bilateral space collaboration agreement between the United States and Russia, these companies would provide the added benefit of stimulating the high-tech sector of both companies’ economies alongside fostering diplomatic relations between the two countries. In short, there are several short and long-term benefits to increasing the cooperation and collaboration between the American and Russian space programs. In the short-run, this space initiative, like any cooperative agreement between the two countries, will provide an opportunity for collaboration that will further the Reset goals of a few years ago. In addition, a space project in any form will stimulate the economies of both countries by creating technology and manufacturing jobs in the design and manufacture of new space vehicles. The following sections detail the past history of both competition and collaboration in space between the United States and Russia, identify the economic problems and benefits associated with past and future space initiatives, and examine the precedents for collaboration that both countries’...
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