Effects of Cold War Politics on International Space Station

Cold War, the restrained battle between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies that emerged after World War II. The Cold War had been waged on political, economic, etc, and made limited use of weapons. A short history portraying the US and Russia leading in the formation of the technical platforms and further advancements.

Effects of Cold War Politics on International  Space Station

Era of space-age cosmopolitanism

Astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev arrived at International Space Station on 2 November 2000. The moment has begun with a permanent human presence in space. 240 people from 19 countries have lived in the world’s largest orbital laboratory for the last two decades. The station is a paragon of cosmopolitanism in the space-age, but it has hard-won this enduring international partnership.240 people from 19 countries have lived in the world’s largest orbital laboratory for the last two decades. The station is a paragon of cosmopolitanism in the space-age, but it has hard-won this enduring international partnership. The ISS(International Space Centre) was influenced by Cold War politics and the daunting decisions taken by statesmen, troops, and NASA officials while astronauts were still bouncing on the moon.

The last century’s physiographical political tensions are baked into the station’s architecture, which is questionable and best described as two stations — one Russian, and one American — attached to the end. The station, however, is more than just a technological marvel thus, is an elation of diplomacy and an unparalleled experiment in the use of science and technology as soft power types of equipment.

International Space Station ISS

Antiquity of NASA and Europe

In the early 1970s, NASA set up its shuttle program and it was planned to include foreign contributors from the outset. This was a substantial departure from the Apollo program, notable for its strongly nationalistic inspiration. Putting a man on the moon was above all about displaying the American superiority of the Soviet Union. But Armstrong has taken the small step, the official space program agenda has gone through a big change.

Not only in the 1970s but also in the late 50s NASA has needed a space station when it began sending people into space. But it wasn’t until they had boot prints on the moon that they really took the idea seriously. The initial idea was to position a 100-person station in low Earth orbit, named Space Base. It soon became apparent, however, that the cost of using expendable rockets to lift people and orbit supplies would shorten the cost of station building itself. If NASA required an orbital base, then a renewable spacecraft would have to be built for that.

The US found that facilitating international space cooperation has been the most successful way of preserving U.S. dominance at the final borderline as well as on Earth. This conflict or ambiguity between emphasizing American interests and promoting globalism was already be seen in the space shuttle’s early days. NASA initially invited Canada, Europe, and Japan to join, but Japan would consider too long and eventually lose the chance. But besides the research project’s international excitement, NASA had no intention of becoming fair partners for all nations. The shuttle was an American aircraft that would represent US interests in the first place.

Hereafter all this, the country needed to accept the terms and conditions in accordance with NASA if they desired to participate in programs related to space.

That, understandably, has resulted in some tension on the project, particularly between the US and Europe. When NASA first invited the European countries to work on the shuttle, they spent years — and tens of millions of dollars — working out how to make the best contribution. There were three key options:

    1. Europe could build a tug that took the shuttle’s payloads and placed them in their proper orbit.
    2. It could construct a laboratory module that would fly into the shuttle bay.
    3. It could construct some shuttle parts, such as the bay doors

Ultimately Europe decided that now it wanted to add a tweak, but NASA did not. The agency was not happy to depend on a vital satellite component from other countries, particularly since the spacecraft would often perform critical national security assignments. Rather, NASA charged Europe with building a Space lab, a laboratory module that might fit inside the service module of the shuttle. It wasn’t what Europe wanted to build, but it ultimately agreed to the proposal after some unhappy negotiations. France particularly resisted the idea of building Spacelab and it preferred Europe to set up its own spacefaring facilities, and building Spacelab would mean that it would not have ample capital to invest across Europe in ambitious space projects. It was only after the other Member States agreed to let France lead the development of Ariane rockets that she signed on to the shuttle service in the USA.


Escalation of NASA

By the time the space shuttle first flew in 1981, NASA was looking to make the use of a space station site. In 1982, eight major aerospace consultants were hired to review the station designs which would eventually inform the final design of the department. The same year, NASA formed a Space Station Task Force to determine whether or not international space station collaboration was feasible or even desirable. The problem is more complex than it would seem.

NASA was not alone in having a low Earth orbit permanent site as the US Department of Defense had already been building its own station for years, and funding for the ISS by the Reagan administration relied on its use as a forum to promote interstellar trade. It indicated that NASA’s space station would have to juggle the research, business, and security requirements, which appeared to have very different approaches to international collaboration.

DOD and US

The DOD(Department of Defence Model) was particularly resistant to the idea of outsiders snooping around American hardware, or having to trust the reliability of foreign components. “The DOD called a halt to the space station negotiations and tried to torpedo them,” says John Logsdon, a space historian at George Washington University. The DOD needed a US-only facility. “Technology transfer was the biggest problem for the military and the companies that were intended to become the space station’s key users. With people from all of these different countries sharing data to create the ISS, some of America’s important or confidential technological information seemed unavoidable to leak to its partners.

NASA, on either hand, was worried about what other countries might respond to the station’s flying US defence payloads and they would not be pleased with the idea of contributing to a project that served to improve America’s military might. Logsdon says, “On the one hand, NASA had to satisfy its foreign partners’ demands and on the other, it had to establish terms and conditions that were appropriate to the national security community.”

The drive for a space station gathered momentum at the highest levels of government as NASA grappled with issues of international cooperation. In 1984, during his State of the Union address, US President Ronald Reagan officially announced America’s plan to build a space station. To the delight of many, he also invited allies from America to take part in the program. At that point, NASA hadn’t yet found out how to do that without totally alienating the DOD or potential commercial customers, let alone the foreign partners themselves.

Enhanced Space Station

Some ESA countries also feel a little confused over how NASA had treated the space shuttle with international cooperation. As Logsdon describes together in Orbit: The History of space station Involvement, some members of the European space community described cooperation with the US on the shuttle as a “stupid” error because it weakened Europe’s ability to develop its own comparable technologies individually.

NASA was well aware of those lingering bad feelings and the leadership of the agency was eager to do things with the space station differently. This time they brought in the early stages of preparing their foreign allies like – Europe, Japan, and Canada —. While NASA will still drive the space station project, its partners will, from the outset, impact progress to assure the station served the needs and capacities of everyone.

Nasa and other countries
Pic Credit: Wikipedia

Allies: NASA and other Countries

As for the problem of technology transfer — and the topic of military payloads — this will be addressed by the station design itself. Since the platform was compact, that meant that each country could create its station piece and restrict the quantity of data it exchanged with partners. The interfaces between the modules will be clean and clear meaning no unique materials. In brief, international politics fundamentally affected the design on an engineering level of the space station.

By 1987 the space station had the name “FREEDOM” and a year ago the US officially made contracts with Europe, Japan, and Canada to build the orbital outpost. But it found out the deal was already premature. NASA had struggled since Reagan unveiled the space station in 1984 to rely on a design that was both feasible and accessible. About 1984 and 1993, space station operation went through 7 main new designs. That was the year the first components of the station were scheduled to fly in orbit, but by that point, NASA already spent $9 billion planning a station that it hadn’t even begun constructing yet. Congress was fed up with what many of its participants would see as an unnecessary and expensive undertaking. That year the whole space station system in the US House of Representatives avoided being scrapped by a single vote.

The Clinton administration cancelled plans for space station Freedom a few months after that fateful vote. Instead, NASA will be constructing a “World Space Station.” Mainly this was a way for the US to retain its space station without breaking the bank. But an invitation to help from an unexpected new partner had also affected it claimed Russia.

Effects of Cold War Politics on International  Space Station

Soviet Space Supremacy

Space already had proven a strong diplomatic instrument in US-Soviet relations. Typically seen as the beginning of the end of the Cold War is the notorious “handshake in space” between NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts in 1975. While the risk of Soviet space supremacy has been used as one of the Reagan administration’s justifications for space station Independence, the relationship between the US and Russia had been defrosting for years by the time the Clinton administration announced the International Space Station.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and so when Russia reached out to suggest space stations combining, the US get an opportunity to handle or embrace the post-cold war world off.

International Space Station

In 1993, the US and Russia held the first in a series of high-level meetings on the International Space Station to address joint efforts. The US and Russia performed a series of joint shuttle missions to Mir as a stepping-stone toward the space station. Space station-Mir project came to an end in 1998, and the same year the 15 allied countries at the International Space Station formally decided to handle ISS by briefing their contributions.

A few months later a Russian Proton rocket launched the first piece of the space station, a Russian cargo module, into orbit. The fledgeling International Space Station station will receive its first inhabitants almost exactly two years after that — two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut. Since then, it has hosted a revolving crew of people from all over the world.

ISS and international cooperation

ISS and International Cooperation

Officially finished the ISS in 2011. It’s often viewed as a paradigm of international cooperation and peace, but the political stigma that produced it has not been shed entirely. In a way, the ISS is two separate space stations: the Russian one, the American the other. Nearly all you hear and see about the space station is from the station’s American side, which includes the European and Japanese modules.

This is an aspect of technology transfer issues, which makes the ISS more of a compromise than a relationship. Astronauts and cosmonauts can (for now) ride the same rockets to the platform and eat dinner in at the same table, but this relationship has-defined limits for the countries themselves. The very life of the ISS depended, in fact, on rendering limits and explicit cooperation of all the countries concerned. And neither space station could exist without the other, despite this soft divide. Logsdon says, “The fact is we’ve become mutually interdependent with the machine.”

The ISS is likely to come down in records as the first and last of its kind space station. A global revival in nationalism combined with the promotion in low Earth orbit all but ensures that the future space stations will look more like walled gardens than universal commons. China is building its own space station and several American companies have already begun carrying out the infrastructure for the first orbital private space stations. But perhaps the ISS will still serve as a reminder that advanced space cooperation is possible for the benefit of the whole planet, no matter how impossible it might seem from the ground at moments.


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