Russian American Space Cooperation

John Pike

Director, Space Policy Project

Federation of American Scientists

With commendable boldness, the President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and NASA Administrator Dan Goldin have, in a matter of months, negotiated the merger of the Russian Mir space station program with the Freedom space station project of America, Europe, Japan and Canada. From the twin perspectives of national security policy and space policy, this is an historic achievement.

The space station merger marks the Clinton Administration's major innovation in national security policy with respect to Russia. The merger was explicitly predicated on Russian compliance with international norms constraining ballistic missile proliferation. And this policy of engagement will create institutional interests in Russia that these norms be observed.

More importantly, however, the joining of the Russian and American piloted spaceflight efforts represents a unique and highly visible exemplar of the new partnership between these former adversaries. During the Cold War, the space race represented a continuing reminder of the bipolar competition. Space achievements epitomized national aspirations and identities in both countries. There is no more effective vehicle for demonstrating the fundamental change in the relationship between America and Russia than cooperation in human space flight.

Unifying the Russian and American space station projects will rank with Kennedy's decision to send Americans to the Moon as a milestone in space policy. Conceived in the Reagan Administration as a means of demonstrating the superiority and solidarity of the Western Alliance, Space Station Freedom was bereft of apparent rationale with the end of the Cold War. Under the Bush Administration, space advocates sought to justify the project on scientific and commercial grounds, with declining success. Absent the reinvigorated geo-political rationale of cooperation with Russia, the cancellation of the space station was just a matter of time. And the likelihood of a repetition of the Challenger accident presaged the end of the Space Age.

Russian participation in the space station will reduce the burden to America, while permitting accelerated progress toward the project's completion. This improves the prospects for political support for the Station, while closing NASA's window of vulnerability to another shuttle accident.

Supporters of this bold initiative should join with critics in acknowledging the manifold challenges that must be met if these ambitions are to be realized. A multitude of problems and difficulties stand on the path.

In the first decade of the space age, little effort was spared in the race to the Moon, despite problems which dwarf our recent adversities. But with the triumph of Tranquility, NASA's budget was quickly halved. Nonetheless, during the next two decades of the space age, a host of setbacks and failures were met with a widespread consensus that the Cold War space race demanded continued American efforts in space, lest we fall behind the Soviet adversary.

With the end of the Cold War, this broad political consensus dissolved. Though committed advocates of space exploration and development remained supportive, others began to question the need for continued effort. These questions became far more acute as both inevitable and seemingly avoidable technical setbacks and failures, and cost and schedule problems accumulated in recent years. Absent a politically compelling rationale for significant investment in space, these difficulties were transformed into pretexts for further retrenchment, which could effectively end the space program as we have known it thus far.

With the integration of Russia into the international space station effort, a post-Cold War geopolitical rationale for human space flight has been restored. By broadening the political constituency for space exploration and development, the difficulties ahead will once again be challenges to be overcome, rather than excuses for retreat.


At the mid-December 1993 meeting between Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin, America and Russia formally agreed to joint their space station efforts. This agreement was the culmination of an 18-month process that began in with the October 1992 Bush Administration initiative for an exchange of American and Russian crews, and a flight of the Shuttle to dock with Mir.

The new program will proceed in three phases. Under Phase One, America will pay Russia approximately $400 million from 1994 through 1997 in support of at least ten American Shuttle missions to the Mir space station from 1995 through 1997. American astronauts and experiments will also be launched to Mir by the Russians, gaining valuable flight experience on the Russian station.

In Phase Two, an initial launch of a Russian core module in May 1997 will be followed by nine further Russian and American launches of additional hardware, culminating in a crew-tended facility by December 1997. The addition of a Soyuz Assured Crew Return Vehicle in January 1998 would establish the potential for permanent occupancy. Supplementary though as yet unspecified payments will be made to Russia to support work in this phase.

Phase Three encompasses subsequent launches of the Japanese JEM laboratory in October 1999 and the European Columbus module in April 2000, along with other supporting hardware. The assembly of the station would be completed in October 2001, with a permanent complement of six crew members beginning in May 2001.

The joining of the Mir and Freedom space station programs will give clear direction for America's faltering space effort while reducing its cost, as well as further the cause of reform in Russia and discourage missile proliferation. It would be a supreme irony if two separate space stations were an enduring monument to a Cold War now fortunately ended. NASA Administrator Dan Goldin captured this vision most clearly in his call for "one world, one space station."

Space Station Freedom was announced in 1984, in one of the darker phases of the Cold War. Although significant scientific and technological benefits were widely asserted, the program clearly followed in the Space Race tradition of Apollo, in which no significant Soviet advance in space could go long unanswered. The new American station was to be vastly larger than the Soviet Salyuts, which had been orbiting the Earth for over a decade. This clear assertion of American preeminence was to be assisted by contributions from Europe, Japan and Canada. This was a visible demonstration of the solidarity of the Western alliance, which had been sorely tested by publics made nervous by the Reagan Administration's bellicose rhetoric and enthusiasm for Cold War contestation.

But subsequent Gorbachev peace initiatives vitiated the case for vigorous prosecution of the Space Race. And the termination of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s terminated these geopolitical rationales for Space Station Freedom.

Supporters of Freedom were thereupon reduced to claiming that the station would significant scientific or commercial benefits. The Station was frequently characterized as the biggest of the "Big Science" projects. But claims for the scientific value of the Station found little support in the scientific community.

The commercial potential of the Station were equally oversold, with the prospects that the Station would actually lead to significant commercial applications quite remote. Although the Station can support useful materials science research, the Station was not a high priority for the materials science community at large, which if given the choice would probably spend the money on other types of research.

Many would contend that a space station is a prerequisite for more ambitious undertakings in space, such as a Moon Base or a Mars Expedition. A Station could provide needed experience in operating the types of life support and other hardware needed for these missions. It could also answer fundamental questions about the effects of long-term spaceflight on crew members. And it could serve as a staging base for these more ambitious missions. But the ambivalence of the Bush Administration toward the Space Exploration Initiative, and the repudiation of this initiative by the Congress and the Clinton Administration deprived the station of support on this basis.

The End of the Space Age?

Deprived of geopolitical significance, and supported other rationales of limited appeal, Congressional support for Freedom steadily declined during the Bush Administration. The nadir of Freedom's prospects was the vote in the House of Representatives in June 1993, when the program survived with only a one vote margin.

The demise of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), provided a portent of Freedom's ultimate fate. Frequently linked with the station as a controversial "Big Science" project, and roundly criticized for cost and management problems, and the absence of significant international participation, the Super Collider fell to newly elected members of Congress determined to address the budget deficit. Although the Clinton Administration had performed radical surgery on the Station in an effort to address cost and management concerns, the Congress remained unimpressed.

The increasing obscurity of America's need for a space station did not obscure NASA's need for a space station. By NASA's own estimate, the risk of a catastrophic failure is 1 in 78 each time the Shuttle flies. With 80 Shuttle flights scheduled in this decade, there is a high probability of another Challenger accident before the end of this century. In the face of such an eventuality, it might prove quite difficult to ever return the Shuttle to flight status, particularly with no space station for the Shuttle to fly to. Without the Shuttle, it is not apparent how Space Station Freedom could be built. Without the Shuttle or the Station it could become increasingly unclear what purposes would be served launching astronauts into space at all. A hiatus of in American piloted space flight of indefinite or perhaps permanent duration might ensue. And without piloted missions, it might become less than apparent why we need a separate space agency such as NASA. And the demise of NASA would surely diminish support for automated science missions as well.

Space advocates would strongly contest such a perspective. But other claimants on the public treasury would surely be invigorated by the prospect of the $10 billion annual windfall that would result from NASA's demise, and the end of the Space Age.

Thus NASA was in a race against the clock to complete Freedom, or some substantial fraction thereof, prior to the next Shuttle accident. The presence of some sort of space station in orbit would surely bolster the case for returning the Shuttle to flight status after the next accident. Unfortunately, the repeated delays of the Freedom program during the Bush Administration made it increasingly unlikely that construction of Freedom would be started, much less completed, prior to the next Shuttle accident.

The inclusion of Russia in the international space station greatly alleviates these concerns. Construction of the station will begin much sooner with Russia's aid, and so NASA's window of vulnerability will be closed much sooner. And the possibility of transferring crew members to and from the station using Russian space transportation systems will permit either a more considered effort to return the Shuttle to flight status, or more time to develop and alternative American space transportation system, should this seem advisable.

Although there remains a clear and present danger that the Space Age is over, Russian participation in the space station is the key to averting this danger. It has also emerged as the key to regaining Congressional support for the program. The near-death experience of the House vote in June 1993 was not repeated when the Senate voted on the Station in September 1993. The comfortable margin in the Senate, as well as in a subsequent House vote in November, must be attributable in part to the new Russian component of the program.

The restoration of a significant geopolitical rationale for the station dramatically alters the programs budgetary calculus. When considered as a science project, the combined budgets of the station and its supporting Shuttle dwarf the budget of the National Science Foundation, and rival spending by the National Institutes of Health. But considered as a national security program, the cost of piloted spaceflight seems quite modest, as the $275 spent each year by the Defense Department is over 30 times greater.

What About the Russians

While the dissolution of the Soviet Union has ended the Cold War, the aerospace complex of the fallen superpower continues to pose a significant, perhaps the most significant challenge, to our national security. The growing glut of conventional and unconventional arms on the world market can only be read as an omen of widespread proliferation of advanced weapons systems, especially by this once and, hopefully, never future adversary. Deprived of Cold War rationale, some elements of the complex remain leading opponents of reform. Institutions and personnel of the former Soviet aerospace complex are now searching for new outlets for their energies, including sales of advanced combat aircraft to Third World countries and emigration to these countries to work on emerging missile programs.

Initial American responses to this new challenge mirrored the evolution of American policies toward Germany at the end of the Second World War. Following the precedent of the Morgenthau Plan, which called for the "pastoralization" of Germany through the elimination of its industry, the Bush Administration prohibited any dealings with the Russian aerospace industry that might in any way sustain a continued military production capability. Such a Carthaginian peace-policy was ultimately abandoned with respect to Germany, and was ill conceived with respect to Russia. While the Russian aerospace complex may atrophy, it will not disappear.

The second element of the Bush Administration's policy toward the former Soviet aerospace complex was patterned on Operation Paperclip, which transferred to the United States advanced German weapon capabilities, such as the V-2 rocket. The only exceptions to the Morgenthau Plan for Russia were based on the one-time acquisition of unique Russian technologies, primarily related to the Strategic Defense Initiative. But this policy of plunder engendered growing hostility toward America.

In the closing months of the Bush Administration, a third policy approach began to emerge. And with the advent of the Clinton Administration, American policy toward Russia and the other former Soviet republics enlarged this opening, finally embracing the post-World War II precedent that ultimately proved most successful, the Marshall Plan.

Initiatives to stabilize the former Soviet nuclear weapons complex must be matched by a parallel policy to stabilize the former Soviet aerospace complex, which is much larger in size and more varied in scope. In the absence of such initiatives, the aerospace complex will remain a major threat to stability both in the former Soviet states, and to the rest of the world.

If the Russian aerospace complex is not to remain a breeding-ground for hostility to democratic reform, and a spawning-pool for missile proliferation, America must embark on projects that will dignify their accomplishments and engage their energies. Most notably, this would include cooperation in civil space projects for environmental monitoring, scientific discovery, and further human exploration. Given the current exchange rate of the Ruble, modest expenditures by America could have a major impact today and be a long-term source of stability, as was the Marshall Plan. A broad-based program of cooperation in space and other areas offers the prospect of mitigating these threats to stability and facilitating the entry of Russia and the CIS republics into the Western community.

Man does not live by bread alone, and it may be that the tangible benefits to the Russians will prove less significant than the intangible. Since the launch of Sputnik, space triumphs and achievements were one of the primary claims to global status of the Soviet people. Bereft of spacecraft (and their nuclear-tipped cousins), the Soviet Union would have ranked with the Mexico or Indonesia, a country of some standing, but not one to be reckoned with in the councils of the mighty.

Now deprived of the trappings of colonial empire in eastern Europe and along its southern and western periphery, Russia and its people face an acute identity crisis. Other imperiums experienced leisurely afternoons of decay, their gradual erosion spanning decades or centuries -- the Soviet empire evaporated in the twinkling of an eye. The loss of the French overseas empire spawned a decade of political instability as France sought a new role in the world. Even the merest suggestion that America is no longer number one on all fronts provokes spasms of political recrimination today.

The unexpected and precipitous descent from superpower to basket-case has been painful and embarrassing. Russia faces a profound identity crisis, as it struggles to define a role in the world of some dignity and respect. No nation with such a proud and glorious history can long play the role of beggar and supplicant. Nostalgia for empire remains a powerful political force in Russia today. Many who identified with the achievements of Socialist construction or who face uncertain post-imperial futures yearn for the restoration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and scheme toward this end. If these retrogressive dreams are to remain unrealized, some initiative is required to restore Russia's sense of dignity and self respect. While there are limits to what the West can do to restore Russia's material well being (although surely we can do much more than we have), cooperation on the space station provides a unique and highly visible opportunity to restore Russia's spiritual well being.


It would be difficult to overestimate the challenges which must be overcome if this new vision is to realized. Whatever difficulties have been encountered thus far will soon pale in comparison with those that now stand in the way of the successful completion of the new plan. Critics contend that these problems are good reasons for rejecting substantial Russian participation in the international station, and pressing ahead with the original Freedom concept. Supporters of Russian participation counter that there is no alternative, short of cancellation of the entire space station effort.

A Reliable Partner?

The first set of concerns involves the reliability of the Russian space program. A number of recent problems in the Russian space program have been cited as indications that Russia may be an unreliable partner, increasingly and unpredictable unable to fulfill its commitments to the space station effort.

The status of the Baikonur Cosmodrome remains uncertain. Russia and Kazakhstan have been unable to conclude negotiations on their respective rights and responsibilities at the facility. Reports of deteriorating conditions in the nearby city of Leninsk, of strikes and riots, of widespread vandalism and property theft, and other signs of disorder, have led some to speculate that Baikonur will be unable to support the Russian side of the station effort.

The Russian Mars 94 mission appears on the verge of cancellation or delay in the face of a host of internal problems, absent an infusion of Western support which does not appear likely to be forthcoming. The October 1993 launch to the Mir space station of the Progress M-20 resupply craft was jeopardized by the failure of the Samara engine factory to deliver motors for the planned launch vehicle. And the planned 16 November 1993 launch of three cosmonauts to Mir was delayed until early 1994 for similar reasons, stranding the old crew in orbit for two months longer than originally planned.

But reports of the death of the Russian space program are greatly exaggerated. In terms of actual performance, the Russian space program remains the envy of the world. Despite the collapse of the Soviet empire and two coup attempts in as many years, in 1993 Russia launched more spacecraft that the rest of the world combined. And despite a much lower launch rate, America had twice as many mission failures in 1993 than did Russia.

Pessimists might contend that programmatic turbulence is a recent phenomenon, reflecting the decay of post-Soviet institutions. However, it may be that many of these problems were endemic to the Soviet space program from the beginning, and are only now becoming more visible to the West. Prior to the end of the Cold War it was commonplace to contrast the apparent orderly progress of the Soviet space program with the evident fits and starts of the American space effort. Some clairvoyant observers, notably James Oberg, highlighted setbacks in the Soviet program. But with the end of the Cold War it must now be clear to all that the apparently unfailing consistency of the Soviet effort was a carefully nurtured facade, masking a programmatic disarray far surpassing that of the West.

There is little doubt that present economic conditions are contributing to the problems facing the Russian space program. With inflation running at several hundred percent annually, supplier relations with sub-contractors have been severely stressed. Purchasers are chronically short of cash, and prefer to delay payments so that inflation can effectively cut costs by paying last month's bills with this month's inflated rubles. Suppliers in turn are withholding deliveries, hoping to charge this month's inflated price rather than last month's obsolete price. With many vital components produced by a single supplier, incentives abound for doubling or tripling prices to try to get ahead of this vicious circle.

But the absence of effectively functioning markets always hampered coordination between enterprises in the Soviet era, and the present difficulties may represent little more than the continuation by other means of the inefficiency of a command economy. It was precisely this difficulty of inter-enterprise coordination that compelled Soviet-era design and production facilities to do most of their work in-house, in contrast to the widespread Western practice of relying on a large network of subcontractors. Though some bottle-necks may exist, by Western standards most Russian space enterprises are largely self-contained operations.

Russia as a Partner

A second set of concerns revolves around the reliability of Russia itself as a partner. There are at least two scenarios under which political transformations in Russia could imperil the international space station effort. The political orientation of the Russian leadership could change, leading to their withdrawal from the program. Or political events in Russia could take an unacceptable turn, leading to Western withdrawal.

With two coup attempts in as many years, who is to rule out a third or a fourth, with potentially less pleasant results. Continuing a centuries-old debate, Russia remains polarized between Westernizers who seek integration with the industrial democracies, and Slavophiles who advocate isolation from and confrontation with the West.

The agenda of the recently vanquished hardliners, notably Rutskoi and Khasbulatov, was firmly in the Slavophile tradition. In the weeks before their coup attempt, they were increasingly explicit in calling for a revival of the Soviet empire. The same political forces who called for the restoration of the old regime have also been the most vocal critics of the admittedly limited results of the Westernizer's efforts. The strict limits placed on cooperation in high technology fields under the Bush Administration led to a widespread (and not entirely unfounded) perception among Russians that the Americans were only interested in stealing the fruits of Russian efforts, while allowing Russian industry to rot. And Yelstin's decision to halt the transfer of cryogenic upper stage technology to India was strongly criticized for abandoning a traditional friend.

The future of Russia remains highly uncertain, though many look to post-war Germany for lessons. American advocates of engagement point to the Marshall Plan following the Second World War as precedent for a successful transition from totalitarianism to democracy. But it cannot be excluded that the more relevant precedent is Germany following the First World War, in which the Weimar republic degenerated into Hitler's tyranny. In this scenario, Yeltsin the Westernizer is but a transitional figure in the inevitable slide toward chaos, soon to be replaced by an authoritarian Slavophile regime which will reproduce all the more alarming features of Stalin, seeking confrontation with the West in order to restore some semblance of domestic order.

It is of course precisely this scenario which informs the Clinton Administration's decision to engage Russia through space cooperation. Russia's future is uncertain, and it is precisely this uncertainty which holds out the prospect of affecting the ultimate outcome. It was precisely the Weimar precedent which informed the Marshall Plan, and between actively working for a good outcome and passively awaiting a bad outcome, no other choice seems possible.

But less alarming scenarios are also plausible. Political developments in Russia might not lead to a rejection of the West by Russia, but they could lead to a rejection of Russia by the West. The successful Apollo-Soyuz linkup of 1976 was to be merely the first of a more extensive series of joint Soviet-American space missions, including American Shuttle flights to the Soviet Mir space station. But in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, planning for space cooperation was halted, along with virtually every other collaborative endeavor between the superpowers. There ensued a virtual fifteen hiatus, with planning for the Shuttle-Mir missions only recently resuming.

There is no shortage of scenarios under which this unhappy history could be repeated. The Russian Foreign Ministry, which has primary responsible for policy towards the industrial democracies (the so-called "far-abroad), has been a consistent center of advocacy of the Westernizers. But the Defense Ministry, which retains primacy in dealings with the former Soviet republics (the so-called "near-abroad") continues to largely pursue Slavophile objectives. The former Soviet army remains entrenched across much of the near-abroad, and has demonstrated considerable reluctance to withdraw. The Russian military has been a more-or-less visible participant in recent fighting in Moldova and Abkazia, has connived in the attempted overthrow of Edward Shevernadze's government in Georgia, and is propping up an old-guard Communist regime in Tadjikistan -- to name but a few of the Army's long list of post-imperial adventures. To legitimize these undertakings, the Russian government has proposed its own version of the Monroe Doctrine, under which the international community would formally recognize Russia's right to military intervention in the former Soviet republics. As this is precisely the fear that motivates Ukrainian desires to retain a nuclear arsenal, the West has been understandably reluctant to condone the creeping restoration of the Soviet empire.

Given the political outcry that greeted the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, it is somewhat puzzling that no similar outcry has arisen protesting the Russian intervention in so many nominally independent former Soviet republics. With the crises in Bosnia and Somalia, perhaps there is a limit to how many trouble spots can be the focus of world attention at any one time. Perhaps the limited resources of CNN, or local restrictions on news coverage, have limited the visibility of these military campaigns. Or perhaps some memorable atrocity will quickly focus world attention, and lead to calls for comprehensive sanctions to bring the Russian bear to heel.

Thus for some years to come there will be ample occasion for the West to reject Russia, and Russian participation in the international space station. And there is every reason to expect that the space station will be high on the list of measures invoked in response to Russian misbehavior. For most of this century, Russia existed in self-imposed isolation from the West, and for the foreseeable future the ties that bind Russia to the West will remain tenuous. During the Cold War super-power relations were dominated by the arms race and arms control negotiations, largely because Moscow's isolation produced very little else to talk about. As a result, arms and arms control became a barometer of East-West relations generally, with all the hopes and anxieties and all the ups and downs of the Cold War expressed through missiles and treaties. Thus the Star Wars controversy was not so much a debate over how many lasers could dance on the head of a pin, as it was an opportunity and pretext for publicly debating the state of Soviet-American relations, or science and technology research priorities, or the strength of America's commitment to Israel.

Though the nuclear legacy of the Cold War will require decades to liquidate, with any luck we will never again measure the state of our relations with Russia in terms of missiles and treaties. But until Russia is fully integrated into the community of industrial democracies, something else must replace nuclear weapons as the focus of Russo-American relations. This something else is the space station. For the foreseeable future, no other common activity of Russia and America will constitute so visible and effective a replacement for the various political uses (and abuses) which the arms race served during the Cold War. Thus all the political and public hopes which greeted each breakthrough in arms control negotiations, and all the fears and consternation which were channeled into dire warnings of Soviet perfidy, will now largely be transferred from nuclear missiles to piloted spacecraft.

This is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. The piloted space program will now play an even greater role in domestic and international politics than during the Cold War, when the space race competed with the arms race for public and political attention. Space advocates should rejoice that the space program will increasingly enjoy unprecedented visibility and salience. But the price of this eminence is the burden of expressing the sum totality of Russia's place in the world community. Each and every setback in Russia's long path to becoming a "normal" country will raise anew questions about Russia's role in the space station.

Even absent these larger political considerations, Russian compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) will condition the status of the station. A long simmering controversy over India's acquisition of Russian cryogenic upper stage technology emerged as a major obstacle in station negotiations in the spring of 1993. Although the linkage is officially denied, it is clear that the lure of station contracts was used to encourage Russian termination of the deal with India. Given the achievements of the indigenous India ballistic missile program, and the irrelevance of liquid hydrogen propellants for military application, the actual significance of the transfer of Russian technology seemed difficult to identify. But critics wonder how America will respond in the face of a truly significant transfer of Russian missile technology?

Of course, the one of the benefits of Russian participation in the station is that Russia has agreed to more effective measures to implement the MTCR. And a domestic center of advocacy for such compliance has been created at the Russian Space Agency and its contractors. Thus it is to be expected that the likelihood of an MTCR violation has been substantially diminished, and the probability of vigorous Russian government enforcement of the MTCR greatly increased.

A Steep Road Into Space

A third set of concerns are focused on the very real challenges of actually building the proposed international space station. There is no reason to hope that the station will avoid the normal technical, cost and schedule problems attendant any ambitious space effort, and every reason to anticipate that this uniquely complicated undertaking will encounter more than its share, even under the best of circumstances (which admittedly, may not be forthcoming).

Just as international politics may complicate the space station program, the space station may complicate relations between Russia and the other station partners. The practical realities of the station program may themselves become the source of international conflict, and setbacks in the station program may on balance damage rather than enhance the progress of Russia into the community of nations.

There will certainly be ample opportunities for the space station to generate surplus friction and discord. Current planning and budgeting for the first and second phases of the program, entailing American payments of $100 million annually to the Russian Space Agency, are predicated on the present ruble-dollar exchange rate of 1000 to 1. Given current Russian wage scales, this looks like a lot more money in Moscow than in Washington. But it is to be hoped and expected that the present economic uncertainty in Russia will eventually dissipate, and when it does, the ruble-dollar exchange rate is likely to approximate 100 to 1. This ten-fold appreciation of the ruble will drastically alter the perceived value of American payments to Russia. Unavoidably, America will be called on to pay more in return for less, and neither party will be pleased with the outcome.

The end of the Cold War has certainly diminished Russian secrecy, but the Russian aerospace complex remains largely opaque to the West. Throughout the Soviet era Chief Designers buttressed their autonomy and power by imposing the strictest secrecy on their activities. This secrecy was not so much to protect themselves from American spies, but from their real enemies, the other Chief Designers and the bureaucrats in Moscow.

A failure to adequately understand and monitor Russian activities could seriously compromise progress on the station. NASA's failure to adequately supervise its own contractors contributed to the Hubble trouble, and Germany participants in the Columbus component of Freedom continue to fear that their Italian colleagues remain economical with the truth in discussing their progress or lack thereof.

All the participants will obviously seek to maximize the utilization of the work thus far accomplished on Mir and Freedom. Although preliminary designs seem to have harmonized these efforts, the devil remains in the details, and problems will undoubtedly emerge as the new configuration matures. A visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's exhibit of the American Pershing II and the Soviet SS-20 vividly discloses the stark contrasts of Russian and American engineering design cultures. The space programs of both countries have over three decades of hard-earned lessons in the right way of doing engineering and program management. Both will be reluctant to quickly concede the superiority of the others approach.

Both America and Russia have decades of experience as the dominant partner in international cooperative projects, and little experience in dealing with equals. NASA has long explicitly rejected placing another country on the critical path to mission completion, and insisted on retaining ultimate control of cooperative projects. Europe, Japan and Canada were uneasy partners in Freedom for precisely this reason, and their apprehensions were largely realized in America's essentially unilateral decisions relating to Russian participation in the international station.

Thus, as in the Cold War, America will look to NASA as an institutional exemplar, as the pathfinder on the trail to the post-Cold War world order. A quarter of a century ago, we asked why we could not solve our problems on Earth if we could reach the Moon. In the coming decades, we will ask how we can work with Russia in other fields if we cannot work with them on the space station. NASA as an institution must be on the cutting edge of the transformation of Russia into a normal country, providing important lessons on the opportunities and pitfalls of this newest member of the democratic community. This will require not merely technical innovation and excellence, but also managerial innovation and excellence. As the triumph of Apollo was more managerial than technical, the international space station is largely a managerial rather than technical challenge, one which will require a fundamental renovation of NASA institutional culture.

America as a Partner ?

A fourth set of concerns completes the circle, as some question whether America will be a reliable partner for Russia. Certainly from the Russian vantage point, this remain a live issue for some years to come. When Freedom was first announced in 1984, permanent occupancy was planned for 1992, a year which passed with Freedom no closer to completion than it was eight years previously. In the interim, the Salyut 7 and Mir space stations were nearly continuously occupied by dozens of cosmonauts. In Washington, successive elections were accompanied by wavering political support for Freedom plans, while revolutions and coups in Moscow had but modest impact on Mir operations.

The end of the Cold War significantly contracted the political constituency for Freedom. In recent Congressional debates, the supporter's mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs" increasingly exposed Freedom to criticism as white collar welfare. But if the core constituency of Freedom is NASA's contractor community, will this constituency be satisfied with their remaining share of the international space station. Continued die-hard Congressional opposition to Russian participation in the space station suggests not.

It may be that the declining industrial opportunities in the space station may lead a critical mass of aerospace contractors to seek greener pastures. Perhaps a powerful coalition will form under the banner of building a new and economical launch vehicle. Or perhaps a forceful center of advocacy will embrace the proposition that a station in low Earth orbit is a roadblock on the path back to the Moon, not a stepping stone. In the labyrinthine politics of aerospace industrial policy, it may be that the restructured space station program now has such a narrow corporate constituency that many former Congressional supporters will have lost interest, and would not object if the demise of the station opened up new opportunities for their favorite industrial patron.

The restructuring of Freedom management in the spring of 1993 elevated Boeing at the expense of McDonnell-Douglas, and failed to find a place for previously marginal companies such as Lockheed. Boeing's continued strength in passenger aircraft production sharply contrasts with the declining prospects of military contractors such as Lockheed. From a purely defense industrial base perspective (which would unavoidably be mirrored by the Congressional friends of disadvantaged companies, such as Lockheed), it would not be difficult to argue that Boeing will prosper without station contracts, while other companies might perish, absent some subvention from NASA.

Thus both policy and political considerations place Congressional support for the international station in peril. Supporters will question whether station contractors would rather exchange places with the unemployed refugees from the Super-Conducting Supercollider, which, absent international participation was canceled by Congress. But contractors excluded from the station have everything to gain and nothing to lose from its cancellation.

Much of Freedom's programmatic turbulence during the Bush Administration, with nearly annual redesigns and rephasing, is attributable to the end of the Cold War. Absent this larger geopolitical rationale, Freedom embarked on an ultimately fruitless quest for a coherent program based on scientific and commercial applications. The failure of this quest was reflected growing budget projections and schedule delays, and in inexorably declining Congressional support.

However, Congressional exasperation with Freedom was exacerbated in the process, as the station continued to devour money to no apparent purpose. Although the new international space station builds on a substantial design heritage from Freedom and Mir, there is little reason to hope that the present design fully reflects what will actually be built. To the contrary, there is every reason to believe that at least one more design iteration in 1994 will produce higher budget estimates and more protracted schedules.

The budget process during 1994 promises to be especially grueling, even by recent standards. With virtually every federal agency slated for budget reductions more severe than those imposed on NASA, and with the fall election but months away, station opponents will predictably redoubled their efforts. Foreseeable bad news on station cost and schedule problems will provide ready ammunition for their assaults.


Just as space cooperation has redefined the relationship between Russia and America, it can also help define the post-Cold War world order more generally. Piloted space flight has often been compared, unfavorably, with pyramid-building. But this comparison is more illuminating than critics imagine. The construction of the Egyptian pyramids was both the expression and instrumentality of the early unification of dynastic Egypt. Indeed, this pattern of the construction of great symbolic monuments at the inauguration of new civilizations is a pervasive pattern of human history, from the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia to the cathedrals of medieval Europe. Such collective undertakings both symbolically demonstrate the unity of the new society, as well as providing a means for concretely developing that unity.

The Russian precedent must be extended more widely. A place for other former Soviet republics, notably Ukraine and Kazakhstan, must be found in the unified space station program. The emerging space capabilities of China, India and other countries, must also be engaged in cooperative projects, perhaps the human exploration of the Moon or Mars.

As the pyramids had both symbolic and pragmatic components, so too will global space cooperation make a concrete contribution to the demilitarization of the world order. During the Cold War, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles were the exemplar of the Soviet-American military competition. This example inspired a growing host of other countries to acquire such trappings of power. The initiative of America and Russia to beat swords into ploughshares can transfer to mantle of power from missiles to spaceships. Increasingly, contributions to human spaceflight, not stockpiles of missiles, would be regarded as the indication of standing in the world community. Following the Russian precedent, civil space cooperation could provide incentives for reducing or eliminating de-stabilizing missile programs.

In a world increasingly defined by perceptions created by the mass media, international space cooperation is a unique means for asserting the existence of a global community which shares common interests and aspirations. Just as the competition in rockets in arms race and space race defined the Cold War, cooperation in space exploration and development may become a defining activity of the coming millennium.