The Future of Human Spaceflight: Objectives and Policy Implications in a Global Context

Primary Objectives in a Global Context

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David A. Mindell, Scott A. Uebelhart, Asif A. Siddiqi, and Slava Gerovitch
Reconsidering the Rules of Space

A key feature that marks the current moment of decision as different from that in 1972 is that it takes place within a global community of countries and programs engaged in human spaceflight. In the 1960s and 1970s, with a bipolar world divided between the Cold War rivals, only two nations had the capability to send people beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Today, besides the United States and Russia, China has developed an active spaceflight program, and other nations such as India and Japan are looking to expand their capabilities. Each of these countries pursues human spaceflight for a mix of primary and secondary reasons, broadly similar in stated intent to those of the United States. But significant differences exist among these nations owing to the peculiarities of their particular political, economic, and cultural circumstances.

The following sections look at human spaceflight programs around the world in order to provide an international context for U.S. decision-making. For each we ask:

  • What is the current state of the program?
  • What are its objectives?
  • Can the level of political/public support for spaceflight be gauged in that country?

The Russian Human Spaceflight Program

The Russian space program inherited from the Soviet Union a vast network of space industry enterprises, a sustained human spaceflight program, and a long tradition of technological innovation and impressive space “firsts”: first man in space (1961), first daylong flight (1961), first woman in space (1963), first multicrew spaceflight (1964), first space walk (1965), first space station mission (1971), first docking with and repair of a dead-in-space station (1985), first spaceflight between two space stations (1986), and first permanently crewed space station (Mir, 1986–2001).

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 prompted a long period of soul-searching on the objectives of a Russian human spaceflight program. In the early 21st century, the Russian government issued a number of policy statements attempting to articulate a vision for human spaceflight (and more broadly for all spaceflight). These statements evince a degree of ambivalence about objectives, on the one hand favoring economic incentives but on the other hand implicitly arguing for restoring Russia’s national prestige in spaceflight, particularly human spaceflight. These two justifications are often linked in Russian discourse. For example, some commentators have called for a robust human spaceflight program precisely because of alleged economic benefits, but these claims seem not to have convinced the Russian government to fully fund expensive human spaceflight projects such as ambitious lunar plans.43 Support for new expensive human spaceflight ventures is placed under the condition that Russian space enterprises find international partners to share the costs and the risks. In other words, the Russian government continues to justify human spaceflight on premises that are not easily measurable but, rather, are related to national prestige and to preserving international partnerships. These justifications fit well with our notion of primary objectives.

The most recent policy statement from the Russian government articulating a set of objectives for their space program was approved by the Russian Security Council in April 2008, apparently in response to the 2006 U.S. National Space Policy directive.44 Entitled Guidelines for the Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Space-Related Activities until 2020 and Beyond, the statement formulated the main goal of the Russian space program as “preserving the status of the Russian Federation as a leading space-faring power” and put an emphasis on Russia’s capability to carry out space activities independently of other nations.45 The Guidelines appeared to signal a shift in priorities from ambitious human spaceflight projects (largely due to the exorbitant costs) toward a more broadly based space program prioritizing the development of reconnaissance, remote sensing, and research satellites. The new space policy priorities were outlined as follows:

  • Achieve guaranteed access to outer space and independence of Russia’s activity in space across the entire spectrum of tasks;
  • Further Russian state interests in the area of space activity;?
  • Create and maintain an orbital fleet necessary for defense, national security, social, economic, and research purposes;
  • Create a scientific and technological infrastructure for interplanetary exploration and research;
  • Form stable international partnerships for joint research and advanced human spaceflight projects;
  • Unconditionally fulfill international obligations; and
  • Resolutely defend Russian interests in space within the international law.

This document and other information suggest that the Russian government views human spaceflight as one of a constellation of factors—including strengthening Russian capabilities for defense, commercial applications, and space research—that are key to maintaining Russia’s image as a great space power. The government thus focuses its efforts on broad-based modernization of the Russian space industry and expanding its ground infrastructure and satellite fleet.

The Russian space industry has been rapidly growing. In 2006, the space sector included more than one hundred companies and employed 250,000 workers, and its annual production rose by 14 percent, which is 3.5 times the national average.46 The space sector is one of the most advanced branches of Russian industry and is capable of competing on the world market.47 From 2000 to 2008, the Russians were the world leaders in number of space launches. In 2008, Russia conducted twenty-seven orbital launches compared to fifteen orbital launches by the United States. Only fourteen of the Russian launches were for domestic clients; the remainder fulfilled international orders.48 In 2009, Russia plans to increase the rate significantly, to thirty-nine launches.

Despite this growth, funding is short. Russia ranks sixth in the amount of funding for civil space operations, behind the United States, the European Space Agency, China, Japan, and France. In 2007, the Russian civil space budget amounted to 0.11 percent of Russia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In comparison, the U.S. civil space budget was 0.14 percent of U.S. GDP, but because the Russian GDP is much smaller than the U.S. GDP, civil space funding in Russia was just 7 percent of the U.S. level. Russian officials argue that annual government funding for space is minimally sufficient to sustain a civil space program and limits Russia’s ability to carry out an independent space policy.49 In 2006, wages in the space sector averaged 12,000 rubles ($450) per month.50

Less than two-thirds of the funding for the $16 billion Russian Federal Space Program for 2006 to 2015 is provided from the federal budget. The remainder must come from selling seats on Soyuz, launching commercial satellites, and other ventures.51 Russian officials have described space tourism as a forced measure compensating for the inadequate funding of the Russian space program.52 Major Russian aerospace corporations have entered into joint ventures with U.S. companies such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.53 In July 2008, the Russian State Audit Chamber issued a scathing report of Russia’s current joint space projects with foreign companies, alleging that profits never reached Russia. The report called the Russian space industry “a global technological donor that is balancing on the verge of unprofitability.”54

In addition, Russian infrastructure is outdated, with 80 percent of production equipment in the Russian space industry having outlived its service life by twenty years or more. Its efficiency, precision, and reliability do not meet modern standards.55 The Soyuz spacecraft is based on a forty-year-old design and still relies on analog control systems.56 Several system malfunctions during Soyuz reentry in recent years have raised concerns about the safety of the vehicle. And, currently, Russia is wholly dependent on another nation for its launch capability, as all Russian human missions are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan. Russia has leased Baikonur until 2050 at the annual rent of $115 million.57

Financial shortages forced Russia to delay its original deadline for the completion of the Russian segment of the ISS by five years, from 2010 to 2015, and currently Russia has no dedicated research module on the ISS.58 In order to complete the Russian segment and to carry Russia’s entire program of research on the station, the level of funding must be more than doubled.59

In 2007, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos (also spelled Roskosmos) announced a draft timetable of short-term goals:

Completion of the Russian segment of the ISS (2015)
Projected termination of the ISS (2020)60
Construction of a piloted orbital assembly complex to support flights to the Moon and Mars (2021–2026)
Human landing on the Moon (2025)
Lunar base construction (2027–2032)
Human spaceflight to Mars (2036–2040)61

Space exploration continues to attract the attention of the Russian public. Nearly a third regularly follow recent space news. More than half believe that Russia still holds a leading position in space exploration; one-quarter have the opposite opinion.62 More than half support an expansion of the current Russian space program, one-third prefer the status quo, and only 6 percent favor reductions.63 At the same time, only 10 percent believe that the space industry would provide a boost to the national economy.64

Opinion polls suggest that the Russian public supports space science and satellite applications at the expense of interplanetary human space missions. More than half view scientific discovery and the development of advanced technologies as the top priority for the Russian space program, 44 percent support defense applications, 17 percent emphasize the importance of space achievements for international prestige, and only 1 to 4 percent prioritize missions to the Moon and Mars, the search for extraterrestrial civilizations, and space tourism.65

Russia has been a partner in the ISS since 1993. The Russian-crewed Soyuz spacecraft and Progress cargo vehicle provide regular transportation and supply services for the ISS. Soyuz also serves as the lifeboat for the space station. In 2003 to 2006, during the suspension of space shuttle flights after the Columbia disaster, Soyuz served as the sole means of access to the ISS.

By 2015, Russia plans to complete the Russian segment of the ISS by adding six new modules: the Mini Research Module 2 (2009), the Mini Research Module 1 (2010), the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (2011), the Node Module (2013), the Research-and-Power Module 1 (2014), and the Research-and-Power Module 2 (2015). If completed, the resulting configuration would be capable of autonomous flight, independent of the rest of the ISS.66

By 2010, the increase of the ISS crew to six may force Russia to stop flying tourists on Soyuz spacecraft assigned to ISS missions.67 Despite this, in July 2008 Roscosmos signed an agreement with the U.S. company Space Adventures to develop a modified version of Soyuz for carrying one professional cosmonaut and two tourists into orbit. The first flight is projected for 2011.68

In the past few years, Roscosmos and ESA have conducted extensive studies aimed at forming a joint project to build a new crewed spacecraft, the Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS), for Earth orbit and lunar missions. Under a draft agreement, Russia would build the transport capsule, and ESA would be responsible for the development of the service module and spacecraft engines. The ESA Ministerial Council meeting in November 2008, however, has limited Europe’s further participation in the project to additional feasibility studies. Russian officials indicate that if Europe abandons the project, Russia would develop a new spacecraft on its own.69

Despite this setback, Russia continues close cooperation with Europe on biomedical studies aimed at a human mission to Mars. In July 2009, two Europeans and four Russians successfully completed a 105-day simulated Mars mission in an isolated facility at the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow. A complete simulation of a 520-day long mission to Mars is planned for early 2010.70

The Russian Security Council has generally supported a proposal to build >a piloted orbital complex to assemble large spacecraft for lunar and Mars missions. In early 2009, Roscosmos defined the requirements for a next-generation Earth-orbital piloted spacecraft that could be modified for translunar flight. In April 2009, the Energiya Corporation was named prime contractor for this vehicle, estimated to have a mass of 12 tons in Earth orbit. Touted as a competitor to NASA’s Orion, the new Russian vehicle could be flying by 2018, although the Russian government has not yet committed to the required initial funding of 800 million rubles necessary for spacecraft definition by June 2010, suggesting that the project remains uncertain.71

Post-Soviet Russia and the United States have been actively involved in international cooperation in human spaceflight since the early 1990s. In December 1993, the United States invited Russia to become a full partner in the ISS; the agreement was formalized in 1998. The main objectives for inviting Russia were twofold: (1) “programmatic”—directly related to the conduct of the space station program: taking advantage of Russia’s space experience and capabilities and potentially reducing the costs and risks of the program; (2) “non-programmatic”—related to broader economic, political, and security concerns: providing incentives to the Russian government and aerospace industry to adhere to the provisions of the Missile Technology Control Regime; providing employment opportunities for Russian aerospace scientists and engineers; providing assistance to the Russian economy in the difficult period of transition to a market economy; promoting Western values through closer ties between U.S. and Russian aerospace elites; and symbolizing U.S. support for Russian political and economic reforms.72

Russia has demonstrated a commitment to its international obligations on the ISS project. Despite serious funding shortfalls, it built three core modules for the station. Russia’s participation in the ISS proved crucial during 2003 to 2006, when the Soyuz spacecraft was the sole means of access to the ISS after the Columbia accident. The status of the ISS as a high-profile international project was an important factor in attracting internal political support for the project both in Russia and in the United States.

Engagement with Russia proved to be a strong incentive to discourage Russian companies from selling their expertise and sensitive technologies to countries of proliferation concern.73 The 2000 Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) passed by the U.S. Congress imposed sanctions on ten Russian companies that had allegedly sold missile technology to Iran; not a single Russian company involved in the ISS was on the list.74 The INA banned U.S. payments to Russia in connection with the ISS unless the U.S. president determined that Russia was taking steps to halt proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technology to Iran. In 2005 Congress amended the INA to exempt Soyuz flights to the ISS through 2011. Congress also extended the provisions of the act to Syria and North Korea, and renamed it the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA). In September 2008, Congress granted NASA’s request for an INKSNA waiver to pay Russia for U.S. astronauts’ flights to the ISS on the Russian Soyuz through June 2016, necessary to cover the gap between the shuttle and Constellation programs.

In December 2008, NASA signed a contract with Roscosmos for crew transportation services through the spring of 2012.75 Russia is interested in fulfilling and possibly extending this agreement, perhaps even more than the United States. Besides the obvious financial benefits, flying American astronauts to the ISS through the gap would maintain U.S. interest in the station and further Russian plans to continue its utilization beyond 2016. In October 2008, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin unequivocally confirmed Russia’s commitment to the ISS agreements. He stated that Russia’s status as “a reliable international partner should be constantly upheld.”76 Soyuz has been flying two missions to the ISS per year, and with the increase in the ISS crew to six in 2009, the Russians will be flying four Soyuz missions per year.77

Cooperation in space activities has created strong ties between U.S. and Russian space officials and aerospace company executives. The leadership of Roscosmos and of major Russian aerospace companies vocally support continued cooperation with the United States, despite the growing dissatisfaction with the perceived results of this cooperation by the Russian public.

Cooperation between the United States and Russia suffers from misrepresentations in the media, stirring popular sentiment of an unequal relationship on both sides. While some in the United States suggest that flying astronauts on Soyuz would create dependence on Russia, the Russian media raise concerns about reducing Russia to the subsidiary role of a “space taxicab driver” or a “celestial travel agency” for foreigners.78 They often accuse the Russian space industry of neglecting national interests in favor of quick profits from abroad. Some independent Russian space policy experts cite the deorbiting of the still-functioning Russian space station Mir in 2001, the slow pace of development of new rockets and spacecraft, the loss of the Russian monopoly on expertise in long-duration flights, and the low research yield of the Russian segment of the ISS as evidence that Russia gets less out of the ISS program than it puts in. They call for reducing direct U.S.-Russian ties and for strategic maneuvering between the United States and other spacefaring nations.79

In the current Russian political climate, however, public opinion is often manipulated by the government, and it plays a much lesser role, if any, in influencing government policies than in the United States. The lobbying efforts of the leadership of the Russian space industry to a large extent shape the Russian space policy, resisting public pressure.80 By engaging top Russian industry executives, joint projects with Russia have created a power base for continued political support for U.S.-Russian cooperation in space and potentially in other areas.

The 2006 U.S. National Space Policy, however, created serious doubts among Russian space officials about the U.S. commitment to cooperation with Russia. In November 2006, deputy head of Roscosmos Vitaly Davydov openly stated:

The Americans are now talking not only about them having access to space, but also about them dictating to others who may have such access. The statements in [the new U.S. space policy] can be interpreted broadly: they can be taken as very soft, but also as very harsh. We will likely be compelled now to choose the latter interpretation. We must take into account the worst possible option.81

The new 2008 Russian space policy guidelines, which placed emphasis on national security at the expense of human spaceflight, reflected the growing concern in the Russian government about U.S. intentions and long-term cooperation plans.

The Chinese Human Spaceflight Program

China is the third country in the world to develop an indigenous capability for human spaceflight. In October 2003, forty-two years after the Soviet Union and the United States first launched humans into space, China launched its first yuhangyuan on the Shenzhou V spacecraft for a one-day mission. In October 2005, a two-member crew carried out a five-day mission on the Shenzhou VI, and in September 2008 a yuhangyuan made a first spacewalk during the Shenzhou VII mission.

In 2006, China’s State Council outlined the following priorities for its space program:

  • Explore outer space and enhance understanding of Earth and the cosmos;
  • Utilize outer space for peaceful purposes, promote human civilization and social progress, and benefit the whole of mankind;
  • Meet the demands of economic construction, scientific and technological development, national security, and social progress;
  • Raise the scientific awareness of the Chinese people;
  • Protect China’s national interests and rights; and
  • Build up the comprehensive national strength.82

This public statement placed the four main objectives for spaceflight in the following order: (1) scientific discovery, (2) economic benefits, (3) national security, and (4) national prestige and geopolitics. Yet some U.S. experts argue that China’s true intentions would be better reflected by a different ordering: (1) national security, (2) national prestige and geopolitics, (3) economic benefits, and (4) scientific discovery.83 The two sets of priorities refer to the Chinese space program as a whole, including its robotic and human segments, both of which encompass military components.

China’s single-most important objective for human spaceflight appears to be prestige. The success of China’s three human space missions in 2003, 2005, and 2008 brought the Chinese government an explosion of enthusiastic nationalist feelings at home, as well as soft power gains in the region.84 Within Asia, the prestige gained from the human spaceflight program boosts China’s position in its competition with Japan for the role of the leading regional political player.85 Chinese media assert, “Space exploration by any country is in essence a symbol of the country’s defense strength and even its overall national strength.”86

In a wider international context, China’s ambition is to overcome the stereotype of a producer of cheap, low-tech products, and instead cultivate theimage of technological might and cutting-edge innovation.87 China’s human spaceflight program establishes the nation’s reputation for technological sophistication and facilitates the expansion of its market share for space products and services, as well as for other advanced technologies. In the post–Cold War world, human spaceflight still has great symbolic power, but this symbolism brings major political benefits indirectly: human spaceflight translates into a symbol of technological advantage, which brings real economic dividends, and those, in turn, translate into greater political influence.

Beyond prestige, Chinese officials also consistently stress economic benefits, exploration, and the benefits of international cooperation as objectives for their overall space program, both robotic and human. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, for example, claims to have produced almost two thousand technological innovations for the national economy in the past few years, and 80 percent of China’s one thousand new materials reportedly came from the space industry.88

Chinese space scientists tend to place scientific discovery and exploration of space at the top of the priorities list, calling them “the ultimate purpose for . . . world science and civilization,” but they also view human space accomplishments in nationalistic terms as “the responsibility of a powerful nation.”89

Finally, international collaborations feature as a strong motivator of the Chinese space program. On the one hand, China aims to develop a fully independent space industry based on domestic innovation and research and openly declares “independence and self-reliance” as basic principles of its space policy. On the other hand, China declares a policy of “opening up to the outside world, and actively engaging in international space exchanges and cooperation.”90In 2001 to 2005, China signed sixteen international space cooperation agreements and memorandums with thirteen countries, space agencies, and international organizations, stressing “equality, mutual benefit, peaceful utilization of outer space and common development” as basic principles of cooperation.91 Pursuing the three-pronged strategy of buying, building, and borrowing space technology, China often replicates foreign space industry practices, imitates spacecraft designs, and purchases selected spacecraft equipment. Yet Chinese officials are careful to avoid the appearance of inequality in partnership.92 The chief of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), Sun Laiyan, has declared that CNSA is ready to cooperate with any foreign partner, “but only as an equal.”93

In the first phase of a three-step development strategy, China tested basic technologies for safely reaching Earth orbit, demonstrated with its 2003 Shenzhou V and 2005 Shenzhou VI missions. In September 2008, the Chinese began the second phase of their human program—advanced orbital operations— by conducting their first spacewalk. During the Shenzhou VII mission, one yuhangyuan floated outside his spacecraft for fourteen minutes. If the national character of the mission was in any doubt, the yuhangyuans exchanged a Chinese flag and waved it outside the capsule. One Chinese commentary aptly adapted Neil Armstrong’s words to the national setting: “This is one small step for a man, but one giant leap for the country.”94

The second phase will also include rendezvous and docking operations, first during an unmanned mission, Shenzhou VIII, and later involving the piloted Shenzhou IX and Shenzhou X vehicles.95 These vehicles will dock with a small, 8.5-ton module, Tiangong-1, currently planned for launch in late 2010. The assembled space laboratory will be serviced by short crew visits.96 Besides these vehicles, China plans to launch two more laboratories, Tian-gong-2 and -3, and four more crewed Shenzhou spacecraft between 2010 and 2015.

The final step in the current program will be the launch and utilization of a large, 20-ton space station for permanent long-term human presence in space, currently planned for 2020.97 In order to launch the station, the Chinese must complete the new Long March 5 medium-heavy launcher, whose maiden flight is currently projected for 2013.98

In parallel with human spaceflight missions, China is pursuing a separate robotic lunar exploration program. In October 2007, China launched the Moon orbiter Chang’e 1 on a yearlong mission to create a unique three-dimensional map of the lunar surface. The second probe, Chang’e 2, will be launched around 2009.99 The next steps in the program are the soft-landing of a lunar rover around 2013 and the launch of another rover and the return of lunar soil and rock samples to Earth around 2017.100

Unofficial sources hint at plans for a human lunar landing by 2020.101 Chinese officials have indicated that China might consider human missions to the Moon in the future, but have so far denied the existence of any specific plans.102 The Chinese are unlikely to start undertaking a human lunar mission until the successful completion of the robotic lunar program.103

Extensive positive coverage of China’s space program in the Chinese media drew much public attention. In 2006, the Chinese government instructed the country’s research and industrial enterprises and educational institutions to “encourage people from all walks of life to participate in space-related activities.”104 According to a government-sponsored Internet poll of Shanghai residents, 69 percent watched a televised live broadcast of the Shenzhou VI liftoff in October 2005. All of the respondents reportedly agreed that the achievements of the Chinese human spaceflight program indicated a rise of “China’s national power” and were “a pride of the Chinese people.”105

China’s successful space missions have at least partially contributed to the extraordinarily high level of the Chinese people’s satisfaction with their country’s direction (86 percent), the highest among the twenty-four nations surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2008.106 Analogies between the 2008 spacewalk and the Beijing summer Olympics were often explicit in the Chinese media, in one instance grouping the “breathtaking moments in manned space program” with the Beijing Olympics as “landmark events to enrich [China’s] collective memory.”107 The broad support for human spaceflight among the Chinese people draws on a wide range of ideologies and cultural values—from “pragmatic nationalism” (non-Marxist commitment to a stronger China), to “anti-traditionalism” (reliance on science and technology for modernization), to “liberal nationalism” (anti-authoritarian, democratic ideals), to nativism (the Confucian ethics of self-reliance).108

The Chinese leadership skillfully uses the public’s enthusiasm for human spaceflight to drum up domestic political support for the Communist regime. To boost local support for the central Chinese government, for example, scientists from China’s two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macao, have been invited to develop research equipment for the Shenzhou VIII flight and for China’s projected space station, and were even offered the prospect of joining the ranks of yuhangyuans.109

When former astronaut and NASA chief scientist Shannon Lucid visited the Chinese space agency in 2006, her reaction echoed China’s primary, national goals for the program. In Lucid’s view, space exploration has developed into “the foremost symbol” of what the Chinese wish for their society to become: “Right now space exploration is probably more important symbolically to the Chinese than it is to the American people.”110

Historically, little significant cooperation has occurred between the United States and China. The main reasons have been political and security concerns, including China’s record on human rights, the Chinese 2007 antisatellite test, and the threat of dual-use technology transfer to the Chinese military space program. The May 1999 report of the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China (known as the Cox Report after the committee chair, Rep. Christopher Cox) alleged that China had acquired U.S. technology in several sensitive areas, including missile and space systems. Subsequent regulations severely limited U.S. aerospace exports to China. Chinese participation in the ISS was never considered a serious option. Top Chinese space officials were denied visas to attend international space forums in the United States.111

These U.S. attempts to isolate China in the aerospace field have proven largely ineffective. China obtains space technology and know-how from other global suppliers and develops new technologies through international cooperation. For example, China has partnered with Germany on a communications satellite system, with Brazil on remote sensing satellites, and with Russia on lunar and Mars probes.112 China has also purchased select Russian systems for crewed spacecraft, including life-support and docking mechanisms, and imitated basic design features of the Soyuz spacecraft.113 In the United States, many experts have argued that the restrictions imposed in response to export concerns over China have harmed the U.S. aerospace industry’s competitiveness throughout the globe, placing U.S. aerospace companies at a significant disadvantage compared to their European and Russian competitors.114

The efforts to tie space cooperation with China to political issues, such as human rights, are generally unproductive. Governments traditionally have not viewed space activities as key levers to influence their domestic or foreign policy. On the contrary, the influence usually goes in the opposite direction: changes in political priorities affect space policy. Most effective historical instances of international cooperation in space occurred when space engagement was not closely tied to larger political issues. For example, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, initiated in 1972 and flown in 1975, was successfully accomplished despite the political distance between the United States and the Soviet Union. That distance was arguably much greater than the current differences between the United States and China, both being market economies open to global cultural influences.

China perceives the current U.S. approach as one of “besieging, persecuting, blockading and intercepting Chinese institutions and ambitions” in space. Through unofficial channels, Chinese space officials have indicated their willingness to consider “concrete and reasonable concessions” in exchange for cooperation in space activities.115

A fundamental obstacle in the way of Sino-U.S. space relations is a history of strategic miscommunication.116 U.S. experts often interpret the opacity of the Chinese space program as a sign of its military orientation and tend to read covert military goals into the Chinese efforts, while the Chinese fear that the current U.S. strategic policy of “space dominance” is specifically aimed against Chinese interests. Mutual distrust leads each side to ascribe to the other the worst possible intentions, driving them toward increasingly confrontational behavior.117

Chinese officials specifically stress the need to increase mutual trust through regular bilateral meetings, open exchange of views, and joint cooperative projects.118 Chinese analysts argue that the world is standing “at the threshold of space weaponization” and emphasize that “an urgent task for all countries currently employing space-based technologies is to establish a system of rules to manage and coordinate space activities.”119 Chinese experts suggest that the most appropriate area for initial cooperation would be space science, and they offer a three-step strategy: (1) a regular annual forum for exchanging ideas and establishing personal contacts and mutual trust; (2) cooperative research, such as sharing mission data; and (3) a joint space science mission with divided responsibility for launch, satellite and space instrument development, and data processing.120

Regarding the International Space Station, Chinese officials have repeatedly expressed strong interest in joining the project.121 Chinese engineers designed the docking mechanism of the Shenzhou spacecraft to be similar to that of the Russian Soyuz, making it possible to dock with the ISS. China has held talks with Russia and the ESA over the prospects for joining the ISS. Some ISS partners have indicated their willingness to lease space on the ISS for Chinese scientific equipment.122 Chinese yuhangyuans have been learning English and Russian.123

China attaches priority to the development of human spaceflight capabilities for both political and economic reasons; it is also interested in joint projects with Russia, Europe, and the United States but insists on acting as an equal partner. Mutual mistrust is a major obstacle to establishing collaboration with China in human spaceflight, and the United States’ cautious attitude has left room for other partners to fill. China’s successful collaboration with Russia, particularly on the first Chinese spacewalk, has laid a foundation for strengthening ties between the two countries’ space programs.

The Indian Human Spaceflight Program

In the forty-five years since its inception, the Indian space program has become one of the world’s major space efforts; it currently operates an impressive array of launch vehicles and satellites supported by a vast ground infrastructure spread across the Indian landmass. India’s current space budget (2008–2009) is 40.74 billion rupees ($816 million), which is approximately at the same level as the Russian Federation but significantly less than Japan, China, and the European Space Agency.124 Benefiting from the high growth rates of the Indian economy in the past five years, India’s space budget has shown dramatic increases, on the order of 10 percent annually. The 2008–2009 budget represented a mammoth 24 percent growth over the previous fiscal year.125 Currently, India’s investment in space translates to roughly 0.03 to 0.05 percent of its GDP.126

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) operates two reliable launch vehicle systems, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The former, which can deliver about 1,000 kilograms to geosynchronous transfer orbit, has launched not only Indian satellites, but also those from other nations such as Indonesia, Argentina, Italy, and Israel as part of commercial agreements. The more capable GSLV, which uses a cryogenic upper stage procured from Russia, delivers about 2,200 kilograms to geosynchronous transfer orbit.127 ISRO is nearing completion of an indigenously developed cryogenic stage to replace the Russian one.

ISRO operates a highly capable array of applications satellite systems that have demonstrated capabilities on par with the best on the global market. These include satellites dedicated to Earth observation (for example, Resource-sat, Cartosat, Oceansat, and the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, or IRS) and the multi-mission platform Indian National Satellite System, already in its fourth generation, which provides a variety of services, including telecommunications, broadcasting, weather, and search and rescue.128

India has developed an extensive ground infrastructure, including ground centers specializing in launch vehicle development, propulsion, a satellite launch vehicle facility, a satellite technology center, a satellite payload development center, and a telemetry, tracking, and command network. About sixteen thousand people work for ISRO. Recent studies suggest that the average salary of ISRO scientists is one-eighth of that of comparable scientists in Europe and the United States, a factor that some believe gives India a comparative advantage in satellite production and launch costs.129 Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL) is the marketing agency under the Indian government’s Department of Space; it offers various services, including launch capability, to various domestic and international clients.

At the turn of the 21st century, ISRO managers, building on the high growth rates in the Indian economy and a robust ground and above-ground infrastructure, began to reorient their space program from an original vision of “space for development” to one focused on international prestige. Objectives for India’s space program began to include factors that were harder to measure in economic terms. This change in focus manifested itself in two new ISRO programs: a deep space exploration project and plans for a human spaceflight program. The former, represented by a successful lunar orbiter probe, Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, brought ISRO the kind of international attention that none of its dozens of applications satellites and reliable launch vehicles had succeeded in bringing. Although ISRO is not planning to abandon its original mandate of focusing on domestic development and applications goals, a major shift has nonetheless occurred in India’s space priorities.

In late 2006, ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair publicly announced plans articulating the agency’s intention to seek government approval for a human spaceflight program. Nair noted that the original objective for the Indian space program—of practical goals to develop India—had to be changed for two reasons: first, because “human presence in space may become essential for planetary exploration”; and, second, because of “India’s booming economy.”130

ISRO officials have offered a number of reasons for the shift in the organization’s posture from domestic development to a costly human spaceflight program. These include:

  • The notion that human space exploration will become “essential for planetary exploration”;
  • The need to be independent from major actors in human spaceflight (the United States, Russia, and China);
  • To pave the way to reach the Moon in order to use lunar minerals for energy;
  • The need for a well-defined goal for ISRO to replace applications and technology work;
  • To accrue benefits to industry; and
  • To generate spin-offs.

In the overview of ISRO’s eleventh “Five-Year Plan,” covering 2007 to 2012, ISRO officials specifically noted the benefits of human beings in space for India:

Building up large space systems like space stations, servicing and refueling of satellites in space and material processing are promising greater economic benefit[s] to the nation. These require a large scale involvement of human beings in space for building and maintaining space assets. Space has emerged as the next frontier of human endeavor and manned missions are the logical next step to space research. 131

ISRO officials rarely articulate objectives related to national prestige, but statements by both official and unofficial commentators suggest that national prestige is one of the underlying motivations behind the move to develop an Indian human spaceflight program. B. N. Suresh, the director of ISRO’s launch vehicle development center, noted recently that goals such as human spaceflight:

Are not only meant to retain the pre-eminence of India in space but also will ensure India’s rightful role in other emerging areas of space such as planetary exploration and human presence in space. Besides carrying forward the policy of a level of self-reliance these initiatives will also facilitate India’s ability to participate on equal partnership basis in many international programmes.132

First and foremost, Chinese space ambitions appear to loom large over Indian aspirations, which is not surprising given that Chinese and Indian economic growth patterns are frequently compared in the Asian context. The (accidental) confluence of three lunar probes, one each from China, Japan, and India in 2007–2008, produced a burst of public commentary in both the Indian and global media about an “Asian space race.” Undoubtedly, the Asian context is an important one for ISRO leaders as they define a long-range space policy for India. In particular, China’s increasingly ambitious human spaceflight program may have been a major factor in India’s decision to change gears. In early 2003, before the first Chinese human mission, the chairman of ISRO emphatically stated that India had no interest in a human spaceflight program. This situation had changed dramatically by 2006, after China had flown two Shenzhou spacecraft with astronauts on board.133

In February 2007, ISRO approved a modest 40 million rupees to explore the feasibility of human spaceflight, an amount that was increased in the 2008– 2009 budget to 1.25 billion rupees ($25 million) as part of the “pre-project phase” to develop “critical technologies” and to “identify the detailed elements required for undertaking a manned mission.” These areas include crew module design, environmental control and life support, simulators, power, crew training facilities, human-rating the launch vehicle, mission management, crew health monitoring, thermal control, spacesuits, and a launch escape system.134 According to the plan, the primary goal is to develop a “fully autonomous manned space vehicle to carry [a] two person crew to 400 km LEO [low Earth orbit] and safe return to Earth.”135 ISRO officials have also suggested that India may be ready to embark on a human lunar landing mission by 2020, although such a project remains at the conjecture stage because of the uncertainties of the Earth orbital program.136

In anticipation of the human spaceflight program, ISRO has already flown a reentry technology demonstrator known as Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1), launched in January 2007. The spacecraft—which used technology new to India, such as heat shielding and spacecraft recovery systems—spent twelve days in orbit before successfully reentering and splashing down in the Bay of Bengal.137

In addition, ISRO has continued to make large investments in the development of an upgraded GSLV launch vehicle, known as the GSLV Mark-III, which could be used for launching a human being into orbit. The upgraded three-stage vehicle with a cryogenic upper stage will be capable of putting about 4 tons into geosynchronous transfer orbit and 10 tons into a 400 kilometer low Earth orbit.138

ISRO Chairman Nair has also spoken of building a new launch pad at Sriharikota, the site of two existing launch pads, to support human missions. This facility would cost about 6 billion rupees ($120 million). ISRO also plans to build a new astronaut training facility in Bangalore.139

Publicly, ISRO is proposing a fully autonomous two-person (later augmentable to three-person) spacecraft to be launched into low Earth orbit (275 kilometers) by a GSLV Mark-II launch vehicle. Crews would spend two to seven days in space before splashing down in the Indian Ocean. The crew return capsule would weigh about 3 tons. The spacecraft would have “rendezvous and docking capability with [a] space station/orbital platform [and] emergency mission abort and crew rescue provision during any phase of the mission from lift off to landing and [have] provision for extra vehicular activity.”140

If the human spaceflight program is approved, ISRO officials have announced that they expect that the first Indian could be launched into orbit as early as 2014.141 Projected costs vary according to the source, but ISRO chairman Nair has quoted a figure of $2.45 billion, or nearly three times the current yearly funding levels, to reach a human spaceflight capability in 2014.142 The budget outlay for 2007 to 2012 predicts spending on the human spaceflight program on the order of 50 billion rupees (about $1 billion).143

ISRO prepared a detailed study of the feasibility of the project, which, having been approved at the level of the Space Commission in September 2008, remains under review at the governmental level, where officials are evaluating the need for and costs of the mission. In late February 2009, the Planning Commission finally approved the project with an initial human capability by 2015, all but ensuring that the current government will sign off on the proposal.144

ISRO has explored options for human spaceflight that span the gamut from a fully cooperative international project to a completely indigenous human spaceflight program. ISRO Chairman Nair has been quoted as saying, “We do not have any proposal for cooperation with other countries but we are not averse to it.”145

Russia has positioned itself as a major partner in the program. Since early 2008, Roscosmos has been in talks to carry two Indians to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz in the early 2010s. These discussions have also included plans to involve ISRO in the next generation of Russian-crewed spacecraft to replace the Soyuz.146 This arrangement was formalized in December 2008 with the signing of a “Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Activities in the Field of Human Spaceflight Programme” during a trip to India by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The terms of the agreement suggested that Russia and India would jointly build India’s new crewed spacecraft. ISRO chairman Nair enigmatically noted, “We will be redesigning the Soyuz space capsule of the Russian space agency for our mission.”147

India and Russia have a long history of collaborative projects in missiles and space, involving propulsion (Russia supplied an advanced cryogenic upper stage engine to India) and cruise missiles (such as the BrahMos). More recently, ISRO and Russia signed a cooperative agreement whereby Russia would provide the lander and rover for India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar probe.148

When the human spaceflight program was placed on India’s agenda in late 2006, it enjoyed widespread support, including from India’s then-president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, a former engineer who was one of the architects behind the development of India’s first space launch vehicle, the SLV-3. India’s new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, appears to have offered at least tacit sanction, recommending that ISRO fully explore the possibility of human spaceflight by convening a meeting of top Indian scientists. A cross-section of the Indian scientific community added their support to the idea during a meeting in November 2006.149 Key supporters include influential personalities such as former ISRO chairmen U. R. Rao and K. Kasturirangan, who represent a powerful constituency of current and former ISRO officials who may be able to push ahead the program even if it meets opposition from some quarters. Their support was probably crucial in helping the project to pass its first critical program milestone: approval by the Space Commission, a body that advises the Indian government’s Department of Space on space policies but that is staffed by those sympathetic to ISRO’s plans.

While the Indian space program generally enjoys broad-based popular support among the Indian population, some believe that human spaceflight might divert resources from more important priorities in the Indian economy. A high-ranking government official in the Indian prime minister’s office, Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan, has noted that the human spaceflight project would not be approved by the parliament then in session because “it is a major expenditure decision and it would not be proper for this government to make such a major financial commitment at the [tail] end of its tenure”; that is, formal approval would have to wait until after the subsequent elections, held in May 2009. Although recently reelected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might ask for a more detailed analysis of the possible returns to India from such a project, the opposition conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to take a strong stand in support of the project. However, certain members of the Indian space science community believe that the project might divert resources from important scientific priorities. Chavan has cautioned that, “considering the current economic situation, [not] many people [in the government] would be very enthusiastic to undertake such a big financial commitment”; but most Indian officials, both at the governmental and ISRO levels, are confident that the project will be taken to fruition even if the original schedule sees significant delays.150

The United States has engaged in cooperative space activities with India since 1962. These have taken a number of forms, including cooperation in programs focused on education (the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment in the 1970s), applications (meteorology using NASA satellites), commercial cooperation (launches of Indian satellites on American launch vehicles), and scientific exchanges (such as the placing of American instruments on the Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan-1). As part of a move toward closer India-U.S. relations in the post–9/11 world, in January 2004 U.S. President George Bush and then-Indian Prime Minister A. P. Vajpayee announced the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership program to expand cooperation on civilian nuclear activities, the civilian space program, and high-technology trade. A further agreement between Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005 clarified aspects of this agreement, focusing on exchanges in satellite navigation and launches and in the commercial space sector. These would be facilitated through the U.S.-India Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation (JWG, for “joint working group”). The work of the JWG led to the use of two NASA instruments on the Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan-1.151 In February 2008, NASA and ISRO signed a major agreement on renewed cooperation between the two agencies, focusing on “a wide range of programs of mutual interest,” including “space science, exploration, human spaceflight and other activities.”152

An important factor in future U.S.-Indian cooperation on space activities is the so-called nuclear deal between the United States and India approved by the U.S. Congress on October 1, 2008, and signed into law by President Bush a week later. Seen by many as a watershed in U.S.-India relations, the deal effectively ends a three-decade-long moratorium on U.S. nuclear trade with India. The agreement significantly expands U.S. aid to the civilian Indian nuclear program and expands commercial and government-level cooperation in many different high-technology areas.153 Although the deal has many critics who argue that the agreement undermines decades of efforts by the United States to enforce nuclear nonproliferation, the arrangement significantly strengthens scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries.154 The agreement has important ramifications for the Indian space program because of the expectation that import controls for sensitive dual-use technologies will be eased, allowing India easier access to advanced U.S. technologies that might be applicable to its space program.

Despite the new plans for a human spaceflight program, India has thus far expressed little interest in joining as a partner in the ISS. However, the arrival of an Indian-crewed spacecraft in the 2015 to 2020 time frame, especially one with a rendezvous and docking capability, could be a significant factor in considerations for crew delivery to and from the ISS. The NASA-ISRO agreement signed in February 2008 calls for potential future cooperation in the field of human spaceflight, but in the year since the agreement was signed, little headway has been made on specific proposals. India’s agreement with Russia to lay the foundation for a future Indian human spaceflight program suggests that NASA may already be at a disadvantage as it tries to build a strong partnership in human spaceflight with India.

The European Space Agency’s Human Spaceflight Program

Europe has an active human spaceflight program, although, unlike the United States, Russia, and China, it has not yet developed an independent launch capability and remains dependent on the United States or Russia for human access to space. ESA’s annual expenditures on space exploration are second only to NASA’s, rated at about €3 billion (approximately $3.8 billion) in 2007 and 2008. France and Germany are the two largest contributors, funding approximately 29 percent and 23 percent of the budget, respectively.155 The budget is divided into “mandatory” and “optional” categories, the former an obligation for all member states and the latter discretionary.

ESA invests a significant percentage of its budget to human spaceflight (part of its optional category), an amount that steadily grew to roughly 25 percent of the overall ESA budget between 1975 and 2003.156 Most of this amount has been invested in the ISS, but more recently a large portion of the agency’s optional spending (28 percent) has been devoted to non-ISS projects geared toward developing an independent capability in human spaceflight.

Although ESA has, during its existence, maintained a notable interest in human spaceflight, it has never produced an independent launch and operations capability in human spaceflight. Because the ESA has never explicitly articulated prestige as a primary objective of its activities, independent human access to space has not historically been a priority. A number of proposals to attain such a capability did not receive sustained financial commitment in the face of the countervailing needs of European constituencies who believed that ESA could depend on the Americans and Soviets/Russians for human access to space. Instead the agency has committed to those activities that further its stated objectives of international cooperation, scientific research, and industrial competitiveness. These objectives, member states believed, could be achieved without an independent human spaceflight program.

Since the 1970s, Europe’s human spaceflight program has followed three paths that often overlapped: sending astronauts and cosmonauts on American or Soviet spacecraft for short-duration missions in Earth orbit; developing spacecraft or modules that could operate as part of a larger space-based infrastructure developed by the United States; and attempting (abortively, as it turned out) to develop completely indigenous human spaceflight systems.

Six cosmonauts from East-bloc nations flew into space between 1978 and 1981 aboard Soyuz spacecraft as part of the Interkosmos program. French spationauts performed several missions, both to the Soviet Salyut and Mir space stations in the 1980s and 1990s, and then to the ISS in the early 2000s. Similar missions were also performed by astronauts from ESA, Germany, and Austria in the 1990s.

ESA’s first foray into building human spaceflight infrastructure was Space-lab, a mix of pressurized modules and exposed pallets carried in the shuttle’s payload bay that allowed astronauts to perform specialized scientific experiments in microgravity. NASA and ESA signed a cooperative agreement in 1973 to deliver Spacelab hardware for use on-board shuttle flights in the 1980s. Between 1983 and 1998, Spacelab modules were carried aloft twenty-two times by the shuttle. Although the ultimate scientific benefits of Spacelab are arguable, and the final costs ($1 billion by the time of the first mission) far exceeded the original projected costs ($200 to $250 million), ESA, and particularly Germany, which paid the largest portion of the costs, gained significant experience in designing a large-scale human spaceflight technological system.157

After an aborted attempt to build a crewed reusable space-plane system known as Hermes, ESA built upon the experience of Spacelab to become a major partner in the ISS. ESA modules on the ISS include Columbus, a large pressurized module for astronauts to conduct experiments in materials sciences, fluid physics, and life sciences. Built by a German-led consortium of forty-one companies from fourteen nations, Columbus was launched into orbit in February 2008.

ESA also maintains its own astronaut corps, consolidated from teams from several of its member nations. The corps is based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. Since 2001, ESA astronauts have regularly visited the ISS, and in 2006 German Thomas Reiter became the first European to complete a full-length expedition on the ISS, spending almost six months on-board. In addition, European astronauts have participated in extravehicular and intravehicular activities related to the assembly of the ISS and have utilized both Soyuz and the space shuttle for transport to the ISS. In 2009, Belgian Frank De Winne will become the first European commander of an ISS expedition crew, Expedition 21.

Another major ESA contribution to the ISS has been the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which provides the first European capability to service the ISS independently of the United States or Russia. The ATV, launched on ESA’s Ariane 5 rocket, is a pressurized cargo delivery vehicle that can carry more than 7 tons of supplies to the ISS and can dispose of more than 6 tons of trash from the station. After completing a fully automated rendezvous and docking with the ISS, the ATV’s propulsion system can be used to alter the orbit of the ISS (typically to raise the orbital altitude to counteract the cumulative effect of atmospheric drag). The first ATV, Jules Verne, successfully completed a six-month mission, far longer than its original planned lifetime, in 2008. ESA provides ATV flights as part of Europe’s compensation to NASA for use of the station’s facilities.

Development of the ATV opens the door for ESA to consider fully autonomous human spaceflight systems. To overcome the ATV’s principal limitation—the lack of a crew descent module—ESA initiated several studies in 2004 to explore concepts for such a module. In 1998, ESA successfully tested an Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator (ARD), which, shortly after a suborbital flight on board an Ariane 5, reentered and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.158 Building on the experience with the ARD, in 2006 to 2008 ESA conducted extensive discussions with Roscosmos to develop a joint next-generation crewed spacecraft, the Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS), largely in response to NASA’s position that its post-shuttle vehicle, the Orion, would not be an international cooperative project. By November 2008, however, any possibility of a joint European-Russian project fell through. ESA noted that “cooperation with Roscosmos at system level . . . does not appear at this stage as attractive as initially projected,” although ESA will maintain cooperation with Russia “at the subsystem or component level.”159

In lieu of cooperation with Russia, ESA embarked on a plan to develop a new indigenous crew return capsule called the Advanced Reentry Vehicle (ARV), which would be integrated with the ATV service module and fly its first robotic flight by 2015. In late 2008, to bolster this project, ESA member states committed to invest 28 percent of their optional budget to human spaceflight. Current plans project the first full-scale human spaceflight with European astronauts by 2020. As part of the lead-up to the development of the ARV, ESA has approved the development of a test bed known as EXPERT (for Experimental Reentry Test-bed), which will be launched by a converted Russian Volna ballistic missile on a suborbital flight in 2010.160 In November 2008, the ESA Council approved funding for ARV as part of a strong commitment to future human spaceflight activities.161

ESA has also discussed human spaceflight as part of its Aurora Exploration Program, initiated in 2001, which encompasses exploration of the solar system. According to the agency, the Aurora program’s goal is “to create, and then implement, a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of the solar system, with Mars, the Moon and the asteroids as the most likely targets.” 162 More specifically, ESA describes the culmination of the Aurora program as being “a voyage by European astronauts to Mars by 2030, with a return to the Moon in the meantime.”163 The proposal will involve partners outside of the agency, and ESA expects to make a firm decision around, but probably after, 2015.

The NASA-ESA partnership in human spaceflight has been critical to the assembly and operation of the ISS. This partnership has generally been smoother than a number of rocky cooperative projects in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the International Solar Power Mission (ISPM); in that instance, ESA member states strongly felt that NASA had not acted in the interests of the partnership.164 After a long and tortuous series of negotiations over the proper role of Europe, first in NASA’s space station Freedom project and then in the ISS, by November 1995 ESA agreed to contribute 10 percent of the ISS costs, largely from Germany and France, but representing ten nations (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland). These costs covered the construction of the $2 billion Columbus module, the U.S.-owned Node 2 and Node 3, the U.S.-owned Cupola, the ATV (launched on the Ariane 5), and associated ground infrastructure.165 Other than the ATV and ground infrastructure, all of these elements will have been launched on the space shuttle.

The workspace on Columbus is arranged in ten racks (or International Standard Payload Racks, ISRPs), five of which are reserved for NASA, which enjoys 46.7 percent usage rights over the module as a whole. Operational activities on Columbus are controlled from the Columbus Control Centre in Germany.

At least until 2016, NASA’s partnership with ESA, like the one with Russia, is essential to the operation of ISS. During the gap between the last space shuttle mission and the first Orion flight, NASA will be dependent on ESA’s ATV for a significant share of logistics delivery, ISS refueling and reboost, and trash disposal. At least seven ATVs will be built to service the station, four by 2015.166 All will be paid for by ESA at a cost of about $400 million per vehicle.

Beyond 2016, the NASA-ESA relationship becomes more complex. If NASA chooses to maintain its presence on board the ISS until 2020, their human spaceflight programs will remain interdependent. But because NASA has sought to maintain firm independence in its Constellation program and not involve foreign partners in any “critical path” hardware, ESA’s leadership believes it must develop its own human space transportation system, either with international partners or alone, to ensure access to the ISS and beyond. Without its own human launch capability, ESA will remain dependent on Russia and the United States. ESA has acquired valuable competence in many of the necessary elements of designing a crewed spacecraft, experience gained through operations with Spacelab, ATV, and Columbus and through training astronauts. Given its expertise and resources, an ESA-produced human spaceflight vehicle (probably derived from the ARD test bed and built upon the unmanned ARV spacecraft) for Earth orbital operations is possible by about 2020.

Long-term NASA-ESA plans may be guided by “The Global Exploration Strategy,” a framework for international cooperation in human and robotic spaceflight to planetary bodies (including the Moon) that was articulated in May 2007 as a result of discussions among thirteen international space agencies.167

The Japanese Human Spaceflight Program

Like ESA, Japan is a major participant in the ISS but does not have an independent human spaceflight capability and is thus dependent on the United States or Russia for crewed access to space. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had an annual budget of about $1.8 billion in 2007.168 A large portion of the Japanese budget has been invested in contributions to the ISS, including the Japanese Experimental Module (Kibo), Japan’s first crewed spacecraft. Kibo is being launched piece-by-piece on three space shuttle missions. Its six components include two large research facilities (the Pressurized Module and the Exposed Facility), the Experiment Logistics Modules (storage areas, one for each of the two research facilities), the Remote Manipulator System (comprising two external robotic arms), the Inter-orbit Communications System, and the Mission Control Room. Once completed, Kibo will be the largest module attached to the ISS. A total of four astronauts will be able to perform experimental activities simultaneously within the assembled structure.

In addition, JAXA developed the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), a robotic spacecraft to resupply Kibo and, if needed, other ISS components. The first HTV launched in September 2009, with one or two flights to follow annually.169 The HTV, launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on board the H-IIB launch vehicle, can carry about 6,000 kilograms of payload to and from the ISS. Unlike the Russian Progress or the European ATV, the HTV can carry both pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the station.

Japan, like ESA, has its own eight-member-strong astronaut corps, and several JAXA astronauts have flown on shuttle missions as both mission and payload specialists. 170 Koichi Wakata became the first Japanese to serve as a full member of an ISS Expedition crew in early 2009, and will be followed by Soichi Noguchi in 2009–2010.171 Similar to Yang Liwei in China, Japanese astronauts enjoy celebrity status in Japan and perform many public relations functions to raise awareness of the Japanese space program.172

Japanese space officials have long expressed hopes for an indigenous and independent human spaceflight system, but other more pressing priorities and budgetary limitations due to the recession in the Japanese economy have thwarted full-scale development of such a system. Like the Europeans, the Japanese have historically been averse to invoking prestige as an objective for their space program, instead emphasizing science, social benefits, and industrial competitiveness. More recently, partly as a result of Chinese achievements in human spaceflight, the Japanese have expressed a strong desire to commit to a human spaceflight—an implicit admission of the importance of national prestige as a primary objective in the so-called Asian space race.173

In 2005, the Japanese space agency issued its “JAXA 2025 Vision,” a comprehensive strategic plan for Japan in space for the subsequent twenty years.174 The plan includes a proposal for a crewed space transportation system as part of a program that would culminate in a human lunar landing by 2025.175 The idea was to develop basic technologies so that by 2015 the Japanese could make a decision on whether to commit to the plan. Later reports suggested a Japanese lunar base by 2030, but none of these plans is concrete; they will depend on decisions within JAXA in the next five to six years. Important factors will be the experience gained in operating Kibo, the state of the Japanese economy, and perceptions of an Asian space race among China, Japan, and India. At this point, however, the Japanese space program remains largely (although not completely) dependent on its U.S. and Russian partners, and no significant program is in the works to alter this dynamic.

In early 2009, JAXA President Keiji Tachikawa announced that the Japanese space agency needs to “have the technology for independent manned missions” and will begin a new round of research on the feasibility of an independent Japanese human spaceflight program, possibly even including a lunar landing project.176The Japanese cabinet’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy was to have announced a comprehensive space strategy in May 2009 that was expected to include a mention of a future Japanese human space project, but the report appears to have been significantly delayed.177


43. Aleksandr Fadeev, “Space Must Produce Economic Benefits,” Novosti kosmonavtiki, no. 9 (2008) (in Russian); and Yurii Karash, “Russia Needs a Space Race,” Nezavisimaia gazeta: Nauka, March 21, 2001, (in Russian).

44. “U.S. National Space Policy,” National Security Presidential Directive 49, August 31, 2006,

45. The Guidelines have not been made public. For a brief summary, see (in Russian).

46. Andrey Ionin, “Russia’s Space Program in 2006: Some Progress but No Clear Direction,” Moscow Defense Brief, No. 2 (2007),

47. Victor Mizin, “New Russia in Space: More than a ‘Celestial Travel Agency’?” Astropolitics 1 (3) (2003): 81.

48. “Summary Table of Space Launches Performed in 2008,” Novosti kosmonavtiki, no. 3 (2009): 32–33 (in Russian).

49. “Russian Space Agency Reports Spending Totals and Comparisons for 2007,” RIA Novosti News Agency via World News Connection, June 6, 2008; and Federal Space Agency, “Comparative Assessment of the Amount of Funding for Civil Space Activity in Russia and in Other Countries,” n.d., (in Russian).

50. Ionin, “Russia’s Space Program in 2006.”

51. “Federal Space Program for 2006–2015,” October 22, 2005, (in Russian).

52. “Russia Will Not Need Space Tourism When Space Program Well Financed,” Moscow Agenstvo Voyennykh Novostey via World News Connection, April 14, 2008.

53. Paul Eckert et al., “International Industrial Cooperation in Space: A Key to the Future,” AIAA-2006-7525 (paper presented at Space 2006, San Jose, California, September 19–21, 2006); and Victor Zaborskiy, “Space Engagement with Russia and Ukraine: Preventing Conflicts and Proliferation,” Astropolitics 1 (3) (2003): 197–198.

54. “Russia Does Not Make Profit from Joint Space Projects—Audit Chamber,” Moscow Agenstvo Voyennykh Novostey via World News Connection, July 17, 2008.

55. “Russian Space Industry Needs Urgent Modernization,” Moscow Agenstvo Voyennykh Novostey via World News Connection, April 14, 2008.

56. The latest Soyuz TMA version does have a digital control system, although the older analog system will still be flown on a number of missions until about 2010.

57. “Russian Senate Ratifies Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhstan on Use of Baikonur,” ITAR-TASS News Agency via World News Connection, June 8, 2005.

58. “Russian ISS Segment Construction Delayed for 5 years,” RIA Novosti News Agency, April 10, 2008,

59. “Russian Space Program Bedeviled by Problems,” RIA Novosti News Agency, May 15, 2008,

60. In June 2009, Roscosmos argued in favor of extending the ISS program beyond 2020. See Russian Federal Space Agency, “ISS Program: International Cooperation,” June 17, 2009,

61. “Russia Plans Manned Moon Mission by 2025,”, August 31, 2007,; and Sergei Shamsutdinov, “Russia Will Be on the Moon in 2025!” Novosti kosmonavtiki, no. 10 (2007): 29 (in Russian). Whether this timetable was officially approved by the Russian government is unclear.

62. Public Opinion Foundation, “For the Cosmonautics Day: Did Space Become Closer?” Press Release, April 10, 2008, (in Russian).

63. Levada-Center, “Russians on Space Exploration and Space Tourism,” Press Release, April 10, 2007, (in Russian).

64. Russian Public Opinion Research Center, “The Future of the Russian Economy: Oil and Gas or High Tech?” Press Release no. 837, December 14, 2007, (in Russian).

65. Russian Public Opinion Research Center, “Without Space, Russia Would Lose Its Science, High Technologies, and Defense Capability,” Press Release no. 187, April 11, 2005, (in Russian).

66. Sergei Shamsutdinov, “The Development Program for the Russian Segment of the ISS,” Novosti kosmonavtiki, no. 7 (2008): 28–29 (in Russian).

67. “ISS Tourism May Cease In 2010—Perminov,” ITAR-TASS News Agency via World News Connection, April 11, 2008.

68. “Russia Signs Deal to Design Tourist Spacecraft,” ITAR-TASS News Agency via World News Connection, July 2, 2008.

69. Anatoly Zak, “Advanced Crew Transportation System: Developments in 2008,” Russian-SpaceWeb.Com, February 2009,

70. “Mission Accomplished: 105-day Mars Mission Simulation Ends in Moscow,” ESA News, July 14, 2009,

71. “RKK Energiya Will Create Space Ship,” RIA Novosti News Agency, April 6, 2009, (in Russian).

72. John M. Logsdon and James R. Millar, “US-Russian Cooperation in Human Spaceflight: Assessing the Impacts,” Space Policy 17 (2001): 172–173.

73. Victor Zaborskiy, “Space Engagement with Russia and Ukraine: Preventing Conflicts and Proliferation,” Astropolitics 4 (2) (Summer 2006): 179–206.

74. House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space, 108th Cong., 1st sess. (June 11, 2003), 14,

75. “NASA Extends Contract with Russian Federal Space Agency,” NASA Press Release C08068, December 3, 2008,

76. “Russia Set to Invest Heavily in Space Industry,” Reuters, October 21, 2008,

77. “Russia to Make 39 Space Launches in 2009,” RIA Novosti News Agency via, December 23, 2008,

78. Sergei Kulikov and Maksim Egorov, “Space Bankrupts Russia,” Nezavisimaia gazeta, July 17, 2008, (in Russian); Konstantin Lantratov, “Space Cab Driving,” Kommersant Supplement, no. 149 (2007), (in Russian); and Mizin, “New Russia in Space.”

79. Andrey Ionin, “Where Does the Cooperation in Space between the USA and Russia Lead?” Export of Arms, no. 1 (2005), (in Russian); Andrei Kisliakov, “Russian Space–a Fairy Tale or Reality?” RIA Novosti News Agency, April 15, 2008, (in Russian); and Iurii Zaitsev, “Russia–Europe: Together into Space,” RIA Novosti News Agency, September 1, 2006, (in Russian).

80. Andrey Ionin, “The Inevitability of a Strategic Choice,” Novosti kosmonavtiki, no. 7 (2007): 46–48 (in Russian).

81.Igor’ Lisov, “National Challenge,” Novosti kosmonavtiki, no. 1 (2007): 67 (in Russian).

82. China’s State Council, “China’s Space Activities in 2006,”, October 12, 2006,

83. Roger Handberg and Zhen Li, Chinese Space Policy: A Study in Domestic and International Politics (London: Routledge, 2007), 16.

84. James R. Hansen, “The Great Leap Upward: China’s Human Spaceflight Program and Chinese National Identity,” in Remembering the Space Age, ed. Dick, 109–120; and James R. Hansen, “The Taikonaut as Icon: The Cultural and Political Significance of Yang Liwei, China’s First Space Traveler,” in Societal Impact of Spaceflight, ed. Dick and Launius, 103–117.

85. On the intensifying competition between China and Japan in human spaceflight, see Michael Sheehan, The International Politics of Space (London: Routledge, 2007), 181–182.

86. “Shenzhou VII Mission Brings About Subtle Adjustment to Three-Way Rivalry among China, United States, and Russia,” Zhongguo Tongxun She via World News Service, September 27, 2008.

87. China’s Space Program: Civilian, Commercial and Military Aspects: A CNA Conference Report, May 2006, 6;

88. “PRC Aerospace Corporation Head Reviews Strategies of PRC Aerospace Industry,” Xinhua Domestic Service, October 24, 2008.

89. Ouyang Ziyuan, quoted in Rong Jiaojiao, “China Flies Its Dream and Ambition to Moon,” Xinhua News Agency, October 24, 2007,

90. China’s State Council, “China’s Space Activities in 2006.”

91. Ibid.

92. Joan Johnson-Freese, “A New US-Sino Space Relationship: Moving toward Cooperation,” Astropolitics 4 (2) (2006): 134–140.

93. Frank Morring, Jr., Michael A. Taverna, and Neelam Mathews, “Nations Looking for a Piece of the Exploration Pie,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, September 30, 2007,

94. “China Spacewalk Fires National Pride,” SpaceDaily.Com, September 28, 2008,

95. “China Plans to Realize Spacecraft Docking by 2010,” Xinhua News Agency, October 18, 2007,; “China to Select New Astronauts for Future Manned Space Mission,” Xinhua News Agency, September 27, 2008,; and “China Plans to Launch Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 Spacecraft in 2011,” Xinhua News Agency, March 7, 2009,

96. “Unmanned Space Module to be Launched in 2010, Await Space Docking,” People’s Daily Online, March 1, 2009,

97. Ibid.

98. “New Rocket Set to Blast Off by 2013,” Xinhua News Agency, November 20, 2007,

99. “China to Launch Chang’e-2 Lunar Probe around 2009,” Xinhua News Agency, February 22, 2008,

100. “China Almost Done with Map of Moon Surface,” Xinhua News Agency, July 7, 2008,; and Rong, “China Flies Its Dream and Ambition to Moon.”

101. Sun Dangen, “Shenzhou and Dreams of Space,” China Security 2 (2) (Summer 2006): 59;

102. Leonard David, “China Unveils Ambitious Space Plans at National Space Symposium,”, April 5, 2006,; and “China Has No Timetable for Human Moon Landing,” Xinhua News Agency, October 25, 2007,

103. For criticism of exaggerated reports of Chinese human lunar exploration plans, see Leonard David, “China’s First Spacewalk: A Prelude of Things to Come,”, June 24, 2008,; and Dwayne A. Day, “Paper Dragon: The Pentagon’s Unreliable Statements on the Chinese Space Program,” The Space Review, June 23, 2008,

104. China’s State Council, “China’s Space Activities in 2006.”

105. “Nation in Great Excitement,” Xinhua News Agency, October 12, 2005,

106. “The Chinese Celebrate Their Roaring Economy as They Struggle with Its Costs,” Pew Research Center, July 22, 2008,

107. “New Space Triumph Heralds China’s Dynamics, Contributes to Universal Dream,” Xinhua News Agency, September 28, 2008,

108. Hansen, “The Great Leap Upward.”

109. “China’s Future Astronauts Will Be Scientists,” Xinhua News Agency via, December 5, 2008,; and “HK, Macao Scientists Expected to Participate in Nation’s Aerospace Project in Future,” Xinhua News Agency, December 10, 2008,

110. Hansen, “The Great Leap Upward,” 115.

111. Sibing He, “What Next for China in Space after Shenzhou?” Space Policy 19 (2003): 187.

112. “Russia, China Could Sign Moon Exploration Pact in 2006,” RIA Novosti News Agency, September 11, 2006,; and “China, Russia to Launch Joint Mars Probe Mission,” Xinhua News Agency, August 24, 2006,

113. Mark Wade, “Shenzhou,” Encyclopedia Astronautica, n.d.,

114. George Abbey and Neal Lane, United States Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities (Cambridge, Mass.: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005); and Johnson-Freese, “A New US-Sino Space Relationship,” 145–148.

115. Sun Dangen, “Shenzhou and Dreams of Space,” China Security 2 (1) (2006): 64.

116. Joan Johnson-Freese, “Strategic Communication with China: What Message about Space?” China Security 2 (2) (Summer 2006): 37–57;

117. For discussions of China’s military space policy and possible U.S. responses, see Ashley J. Tellis, “China’s Military Space Strategy,” Survival 49 (3) (2007): 41–72; and Michael Krepon, “China’s Military Space Strategy: An Exchange,” Survival 50 (1) (2008): 157–198.

118. “China Offers 4-Point Proposal to Boost Sino-US Space Co-op,” Xinhua News Agency, September 25, 2006,

119. Wu Chunsi, “Development Goals of China’s Space Program,” China Security 2 (2) (Summer 2006): 114;

120. Yi Zhou, “Perspectives on Sino-US Cooperation in Civil Space Programs,” Space Policy 24 (2008): 132–139.

121. “China Hopes to Join International Space Station Project,” Xinhua News Agency, October 16, 2007,

122. He, “What Next for China,” 186–188.

123. “Chinese Taikonauts May Build CPC Branch in Space,” Xinhua News Agency, October 18, 2007,

124. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Outcome Budget of the Government of India 2008–09, n.d.,

125. K. S. Jayaraman, “Record-Setting Indian Space Budget Includes Funds for Large Satellites,” Space News, March 6, 2006, Budgets for the last three cycles were: 29.97 billion rupees (2006–2007), 32.90 billion rupees (2007–2008), and 40.74 billion rupees (2008–2009).

126. Raja Murthy, “It’s All Go for Moon-Struck India,” Asia Times, October 22, 2008,; and “India Will Plant Flag on the Moon: ISRO Chief,” Times of India, October 20, 2008,

127. B. N. Suresh, “History of Indian Launchers,” Acta Astronautica 63 (2008): 428–434.

128. Krishnaswami Kasturirangan, “Indian Space Programme,” Acta Astronautica 54 (2004): 841–844.

129. Raja Murthy, “It’s All Go for Moon-Struck India.”

130. K. S. Jayaraman, “ISRO Seeks Government Approval for Manned Spaceflight Program,” Space News, November 13, 2006,

131. ISRO, “Outcome Budget 2008–09.” See also, ISRO, “Report on the Working Group on ‘Space’ on the Eleventh Five Year Plan Proposals 2007–12 for Indian Space Programme,” n.d.,

132. B. N. Suresh, “Roadmap of Indian Space Transportation” (paper presented at the 58th International Astronautical Congress, Hyderabad, India, September 24–28, 2007).

133. “India Planning No Manned Spaceflights in Near Future,” Space News, January 13, 2003,; and “India: No Plans to Follow Chinese Manned Space Launch,” Aerospace Daily, January 7, 2003.

134. Suresh, “Roadmap of Indian Space Transportation.”

135. ISRO, “Outcome Budget 2008–09.”

136. “Manned Mission by 2012—Astronaut Training Facility at Bangalore: Madhavan Nair,”, October 25, 2008,

137. ISRO, “Space Capsule Successfully Recovered,” Press Release, January 22, 2007,; and A. Subramoniam et al., “Space Capsule Recovery Experiment Project—Mission Overview” (paper presented at the 58th International Astronautical Congress, Hyderabad, India, September 24–28, 2007).

138. S. C. Gupta, B. N. Suresh, and K. Sivan, “Evolution of Indian Launch Vehicle Technologies,” Current Science 93 (12) (2007): 1697–1714.

139. “Manned Mission by 2012.”

140. ISRO, “Report on the Working Group on ‘Space,’” 66. Although Indian officials claim that the GSLV Mark-II (comparable to the original GSLV) will be used to launch a human spacecraft into orbit, the Mark-II’s relatively limited capability makes this unlikely. A more likely scenario is the use of the still-to-be developed GSLV Mark-III.

141. “ISRO’s Manned Mission Space Mission Gets Rs 125-cr Allocation,” The Hindu, March 2, 2008,

142. Jayaraman, “ISRO Seeks Government Approval.” Statements as to when the first human spaceflight mission would occur have ranged from 2012 to 2016. See also Brian Berger, “ISRO Chief Says Decision on Manned Spaceflight Coming in 2008,” Space News, February 4, 2008.

143. ISRO, “Report on the Working Group on ‘Space,’” 105.

144. Pallava Bagla, “My Dream Is to Put an Indian into Space: Madhavan Nair,”, February 23, 2009,

145. “ISRO Can Put an Indian into Space before 2015,” The Hindu, October 23, 2008,

146. Alexey Komarov and Michael A. Taverna, “First Things First: Russia Seeks to Involve India in Spaceship as Planned In-Service Date Slips,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 14, 2008; Radhakrishna Rao, “Towards an Indian Manned Flight,” The Tribune, November 14, 2008,; and “India Seeks Russia’s Help in Space Pilot Training,” RIA Novosti News Agency, March 25, 2008,

147. “Russia to Take Indian Astronaut to Space Mission in 2013,” The Hindu, December 10, 2008,

148. ISRO, “India and Russia Sign an Agreement on Chandrayaan-2,” Press Release, November 14, 2007,

149. ISRO, “Scientists Discuss Indian Manned Space Mission,” Press Release, November 7, 2006,

150. Amitabh Sinha, “UPA May Not Clear Manned Mission Plan: MoS Chavan,” Indian Express, October 28, 2008,

151. Embassy of India, Washington, D.C., India-US Space Cooperation-Fact Sheet, March 2, 2006,; and Embassy of the United States, New Delhi, “U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation,” Press Release, March 9, 2007,

152. NASA, “NASA and India Sign Agreement for Future Cooperation,” Press Release 08-033, February 1, 2008,

153. Jayshree Bajoria, “The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 2, 2008,; and Congressional Research Service, “U.S. Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress,” RL33016, November 3, 2008,

154. For a representative summary of the critiques, see Anjana Pasricha, “India-US Nuclear Deal on Track, Critics Have Their Say,” December 18, 2006,

155. These figures do not include sizable national programs in Europe operated outside of the ESA framework.

156. R.-M. Bonnet and J.-P. Swings, The Aurora Programme (Noordwijk, The Netherlands: ESA Publications Division BR-214, 2004), 14.

157. L. Sebesta, “Spacelab in Context,” in A History of the European Space Agency, 1958–1987, vol. II, The Story of ESA, 1973–1987, ed. J. Krige and L. Sebesta (Noordwijk, The Netherlands: ESA Publications Division SP-1235, 2000), 563.

158. ESA, “Ariane 503/ARD: A Successful Complete European Space Mission,” Press Release 46-1998, October 30, 1998,

159. M. Caporicci, “Perspectives of European Re-entry Programmes” (paper presented at the 1st UHTC Workshop, Capua, Italy, October 28, 2008),

160. Ibid.

161. “Strong Support for Human Spaceflight Paves Way for Europe’s New Spacecraft after Successful Ministerial Conference,” ESA News, December 1, 2008,

162. ESA, “Aurora’s Origins,” January 9, 2006,

163. Bonnet and Swings, The Aurora Programme, 1.

164. John M. Logsdon, Together in Orbit: The Origins of International Participation in the Space Station, Monographs in Aerospace History no. 11 (Washington, D.C.: NASA, 1998); and Roger M. Bonnet and Vittorio Manno, International Cooperation in Space: The Example of the European Space Agency (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994), 75–81, 98–119.

165. ESA, “ESA—Human Spaceflight and Exploration—ISS Elements,” n.d.,

166. NASA, “Automated Transfer Vehicle,” January 31, 2008,

167. NASA, “Space Agencies Continue Talks on Global Exploration Strategy,” Press Release 08-174, July 14, 2008,

168. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), “JAXA and Its Capacity Building Activities for the Asia-Pacific Region,” October 2008,

169. JAXA, “H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)—International Space Station,” 2007,

170. The first Japanese citizen to fly in space was Toyohiro Akiyama, who flew as a journalist cosmonaut on board a Soyuz mission to the Mir space station in 1990. Subsequent Japanese citizens have flown on-board the space shuttle as official representatives of JAXA (or its predecessor, the National Space Development Agency), the first being Mamoru Mohri aboard STS47 in 1992. See JAXA, “Astronauts,” n.d.,

171. JAXA, “Announcement of Japanese Expedition Crew to the International Space Station (ISS),” Press Release, May 14, 2008,

172. “Japanese Astronaut to Bring Country’s Hope to Station,”, May 29, 2008,

173. See, for example, Jim Frederick, “Asia’s Space Race,” Time, October 10, 2005,,9171,1115727,00.html.

174. JAXA, “JAXA Vision Summary,” March 2005,

175. “Japan Aims for Station on the Moon in 2025,” China Daily, February 28, 2005,

176. “Japan Removes Independent Human Spaceflight Ban,” Parabolic Arc, March 6, 2009,

177. Yoko Kubota, “Japan Considers Putting Robot on Moon,” Reuters, March 6, 2009,