Politics of the International Space Station
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Politics of the International Space Station begins with the 1972 milestone in co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union in space, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. This cooperative venture resulted in the July 1975 docking of Soyuz 19 with an Apollo spacecraft. From 1978 to 1987, the USSR's Interkosmos programme included allied Warsaw Pact countries, and countries which were not Soviet allies, such as India, Syria and France, in crewed and uncrewed missions to Space stations Salyut 6 and 7. In 1986 the USSR extended this co-operation to a dozen countries in the Mir programme. From 1994 to 1998, NASA Space Shuttles and crew visited MIR in the Shuttle–Mir Programme. In 1998, assembly of the International Space Station began.
In March 2012, a meeting in Quebec City between the leaders of the Canadian Space Agency and those from Japan, Russia, the United States and involved European nations resulted in a renewed pledge to maintain the International Space Station until at least 2020. NASA reports to be still committed to the principles of the mission but also to use the station in new ways, which were not elaborated. CSA President Steve MacLean stated his belief that the station's Canadarm will continue to function properly until 2028, alluding to Canada's likely extension of its involvement beyond 2020.
Ownership of modules, station usage by participant nations, and responsibilities for station resupply are established by the Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). This international treaty was signed on 28 January 1998 by the United States of America, Russia, Japan, Canada and eleven member states of the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom). With the exception of the United Kingdom, all of the signatories went on to contribute to the Space Station project. A second layer of agreements was then achieved, called Memoranda of Understanding (MOU), between NASA and ESA, CSA, RKA and JAXA. These agreements are then further split, such as for the contractual obligations between nations, and trading of partners' rights and obligations. Use of the Russian Orbital Segment is also negotiated at this level.
In addition to these main intergovernmental agreements, Brazil originally joined the programme as a bilateral partner of the United States by a contract with NASA to supply hardware. In return, NASA would provide Brazil with access to its ISS facilities on-orbit, as well as a flight opportunity for one Brazilian astronaut during the course of the ISS programme. However, due to cost issues, the subcontractor Embraer was unable to provide the promised ExPrESS pallet, and Brazil left the programme in 2007. Italy has a similar contract with NASA to provide comparable services, although Italy also takes part in the programme directly via its membership in ESA. Expanding the partnership would require unanimous agreement of the existing partners. Chinese participation has been prevented by unilateral US opposition. The heads of both the South Korean and Indian space agency ISRO announced at the first plenary session of the 2009 International Astronautical Congress that their nations wished to join the ISS programme, with talks due to begin in 2010. The heads of agency also expressed support for extending ISS lifetime. European countries not part of the programme will be allowed access to the station in a three-year trial period, ESA officials say.
The Russian part of the station is operated and controlled by the Russian Federation's space agency and provides Russia with the right to nearly one-half of the crew time for the ISS. The allocation of remaining crew time (three to four crew members of the total permanent crew of six) and hardware within the other sections of the station is as follows: Columbus: 51% for the ESA, 46.7% for NASA, and 2.3% for CSA. Kibō: 51% for the JAXA, 46.7% for NASA, and 2.3% for CSA. Destiny: 97.7% for NASA and 2.3% for CSA. Crew time, electrical power and rights to purchase supporting services (such as data upload and download and communications) are divided 76.6% for NASA, 12.8% for JAXA, 8.3% for ESA, and 2.3% for CSA.
China is not an ISS partner, and no Chinese nationals have been aboard. China has its own contemporary human space programme, Project 921, and has carried out co-operation and exchanges with countries such as Russia and Germany in human and robotic space projects. China launched its first experimental space station, Tiangong 1, in September 2011, and has officially initiated the permanently crewed Chinese space station project.
In 2007, Chinese vice-minister of science and technology Li Xueyong said that China would like to participate in the ISS. In 2010, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain stated his agency was ready to propose to the other 4 partners that China be invited to join the partnership, but that this needs to be a collective decision by all the current partners. While ESA is open to China's inclusion, the US is against it. US concerns over the transfer of technology that could be used for military purposes echo similar concerns over Russia's participation prior to its membership. Concerns over Russian involvement were overcome and NASA became solely dependent upon Russian crew capsules when its shuttles were grounded after the Columbia accident in 2003, and again after its retirement in 2011. The Chinese government has voiced a belief that international exchanges and co-operation in the field of aerospace engineering should be intensified on the basis of mutual benefit, peaceful use and common development. China's crewed Shenzhou spacecraft use an APAS docking system, developed after a 1994–1995 deal for the transfer of Russian Soyuz spacecraft technology. Included in the agreement was training, provision of Soyuz capsules, life support systems, docking systems, and space suits. American observers comment that Shenzhou spacecraft could dock at the ISS if it became politically feasible, whilst Chinese engineers say work would still be required on the rendezvous system. Shenzhou 7 passed within about 50 kilometres of the ISS.
American co-operation with China in space is limited, though efforts have been made by both sides to improve relations, but in 2011 new American legislation further strengthened legal barriers to co-operation, preventing NASA co-operation with China or Chinese owned companies, even the expenditure of funds used to host Chinese visitors at NASA facilities, unless specifically authorised by new laws, at the same time China, Europe and Russia have a co-operative relationship in several space exploration projects. Between 2007 and 2011, the space agencies of Europe, Russia and China carried out the ground-based preparations in the Mars500 project, which complement the ISS-based preparations for a human mission to Mars.
Brazil joined the ISS as a partner of the United States and this included a contract with NASA to supply hardware to the Space Station. In return, NASA would provide Brazil with access to NASA ISS facilities on-orbit, as well as a flight opportunity for one Brazilian astronaut during the course of the ISS programme. However, due to cost issues, the subcontractor Embraer was unable to provide the promised ExPrESS pallet, and Brazil left the programme in 2007. Regardless, the first Brazilian astronaut, Marcos Pontes, was sent to ISS in April 2006 for Expedition 13. This was Brazil's first space traveler and he returned to Earth safely. Pontes trained on the Space Shuttle and Soyuz, but ended up going up with the Russians, although he did work at the U.S. Johnson Space Center after returning to Earth.
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