Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why Isn't the Space Program International?

I was going to come up with a wonderful manifesto on political philosophy and realted nonsense, but I'm never going to get to it. So, I'll just wade in. Saw this item in the NYT on Chinese efforts to use satellite launching as an instrument of soft power. As usual, they're conducting a much more nuanced foreign policy than the US--which is crazy.

But it begs a more interesting question: Why are international collaborations on space programs so feeble? In a world swimming in cash, you'd think that going trans-national would allow a huge investment in both technologies and missions.

What are the impediments?
  • Collaboration on launcher, guidance, and control systems have dual-use military applications. Couldn't we restrict this technology to a pool of countries that already have these technologies?
  • There are lots of sensitive technologies from which commercial advantage can be derived. But we've done lots of trans-national technology incubators. Why can't we put the non-controversial bits into a pool?
  • International managment is a nightmare. Sounds like an opportunity to develop some procedures to me.
  • There are problems with national prestige. We just need to get over this one.

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