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Global Space Agencies Gather For Collaboration 74

UltimaGuy handed us a link to a story on the Register site, covering NASA's plan to create a collaborative space effort across the globe. Agencies from 'Italy, Japan, China, Britain, France, America, India, Korea, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, Germany, Australia and the ESA' got together for the first time since the formation of the Global Explorations Strategy team last year. "This year, they met in Kyoto to discuss a draft Framework for Collaboration, which will set out how the various agencies will work together. The team has agreed that its main focus should be robotic exploration of the solar system, particularly of the moon, Mars and the near-Earth asteroids. It has also proposed a non-binding collaboration mechanism which would allow all agencies to share their plans, and look for opportunities to work together. This would also provide a route for agencies to share the data from their own missions with scientists from other agencies."
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Global Space Agencies Gather For Collaboration

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  • "This year, they met in Kyoto to discuss a draft Framework for Collaboration, which will set out how the various agencies will work together.

    Uh, don't expect the US or Australia to ratify this framework for Collaboration ;-)
    • Export Control (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tomz16 ( 992375 )
      Funny... most the NASA stuff that I have ever seen (even the most trivial) has ITAR (think Export Controlled) status by default. That means NO collaboration with foreign members of my own research group, much less other countries.

  • Very American centric view of 14 agencies working together - while NASA may have originated this particular arrangement - it is no longer their plan. The article even uses terms and phrases such as "the team' and "the group of fourteen" no particular mention is made about NASA's plan

    Now that my grumbling is out of the way; it is very good to see these agencies working towards these collaborative efforts.
    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @11:34PM (#18398401) Journal
      Overall, NASA collaborates with nearly all of the before mentioned space agencies, save one (china). In general, most of these collaborate with each other as well. Well, to be fair, India is just really getting going.

      What I find interesting is the countries that were not included. In particular, Brazil. Brazil is much closer to launching a man into space than is South Korea. I would also think that South Africa and Israel should be in there as well.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )
      Are you suggesting that the U.S. isn't the center of the universe? That's Un-American!
      • Re:14 agencies (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:24AM (#18398913)
        As far as robotic exploration, NASA certainly is the center of the universe. Agencies like the ESA or JAXA couldn't compete with a single one of NASAs centers that specializes in space probes (as compared to the whole of NASA itself which has launched ~90% of the world's interplanetary probes since the Soviet Union collapsed). NASA probably has a budget larger than all other space programs combined, so it is a little silly giving the rest of those agencies equal time and prestige.

        This multiagency cooperation has more to do with building better political ties than it has to do with saving money or increasing technological progress. The reason the rest of the world hasn't invested the same amount of money that NASA does is that they are so far behind it will be really difficult to accomplish a space 'first.' The only major 'firsts' that remain are in the outer solar system which requires extreme engineering and RTGs (which many countries do not have the infrastructure to make). If they want to do a boring second, they can do like the ESA which will be launching its first rover to Mars in ~2014 (about the size of one of the MERs). Or an orbiter of Venus. Not particularly exciting since they don't have the billion dollars to spend to leapfrog the half ton Mars Science Laboratory rover that NASA is sending up in 2009. They are too late to reach Pluto first. And they are too late to put an orbiter around any of the gas giants except Uranus (if the Neptune Orbiter maintains its schedule).

        If the rest of the world wants to make a significant first, I recommend that they build a JIMO like mission using ion propulsion powered by a nuclear reactor (costing ~$3 billion). Or send an orbiter to Uranus (costing ~$1.5 billion and taking 20 years). Or send a lander to Mercury (probably the easiest). Anything else will just be following NASA (including any significant Moon mission if NASA's plans hold). And if they wait 10 years or so, then NASA will probably have already accomplished all of these or have implemented a plan for its accomplishment. The clock is ticking and there isn't much time for the rest of the planet to accomplish an interplanetary 'first.' It appears that it is just going to be NASA across the board (with the exception of Venus which is owned by the USSR).
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          This may sound surprising to you, but it does not matter who reach there first, the important thing here is the science you can develop in the journey. Don't even think that the purpose of the second mars probe was the same than the first one. Of course, if NASA keeps the achievements of their missions secret, the other space agencies will have to repeat all the research that NASA did (reinventing the wheel over and over again, and wasting prized resources every time). Fortunately, most of the research resu
  • Wrong Focus! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They should be collaborating to make a Mars colony instead so we can get our eggs out of one basket. Plus, since it's an international effort, the goal should be the colony is an independant nation from the start and not a territory. Might as well make the relationship good from the beginning.
    • They should be collaborating to make a Mars colony instead so we can get our eggs out of one basket.

      The "all our eggs in one basket" argument is just silly. If the earth experiences massive global warming, a runaway superflu, all-out nuclear war, and then gets hit by a massive asteroid, it would *still* be much more habitable than Mars, and our chances of surviving here would still be exponentially better than our chances on Mars.

      • New virus that is very effective.

        Massive asteroid will make Earth FAR more uninhabitable than mars.

        In particular, one of two super volcano's going off, may make life very interesting.

        All in all, we would be much better off being on another planet.

        Besides, what do you have against being on another planet? It can only help us, not hurt us.
        • New virus that is very effective.

          Even the worst diseases don't have a 100% fatality rate. Bubonic plague, smallpox, AIDS, the 1918 flu- none of them have even come close to wiping out the species. At best they are able to locally reduce the population growth rate; but sooner or later the population evolves resistance, just like rabbits and myxomatosis in Australia. Also, the disease evolves to become benign (diseases that kill their host quickly have a hard time being passed on).

          Massive asteroid will m

          • Saying we need to go to Mars is like saying that because I'm bleeding, instead of patching the cut, I should clone myself. It's ridiculously expensive, it's so far away from being practical it won't save me anyway, and there are simpler ways of solving the problem.

            Actually, we do do both. We clone ourselves in our children to make sure that we pass long our humanity. In addition, we attempt to solve our problems. But we are not always successful. The fact that we do not live infinately, says that some thin

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Aglassis ( 10161 )

        our chances of surviving here would still be exponentially better than our chances on Mars.

        So one could infer that if we could survive on Mars, then it would probably make it a lot less likely that we would be annihilated while on the Earth. And if we could survive on Mars, then it is certainly probable that we wouldn't be far from developing the technology to live anywhere in our Solar System. And that technology would be used to eventually escape our system. Once we escape our system and start reproducing, our survival is almost guaranteed. With this in mind, I think it is certainly a good

      • Actually, a huge component of the Moon mission is learning and planning for a Mars mission:

        Mike Griffin, NASA Administrator: "NASA is moving forward with a new focus for the manned space program: to go out beyond Earth orbit for purposes of human exploration and scientific discovery." Administrator Griffin makes the case for completing the International Space Station, "the most complex construction feat ever undertaken," as a stepping stone to future exploration.

        "Using the space station and building an outp
    • >> They should be collaborating to make a Mars colony instead so we can get our eggs out of one basket. >> This is a sci-fi pipe dream. Lets say our one basket breaks -- humanity is "#$"#ed, period. A colony of 20,000 people or even a million (and where is the capacity to shuttle them to Mars, I wonder? As a species we can put, what, 25 to 50 bodies in space at any given time at the moment? It would bankrupt the world to get sufficient craft capacity to get a million into space at anything
      • *grumble grumble* I hate HTML coding.

        >>They should be collaborating to make a Mars colony instead so we can get our eggs out of one basket. >>

        This is a sci-fi pipe dream. Lets say our one basket breaks -- humanity is "#$"#ed, period. A colony of 20,000 people or even a million (and where is the capacity to shuttle them to Mars, I wonder? As a species we can put, what, 25 to 50 bodies in space at any given time at the moment? It would bankrupt the world to get sufficient craft capacity to get a m
        • *grumble grumble* I hate HTML coding.
          Then set the drop-down selector down by the Preview and Submit button to Plain Old Text. With this setting, if you hit Enter twice, making an empty line, you get a new paragraph automagically.

          Better yet, make Plain Old Text your default Comment Post Mode on your settings page [].

      • No doubt that energy is the key to colonization of mars. And yes, solar will not cut it. there is almost certainly uranium there. How much is debated. But since Mars is lower density, it is thought such elements as uranium is probably of lower concentraction. So while it is possible, it is not probable.

        But there is decent chance of Geothermal. There has been recent volcanic actions there. Basically, as long as there are several GOOD spots for geothermal, then an independent colony can survive and even th
      • "Oh, problem, Mars isn't crisscrossed with ocean shipping lines, highways, and airports."

        But what about the canals?
  • All space exploration will now come to grinding halt, as it descends into the abyss of red tape and never ending meetings. Space exploration will only accelerate if there is some competition - this move eliminates competition.
    • Re:Red Tape... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by harves ( 122617 ) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @11:21PM (#18398345)
      Somehow I don't think the free market concept of competition applies when there are no clear customers (government pays for exploration, and scientific community reaps the rewards), and the only apparent commodity is information (not even services!).

      If you were talking about, say, satellite launches, then I agree competition is a good idea. But space exploration? Cooperation works much better. To put it another way, if the people who initially conquered Everest had cooperated with each other, would they have gotten to the top quicker?

      Competition has its uses. But not in something like this, where there are no apparent paying customers. Feel free to correct me if there are.
      • Competition got the ball rolling. Keep in mind the Space Race was all about competition between the US and the USSR. It got us into space and on the moon. When the competition was over, things slowed down. How long did it take to get a man on the moon once the program was started? How long has it taken to get this far on the ISS? The one was born under competition, the other under cooperation. We could go back further and look at the exploration of the Americas and other places to see what effect competiti
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by harves ( 122617 )
          Yes, I understand the principle: harness man's natural inclination to compete. But if there's no clear rivalry between the groups, or no other means to incite them to try harder, then they should cooperate. You cannot artificially force people to compete if there is no advantage to them to win.

          The X-Prize worked well because individuals had a shot at glory (and the money). Each company knew they would get significant publicity by winning. Same with exploration of the Americas and the like; there was glory a
      • We put a man on the moon because we wanted to do it before the soviets got a chance to do so.
    • All space exploration will now come to grinding halt, as it descends into the abyss of red tape and never ending meetings. Space exploration will only accelerate if there is some competition - this move eliminates competition.

      That theory doesn't really hold up with e.g. Mars Express and resumed ISS missions that well...
      It do hold up well with my theory of grumpy geeks though. :-)
  • My first thought when I read about this was the process of draftine IEEE standards for things like 802.11n. Delay after delay occurs, and according to some of the press on the matter, a lot of it is just due to infighting, each member of the committee trying to prevent another member from gaining any advantage... i.e. Company 1 has been developing a technology and proposes to add it to the standard, but it gets blocked because Companies 2-20 think that adding it will make it possible for Company 1 to bring out their 802.11n products faster because of their head start on manufacturing processes for the technology. And thus a standard that should have been completed years ago and brought new technology to consumers remains in committee as petty infighting causes countless delays.

    As much as international cooperation can help prevent re-inventing the wheel in space projects, will scientific or jingoistic jealousies over who controls what aspects of a project cause delays as the parties negotiate compromises that have nothing to do with science, and everything to do with ego? Are we going to see a really cool project stall halfway to the launch pad because one of the countries got peeved, took their ball, and went home?

    I'm all for international cooperation. I'm just afraid that most of the parties involved won't be very cooperative.

    - Greg
    • by jd ( 1658 )
      Political problems are inevitable in this. If you thought the "Not Invented Here" syndrome was bad internally within the US high-tech industry, just wait until you start pitching multi-billion-dollar projects to the international market. Then there will be restrictions on information that can be shared. Inevitably, this will include information vital to the safety of astronauts, as you can't restrict the technology on usage. Either it is not exported at all, or it's exported and will be used wherever applic
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by thrawn_aj ( 1073100 )
        All good points, but it is rather irrelevant whether egos will clash or if this will work. The plain fact of the matter is that the resources of any one country can only take you so far where space is concerned. Already, (to give you an example), the American public is being roused against space exploration through the (I must reluctantly say - very good) argument that it costs too much. I say it is a good argument because no administration has tried to create a coherent plan that will span more than 5 year
        • Under "ideal" conditions, the nations would contribute those areas they are good at, work in a unified manner, and actually be productive as a cooperative. In order to have a sustainable, viable presence in space, this is the only way it can be achieved.

          If international cooperation between Governments is impossible, then the next-best would be international cooperation between the millions of brilliant engineers, scientists and enthusiasts that are out there, preferably with sponsorship from corporations

  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by w_lighter ( 995939 ) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @11:08PM (#18398309)
    Well... IT'S ABOUT TIME... Humantity devide has alto kick start the space race has only hindered the exploration of space in reason years. Instead resources is spend on killing each other and wut not. At least hopefully this will be a much better global effort than simply building a space station.
    • Instead resources is spend on killing each other and wut not.

      True. Now that there is talk of a cooperative effort in space, the rape and death squads in the Sudan will see that they someplace else to spend their money!

      With all due respect, sometimes you have to spend money on defense against people who actually do want to kill you - and reducing that threat helps to create an atmosphere more conducive to international cooperation on great works like space exploration. A stable global economy and free
  • So we could see the launch of new satellites and spacecraft that conforms to this Draft 1 by next year?

  • Screw collaboration: I'm all for the return of a space race: China vs. Europe vs. USA. Round 2 - FIGHT!
    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @11:45PM (#18398443) Journal
      This is simply some small collaboration. It is not the space building that has been going on with RSA, NASA, and ESA. Offhand, I think that China and America are still in a bit of a space race to get to the moon and control some of the prime real estate. Russia has been desperate for money so has been working with everybody. That is about to stop.

      But It is a major part of why we are pushing COTS and did the bigelow deal. If NASA can not do the job, then private enterprise will. Basically, it is the multiple prong that America needs. In fact, I am hopeful that America will add several BA-330's to the ISS (or allow others to dock to it).
      • Offhand, I think that China and America are still in a bit of a space race to get to the moon and control some of the prime real estate.

        What would count as prime real estate on the moon? The only things that come to mind are perhaps some earth-facing location for spy telescopes (could anything like that be effective?) or space-facing locations for potential future launch points, and I don't imagine those types of region will be in short supply.

        As far as I know, there are no real in-demand resources on
        • ..perhaps some earth-facing location for spy telescopes...

          Aren't these things rendered useless if you simply (OK - perhaps a *bit* of math is involved) aim a laser at it?
        • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @12:10AM (#18398543) Journal
          South and North Pole. The only 2 things that are of IMMEDIATE interest is lots of sunlight and the possibility of water. The sun is needed to generate power. There are several place on the entire moon where you can get sunlight about 95% of the time. That also means that it is the only place that has relatively stable temps. Still low, but much easier (and cheaper) to engineer to. Any chance of water is almost 100% chance of being in craters in the poles and very little where else. The reason is that sunlight does not reach inside of these craters. But probably the biggest one is sun. Otherwise, you will have to provide your own power and heat. Now, if you want a base, you are into nukes (which adds a LOT of costs). If you have both poles loaded with solar, then you can beam the power all over. As to the telescope sites, well the moon is loaded with lots of those. But some are better than others. In particular, inside of those craters, the temps will be very cold and dark ALL the time. There are others places that will that way 80% of the time, but you still have to engineer for the 20%.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Sunday March 18, 2007 @11:34PM (#18398399) Homepage Journal
    Although I proposed something similar back in 1989 for the national level [] (Google Groups won't return the relevant Usenet post for it by the way), I may as well re-propose it for the international arena before another huge failed bureaucracy starts doing nothing for huge amounts of money:

    The International Science Trust

    For the enhancement of scientific knowlege and the required development of advanced technology, A International Science Trust shall be established, with funding authorized by participating governments, for the purchase of information about the natural world from Eligible Parties (private entities owned and controlled by other such entities in the participating countries or their unified free- trade partners). No less than 2/3 of the components and services used by the Eligible Parties to acquire this information must be obtained from other Eligible Parties.

    The International Academy of Sciences shall identify areas of scientific interest in which the quality of research results are quantifiable -- primarily in terms of information content. Examples of these kinds of research results are: DNA sequencing (human genome project), digital imaging of various phenomena (astronomical, planetary, terrestrial ozone-layer monitoring), quantitative behavior of systems in microgravity, quantitative mineral assay of various sites (terrestrial and nonterrestrial), etc.

    A dollar amount, to be established in conjunction with participating governments, shall be associated with each informative item and with varying degrees of accuracy of the information. That dollar amount will then be appropriated to The Trust to be paid out only in the event that an Eligible Party has delivered new information on the associated item of interest to a designated recipient. When a measurement has already been made, payout will be limited to information value corresponding to the increased confidence level of the measurement (e.g. additional significant bits or fractions thereof). In areas where an information flow is required (periodic sampling) the value of various sampling frequencies at the various degrees of accuracy (significant bits) will be included in the valuation of the measurement. Duplicate information flows will share the cash flow evenly. For superior information flows, the incremental increase in accuracy will enjoy less diluted access to funding flows allocated to those incremental increases in accuracy.

    Income on The Trust will be used to adjust The Trust for inflation. Additional income from The Trust may be used to fund items within The Trust. In the event that an item is measured by a Party which is not an Eligible Party, and that information is available to the designated recipient -- the corresponding funding will be redistributed within The Trust. After-inflation losses will be redistributed within The Trust, deactivating items which are not currently being pursued by any Eligible Party.

  • I wonder how much of this is in response to the seemingly inevitable situation where the private agencies will "git r done" faster and cheaper than the ponderous organizations like NASA who are now so mired in red tape and bureaucracy they can barely fling spitballs into the air.
    • If its just for exploration then cooperation is fine. Now, what if they decide to band together and lock out private competition? They can if they get together as that would lock up the majority of worldwide tracking and communications. They could also all setup similar rules for "safe and accountable access to space" that makes it to difficult for private enterprise to keep up.

      but seeing that its an "internation group" I fully expect it to post lots of great ideas up front and then rely on 2 or 3 of the
  • The reality is that most good computer scientists, inventors, rocket scientists, etc, are inspired by quality science fiction. (Pulp sci-fi just produces brainless zombies. Who then go around eating the brains of everyone else.) What most countries have now in the way of sci-fi is pathetic. Those countries that have never produced good sci-fi have never produced good creators. Good scientists, good technicians, but not inventors or innovators. Strictly minor updates on existing stuff.

    Nothing truly new is

    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      I'm going to disagree on that. Sci Fi inspires proof of concept inventions but many inventions are done out of the need to get something done. The Z3 (first turing-complete computer) and V2 (first missile to reach space) were designed because there was a use for their purpose rather than any sci fi dreams (also there's no good German Sci Fi that I'm aware of).
  • You can't fool me! That's from Star Trek!
  • Human civilization has finally advanced to Feudalism.

    What's the next tech? Anyone have their "Sid Meyer's Andromeda" guide handy?
  • The why of (human) space-exploration

    A frequently occurring debate I have is with the question whether or not we should have space-exploration (and as a subset: human vs. robotic space exploration). This involves the "we should spend the money on other things, like combating worldhunger"-arguments, as the more subtile arguments which is better: human or robotic exploration.

    I have pondered a long time about this, and this is my conclusion:

    We all heard the reasoning for abolishing space-exploration (particular
  • There's already a lot of International co-operation in space R&D. Take for example the Australian satellite Fedsat []. Bus design by SIL of the UK, completed and re-engineered by Auspace in Australia, Star Camera from Stellenbosch in South Africa, Attitude Control System by Dynacon Canada, GPS system by NASA, USA. Telemetry standards [] by the European Space Agency. And launched on a Japanase H2A booster.

    With a design lifetime of 3 years, it's been operational for 4, and was the first satellite to demonstrat

  • Hehe, you almost get the vibes of some sci-fi series with countries collaborating in space exploration. Maybe these events are to end up as historical in the history books? :-) I think it's a good idea myself, because, most importantly, the smaller scale collaborations between USA, Europe, and Russia have worked pretty well in the recent years, on many different planes, practical as well as theoretical.

Some people claim that the UNIX learning curve is steep, but at least you only have to climb it once.