ESA and Russian Space Agency Leaders Tell Augustine Panel to Continue ISS Past 2015

ESA and Russian Space Agency Leaders Tell Augustine Panel to Continue ISS Past 2015

The June 17, 2009 meeting of the Augustine Panel on the future of the U.S. human spaceflight programs included teleconferenced briefings by the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Jean-Jacques Dordain, and the Head of the Russian Space Agency, Gen. Anatoly Perminov.

Dordain responded to questions provided in advance by the Panel that focused on ESA’s views on the future of the International Space Station (ISS) and what ESA had learned from its participation in the program. Dordain praised the partnership itself – the United States, Russia, ESA, Japan, and Canada – referring to it as the “G5” (drawing a parallel to the “G8” industrialized nations that meet annually on economic issues). He argued strongly that one strength of the partnership is keeping it open to new members. Just as Russia joined the original partners in 1993, he asked whether the program might benefit now by adding China, India, or South Korea.

Regarding the future of the ISS, he lamented the fact that the ISS program had by necessity been divided into two successive parts following the Columbia space shuttle tragedy: first assembly and then utilization. As a consequence, a long period has transpired when it has been difficult to demonstrate the value of the ISS since little research is conducted. Ideally, he argued, utilization would begin while assembly was underway to build interest in and support for the program. Be that as it may, he stressed that ISS is coming into the utilization period and now is the time to reap the benefits. As to how long it should operate, he recommended that all the partners jointly look at that question every three years to assess whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Gen. Perminov also responded to questions provided in advance. Through an interpreter, he recommended that the ISS continue to operate “to 2020 at a minimum.” He laid out Russia’s human spaceflight plans between now and 2020, which include construction by the end of the ISS life cycle “the first elements of the orbital assembly experimental piloted space complex which will become a basis for engineering development for future human missions to Mars beyond 2030.” Like Dordain, he praised the existing ISS international partnership and opened the door to welcoming other countries into partnerships for large-scale space projects.

The Dordain and Perminov presentations, in English, along with others from the day-long meeting, are available on the panel’s website:

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