Editorial: Space Station Deserves Nobel Peace Prize
Published: July 17, 2014 (Issue # 1820)
Over the past several months, we have witnessed an almost major collapse in bilateral relations between Russia and the U.S., seemingly throwing to the wind more than 20 years of modest but quantifiable rapprochement between these powerful and once bitter enemies.
The Nobel Committee, which will award the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize in October, should look closely at the contribution each candidate makes toward the easing of tensions between Russia and the West when choosing this year's winner.
One candidate in particular has contributed more toward these ends than any other nominee: the International Space Station partnership.
This partnership, formed more than 15 years ago to facilitate the construction and operation of a $150 billion outpost in space, represents the largest international collaborative project ever undertaken during peacetime.
Space agencies have so far refused to allow political currents to interfere with the International Space Station program. The crisis in Ukraine, however, has thrown the future of the program into question.
In response to U.S. sanctions, and a federal government order for NASA to suspend all cooperation with Roscosmos outside of the ISS program, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in May that Russia was not interested in extending ISS participation beyond 2020. Roscosmos is in talks with the Russian government over the fate of ISS participation, but there are real concerns that politics will torpedo the otherwise bright future of the ISS program.
Ending Russian participation in the ISS could easily lead to a return to Cold War enmity with the very real potential of sparking an arms race in space, a scenario only narrowly avoided when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. competed for glory on the final frontier.
It would also wreck one of the few examples of major international cooperation as governments burn bridge after bridge in the Ukrainian crisis.
The men and women of these national space agencies that make up the International Space Station partnership — the organizational structure established by partner agencies from 15 nations that support the football-field-sized space station — has promoted cultural understanding between all participants. NASA, European, Canadian and Japanese space officials live and work among their Russian peers in Moscow, and Roscosmos officials do the same in Houston.
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