I write a lot about NASA and indeed NASA is at the forefront of many of the technologies I research and I think that is awesome and even more so them! However I would be remiss if I didn’t offer an update as to what the other major players are doing when it comes to space agencies. I have written occasionally of what could be accomplished if we were all to work together. (The ISS is proof of international cooperation at its best though I often wonder if today’s politics could have endorsed such an idea if it didn’t yet exist.)
We can achieve so much together. The space elevator and colonies on the moon are just a start of the things we could accomplish. We have witnessed the great accomplishments of Canada with NASA on the RRM mission or JAXA and NASA on the GPM satellite or the ESA who often gives us an assist with tasks from the laser communications from space project and we likewise extend lend a helping hand.
India(ISRO); India’s current mission, one of orbiting Mars, left the Earth’s orbit on Sunday December 1st and so far shows them joining a relatively few nations whose probes have either orbited or landed on Mars. (US, Russia and Europe) Of course Mangalyaan, India’s name for this venture, faces many more hurdles before this can be deemed a success. Less than half of all missions to Mars are successful.
China; China has been busy. 2012 saw Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, its first successful manned docking attempt, and now in 2013 it has launched a buggy called Jade Rabbit to the moon and in a few days, if all goes well, Jade will allow the exploration of the lunar surface as well as deep space communications tests. Granted the Mars probe China sent piggyback on a Russian spacecraft met its end in the Pacific, but the country has lofty goals of the moon in 2020 and their space station complete by the same year.
ESA; The European Space Agency is officially made up of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. (Canada takes part in some projects under a Cooperation agreement.) ESA is most motivated by joint ventures and has had many of them to date. From ESA-NASA ventures that include the James Webb Space Telescope, or their recent assistance when NASA tested Laser Communications using the LADEE in space and stations in Europe & the US to receive messages. NASA has committed to assist on many ESA projects as well: such as the asteroid sample project and the Mars Sample Return Mission. Now that China is investing in an active space agency, the ESA has sought to join in some of their projects. Additionally in 2008 some of the instruments sent to space were Europe’s . JAXA’s mission to Mercury (the BepiColumbo) is also supported by the ESA. AND as if that weren’t enough, the ESA and Russia are supposedly planning to carry out a manned mission to Mars together. The ESA has found an excellent way to limit both the cost, the loss, and also gain political notice from its partnerships.
Russia; The Russian Space Agency has recently some reliability problems. As a result they have gone through reorganization. None the less they have been a constant partner in the ISS and are expected to complete the Russian segment of the ISS in 2014 with the launch of the Nauka module. In addition they plan to return to the moon, starting with a probe next year. They also have many planned Earth based missions from a satellite to monitor Earthquakes to the weather satellite Elektro P ( Elektro L having been in 2011). There are also plans of a Russian space hotel but that may have changed with the reorganization. To soften the cost of their space program they have been providing space tourism to fare paying passengers.
US(NASA); The US space agency is extremely active. Common to all of the space agencies, the US/NASA has governance not only over activities in space but also in monitoring the Earth. Many of its satellites are incorporated with satellites from the ESA or JAXA to provide data to all (such as in the GPM satellite.) The ISS is a major undertaking for NASA and is owned jointly and governed by intergovernmental treaties and agreements by participating nations from JAXA to Russia, the ESA and Canada. But NASA does far more from running a fulltime operation on Mars (Curiosity) with another en route, the LADEE in orbit around the moon, plans for a moon base by 2024 not to mention other current projects the Voyager I & II, Mars Odyssey, Cassini, Dawn, Hubble, Spitzer Space Telescope, and many other rovers and probes. The commercial resupply service and soon the commercial crew program both fall under NASA’s management. In the meantime they are preparing the space launch system and perhaps the greatest rocket ever constructed, the Orion MPCV a top a Delta IV Heavy Rocket.
JAXA; Japan’s national aerospaceSpace – the final frontier; these are the agencies & this is the time agency is known as JAXA. Relatively new it was formed in 2003 through the merger of three previous independent organizations and the expansion of its mission statement to cover non-civilian missions as well. While it does not have a manned spacecraft, it does possess ten astronauts. In 1990 they first put a man in space; he traveled to the Mir of a Soyuz. They are one of the nations involved in the ISS and have added their own module, the Kibo to the ISS with the assistance of the shuttles back in 2008-2009. They had a plan to go to the moon but the budget was cut in 2010. HOWEVER they have a tremendous list of technology gains in the area of satellites (GPM with NASA for one) and Super Sonic Aircraft development. Plans for the future include the SSPS (Space Solar Power System with a prototype launch in 2020 aiming for a full power system by 2030. There are several plans that revolve around the moon but as budgets cuts seem to have eliminated the major ones the lesser seem to be in question as well. Alas the satellite observation of the Earth as well as infrared telescopes aimed at space as well as other missions that benefit mankind has remained on the books.
CANADA: Canada has accomplished much in conjunction with NASA, on their own or working with other nations. Additionally their commercial companies have certainly seen things through and quickly. When the RRM mission was successful in its attempts top mimic refueking a satellite a Canadian commercial company went ahead and now has a satellite that will service other satellites by giving fuel or checking under the hood. It is also capable of giving another satellite a tow to the graveyard orbit. While currently Canada has no major future plans with regard to space, it remains always an important formal & informal partner or collaborator with various missions and agencies: from NASA and the ESA to JAXA and the ISRO. Additionally Canada was apparently in talks with China to provide an ‘arm’ for their space station, but the talks have not come to fruition.
That would cover the major players; but there are many other nations with space aspirations and inspirations.
Let’s talk about Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, France and besides their contributions to the ISS, they are the only country with a UFO investigation agency on the books. Then there’s theLithuanian Space Association as well as the Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization of Bangeldesh not to mention the Sri Lanka Space Agencyand the Hungarian Space Office. TheIsraeli Space Agency was founded in 1983 and has experienced great success in the area of satellite launches. I could go on and on as there are far more than you might think and each has had their individual triumphs. Perhaps one day we will shine together when an International Space Agency assumes its rightful place.