One of the key conclusions that we might reach about both the course of international cooperation between the United States and other international partners is that it has been an enormously difficult process. Apropos is a quote from Wernher von Braun, that "we can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming." Perhaps the hardest part of spaceflight is not the scientific and technological challenges of operating in an exceptionally foreign and hostile environment but in the down-to-earth environment of rough-and-tumble international and domestic politics. But even so, cooperative space endeavors have been richly rewarding and overwhelmingly useful, from all manner of scientific, technical, social, and political perspectives.
Kenneth Pedersen observed in a public forum in 1983 that "international space cooperation is not a charitable enterprise; countries cooperate because they judge it in their interest to do so." For continued cooperative efforts in space to proceed into the twenty-first century it is imperative that those desiring them define appropriate projects and ensure that enough national leaders judge those projects as being of interest and worthy of making them cooperative. Since the 1960s space-exploration proponents have gained a wealth of experience in how to define, gain approval for, and execute the simplest of cooperative projects. Even those have been conducted only with much trial and considerable force of will. For those involved in space exploration it is imperative that a coordinated approach to project definition, planning, funding, and conduct of future missions be undertaken. Only then will people be able to review the history of international programs and speak with pride about all of their many accomplishments while omitting the huge "but" that must follow in considering all of the difficulties encountered.