Outer Space

Roger Launius

For years the issue of international competition and cooperation in space has dominated much space exploration policy. Indeed, it is impossible to write the history of spaceflight without discussing these themes in detail. The early U.S. space exploration program was dominated by international rivalry and world prestige, and international relations have remained a powerful shaper of the program since. From the time of the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), all of its human spaceflight projects—the Apollo program, the space shuttle, and the space station—have been guided in significant part by foreign relations considerations.

In the 1950s and 1960s the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in the "Moon race," an intensely competitive Cold War struggle in which each sought to outdo the other. No cost seemed too high; no opportunity to best the rival seemed too slight. U.S. astronauts planted the American flag on the surface of the Moon when the great moment came in 1969. The irony of planting that flag, coupled with the statement that "we came in peace for all mankind," was not lost on the leaders of the Soviet Union, who realized that they were not considered a part of "all mankind" in this context.


Bonnet, Roger M., and Vittorio Manno. International Cooperation in Space: The Example of the European Space Agency. Cambridge, Mass., 1994. A prize-winning study of the philosophy and inner workings of internationally supported space exploration projects.

Bulkeley, Rip. The Sputnik Crisis and Early United States Space Policy: A Critique of the Historiography of Space. Bloomington, Ind., 1991. An important discussion of early efforts to develop civil space policy in the aftermath of Sputnik. It contains much information relative to the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Divine, Robert. The Sputnik Challenge. New York, 1993. Contains insights into the space program as promoted by the Eisenhower administration.

European Science Foundation and National Research Council. U.S.–European Collaboration in Space Science. Washington, D.C., 1998. An official research report on collaborative issues in space science.

Frutkin, Arnold W. International Cooperation in Space. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1965. An interesting early discussion of the possibilities and problems of international cooperation written during the height of the Cold War by NASA's head of international relations.

Handberg, Roger, and Joan Johnson-Freese. The Prestige Trap: A Comparative Study of the U.S., European, and Japanese Space Programs. Dubuque, Iowa, 1994. An interesting study of the various programs and their development.

Harvey, Brian. The New Russian Space Programme: From Competition to Collaboration. Chichester, England, and New York, 1996. A solid history of the development of the Soviet space program through the mid-1980s. It has several chapters on the race to the Moon, describing what information was available before the end of the Cold War.

Harvey, Dodd L., and Linda C. Ciccoritti. U.S.–Soviet Cooperation in Space. Miami, Fla. 1974. A detailed exploration of the competition and cooperation in space exploration by the two superpowers of the Cold War era through the détente that led to the joint Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Johnson-Freese, Joan. Changing Patterns of International Cooperation in Space. Malabar, Fla., 1990. An interesting exploration of the movement from competition to cooperation in space exploration.

Kay, W. D. "Space Policy Redefined: The Reagan Administration and the Commercialization of Space." Business and Economic History 27 (fall 1998): 237–247. A reassessment of the space policy of the Reagan administration.

Krige, John. "The Politics of European Collaboration in Space." Space Times: Magazine of the American Astronautical Society 36 (September–October 1997): 4–9. A lucid analysis of the difficult political issues involved in international collaboration in space.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, 1970. A classic analysis of how science changes perspective using the Copernican revolution as a case.

Launius, Roger D. NASA: A History of the U.S. Civil Space Program. Malabar, Fla., 2000. A short history of the U.S. civilian space efforts with documents.

Launius, Roger D., John M. Logsdon, and Robert W. Smith, eds. Reconsidering Sputnik: Forty Years Since the Soviet Satellite. Amsterdam, 2000. A collection of essays on various aspects of the Sputnik crisis of 1957.

Launius, Roger D., and Howard E. McCurdy, eds. Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership. Urbana, Ill., 1997. A collection of essays on presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter with addition discussions of international cooperation and the role of the presidency in shaping space policy.

Logsdon, John M. "The Development of International Space Cooperation." In John M. Logsdon, ed. Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program. Vol. 2. External Relationships. Washington, D.C., 1996. An essential reference work with key documents in space policy and its development.

——. Together in Orbit: The Origins of International Participation in Space Station Freedom. Washington, D.C., 1998. An excellent short account of the international coordination for the space station.

McDougall, Walter A. "The Heavens and the Earth": A Political History of the Space Age. New York, 1985. A Pulitzer Prize–winning book that analyzes the space race to the Moon in the 1960s.

Pedersen, Kenneth S. "Thoughts on International Space Cooperation and Interests in the Post–Cold War World." Space Policy 8 (August 1992): 215–224. A fine discussion of the problems of international collaboration in space.

Shaffer, Stephen M., and Lisa Robock Shaffer. The Politics of International Cooperation: A Comparison of U.S. Experience in Space and Security. Denver, Colo., 1980. A political science study of the subject.

See also Science and Technology .

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