As we prepare for the next Shuttle mission I am reminded of the great photo that captured two Shuttle vehicles at their respective launch pads. It is easy to look at that picture and admire the incredible capability and accomplishments of our Human Space program. At the same time I can’t help but wonder about the parable of the tortoise and the hare. If you recall the tortoise repeated over and over again, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
During the month when this Shuttle photo was taken, Zhai Zhigang, the Shenzhou VII mission’s commander, was the first taikonaut to take a walk in space. China’s third human mission launched on Thursday, September 25th demonstrates China’s steady efforts to establish a permanent Chinese Human presence in Space. Also in “mid-September, Moscow and Havana negotiated joint space projects. Anatoly Perminov, director of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), said the sides had discussed the possibility of setting up a Cuban space center with Russian assistance.” The interesting part of this editorial was the reference to Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez. I know who is Mr. Mendez? During the time that we were not flying and preparing for the first shuttle mission, Mr. Mendez was the first Cuban to go into space on September 18, 1980. Now 28 years later, we will probably have two additional space agencies within our western hemisphere. Two? Oh, did I forget to mention how our own astronaut, Jose Hernandez is working on a proposal with Mexico to establish Agencia Espacial Mexicana (Mexican Space Agency).
Yes, many will not see some of these efforts as ever gaining the momentum to challenge our leadership in space. This may be true, but what should be our strategy forward? There are new alliances and relationships being established in the international community that do not include NASA. Should we leverage these relationships or create new ones? If we were to strengthen our ties with India or initiate a new partnership with the Mexican Space Agency, what would it look like? Let me know what you think.
Sharing the Vision,
Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office