Many people would argue that the International Space Station is one of the most extraordinary human accomplishments in space exploration. Considering the short-lived space stations of the pre-ISS era, it really is an astonishing achievement. The thing is, it needed a lot of people to get it off the ground (pun definitely intended).

To quote Wikipedia:

The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.

Now, as in the past, we are looking far beyond Earth orbit, primarily to Mars (although President Obama has the Moon back on the table). However, whenever I hear the phrase "men/women on Mars", it is always in the context of an American mission by NASA. Such a mission seems pretty hard for one nation alone. Doable? Yes. After all, we did put men on the Moon (but that was during the Cold War). But it would still be very difficult. So my question boils down to this: Are future large-scale manned missions (e.g. Mars and beyond) likely to be international efforts, or just from one country? Why?

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say that pre-ISS orbital stations were short-lived. Mir was orbiting the Earth from 1986 to 2001. Salyut 7 from 1982 to 1991. Skylab from 1973 to 1979. Salyut 6 from 1977 to 1982. And there were others orbiting for multiple years. Granted, not all were continuously occupied like the ISS is since Expedition 1 (Nov. 2, 2000), but Mir was occupied for a total of 3,641 days, or nearly 10 years. It was also quite a sight to see when they decided to deorbit it. Many people permanently stuck on terra firma only then realized we had people living in space, e.g. Valeri Polyakov's 437 days! $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ And that was merely during his single spaceflight onboard Mir. His total tally is over 22 months in Earth's orbit. Refer to this infographic for a quick overview of logest human spaceflights. You'll notice that Mir still holds top 6 spots. ;) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 3:19

2 Answers 2


International governmental cooperation is a huge burden. Several incompatible legal and bureaucratic systems and a multiplication of corrupt politicians who only care about where the money budget is spent so that their special interests can profit from it. Politicians never care about the results, they are only out grabbing as much cash as they can get their hands on. They are only in office for a few years anyway. Just see today how the ISS has suddenly become a pawn in some diplomatic game between Russia and the US. The more international a mission gets, the more of that kind of irrelevant stuff will dominate it, because some politician sees a way to profit from sabotaging the mission.

The ISS is a disaster for space exploration. It costs everything and delivers near to nothing. It is a prime example of how devastating "international cooperation" can be. And have a look at ESA where different countries are tearing each other apart about the "Ariane 6" because solid rockets are manufactured in one country and liquid rockets in another country. There will either be no Ariane 6, or a bad expensive compromise. Thanks to "international cooperation".

Productive exploration will be done by companies or single governments. A government can have dedicated skilled bureaucrats (for some time anyway), but two governments cannot have that.

A rational space station had been a prototype of a spaceship to Mars, using concepts like simulated gravity and recycling. The ISS today only has a diplomatic political purpose, it is not a scientific or exploratory mission.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, any scientific benefits we receive from the ISS experience have and will qualify as being "frosting on the cake." The main benefit has been a demonstration of how different countries can work together to pull off such an endeavor. This bodes well for the future, I think... $\endgroup$
    – Digger
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 23:29

I hold a theory, and I'm not sure that this theory is anything similar to something well accepted in the scientific community, but here it goes: My theory states that as technology progresses the differences in communities decreases. The critical point at which technological progression becomes so great and the community differences decreases to near nothing we come to a new state of human civilization known as a 'Unity'. In this new state of civilization no longer are we viewed as Japanese, European, American, and so-on; But rather we are known as Humans, or Tellurians. This theory holds true relative to the apparent area and number of the people forming the community. For instance, with our current technology say we inhabited two other planets with equal amounts of people on each summing to a total of 21-billion people. Assuming that 21-billion people remained a constant, it would take a progression of technology three times longer to reach the critical point of unification because of the sheer number of people as opposed to the 7-billion people we currently have.

How does this relate to your question?

I believe that as our technology improves and our desire for greater accomplishments increases, not only does the unified community become necessary but according to my theory it's unavoidable. For now, I believe that most countries are trying to accomplish as much as they can alone, however NASA can only get so far without a way of transportation first to get to the ISS (which I assume would be the first stop). As someone from a time before us might say, "It's written in the stars."

(This is my first post. I know I'm not using a lot of facts but I hope that I can get some positive-critical feedback on this concept.)


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