Earlier I asked about espionage during the Space Race. Were there any significant instances of cooperation during the Space Race? More specifically, I'm asking about cooperation:

  • $\begingroup$ There's a very insightful writeup on this topic on NASA pages, written by Roald Sagdeev, University of Maryland, and Susan Eisenhower, The Eisenhower Institute: United States-Soviet Space Cooperation during the Cold War. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Dec 17, 2014 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ While espionage is one thing, soviets were quite actively reading publicly available military standards and patent applications... $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Sep 25, 2017 at 2:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is worth nothing that other western nations (or not USA) had significant cooperation with USSR. $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Sep 27, 2017 at 5:12

5 Answers 5


Well, both the US and the USSR participated in the July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958 International Geophysical Year (IGY), an international effort to coordinate the collection of geophysical data from around the world. The IGY organizing committee resolved that "all observational data shall be available to scientists and scientific institutions in all countries." Even that limited level of scientific interchange between East and West became possible only after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Could you add some detail to your answer as to what spaceflight-derived data each side made available? I would not call merely the signing of an agreement, if there were no follow up, to be significant cooperation. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2014 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ NAS IGY Program Report : books.google.com/… $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2014 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Overview of IGY results (in russian) : slovari.sosh.ru/slovo.asp?id=51340 $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2014 at 19:30

There were several instances of cooperation during the space-race; Russia was not entirely isolated. Russia (USSR, to be precise) was an active participant in the IAF, and UN programmes such as COSPAR.

To quote Brian Harvey from "Rebirth of the Russian Space Program"

The Soviet Union ran cooperative programs with the United States from 1965, especially in space biology and together the two countries hosted annual conferences on lunar and planetary exploration

You'll find more about the complex relationship in the space arena between the mentioned protagonists in that book, and the link provided by Noordung.

(+: Google is your friend


VLBI-experiments were constantly carried out between Soviet and American radio telescopes, despite the political winds. One such experiment is related to astronautics.

The VEGA balloons for study Venus atmosphere were tracked by two networks of 20 radio telescopes in total back on Earth: the Soviet network, coordinated by the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the international network, coordinated by Centre national d'études spatiales of France (CNES).

In the book "Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring Through the Inner Solar System, 1969–1989 Jay Gallentine, U of Nebraska Press, 2016, 504 pp" tells little-known facts of cooperation between the United States and the USSR.

Scientists from the two nations had finally connected in early September ’83. They met on neutral ground, at the French space agency in Paris, and a palpable tension clouded the occasion because Soviet fighter jeta is had just shot down a Korean airliner on September 1. As soon as Preston got in he was accosted by men from the U.S. State Department who told him, “Don’t meet the Soviets.” Accordingly, the Yanks took one floor of offices and conference rooms, while the Reds had another.

“For radio tracking, the U.S. and the Soviets were the real experts,” not the French. During such early meetings as this one, procedures for accurate shadowing of the balloons dominated all conversation. Getting in even an edgewise word about more payload seemed, for the time being, near impossible.

Via many interpreters, Preston’s team now suggested that they provide .1 device on the balloon payloads to measure cloud density. It seemed perfectly applicable to something like an airship and met with rapturous support. Instead of just helping to track balloons, the United States was now going to Venus.


The Wikipedia article on the Soviet Luna 15 mission, which ran simultaneous to the Apollo 11 moon landing, claims this to be "one of the first instances of Soviet-American space cooperation", though it doesn't provide reference for this. I believe I've read about it elsewhere (possibly In the Shadow of the Moon or one of the other French/Burgess books).

The two teams shared their flight paths and landing coordinates in order to avoid conflict/catastrophe, though the Soviets didn't overtly divulge the purpose/details of their mission. Interestingly, Aldrin was recorded in the CSM asking Houston for updates on the Soviet mission in the Apollo 11 radio transcripts.


In addition to cooperative programs with tickets, there also have been exchanges of lunar samples, the Soviets offering material obtained from their automated sample-return Luna missions. A brief news article is given here and a photograph is here. This exchange was carried out in Moscow at the Academy of Sciences in 1971. Because the Luna samples were much smaller than those gathered by the Apollo astronauts, the Americans got only a few grams of material, much less Soviet material than they could offer from their side; but the qualitative ability of both countries to compare each other's samples was deemed more important than equal quantities.


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