U.S. Diplomacy Supports Space Exploration

Posted by Julie M. Rottier
July 20, 2009
Earth Rises Above the Moon

About the Author: Julie M. Rottier serves in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science.

My friends and family are often surprised when I tell them the U.S. Department of State works on space policy, and that I am a part of that effort. International cooperation is key to successful space exploration. Space diplomacy is a very delicate matter and leaves little room for error. The 40th anniversary of the moon landing this week is a reminder for me why the Department continues to advance space issues. Since the landing, much progress has been made through space exploration, which I certainly hope and expect will continue to improve our daily lives.

My office, the Office of Space and Advanced Technology (OES/SAT), handles international space policy and multilateral science and advanced technology issues for the Department of State. Among its goals are: to ensure that U.S. space policies and multilateral science activities support U.S. foreign policy objectives; to ensure that U.S. international initiatives and political commitments on space are science-based, protect national security, advance economic interests, and foster environmental protection; and to enhance U.S. space leadership and competitiveness through work with other space-faring nations.

OES/SAT has primary responsibility for U.S. representation to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPOUS), where a wide range of space policy issues are discussed. In the 1960s and 1970s, this committee developed the Outer Space Treaty and three related UN conventions, which still serve as the bedrock of international space law. UNCOPUOS has also been a vital forum for U.S. efforts to develop new international guidelines on emerging issues such as minimizing the generation of orbital debris and ensuring safe space operations and sustainable access to space. The Office maintains the official U.S. registry of objects launched into outer space, oversees implementation of the 1998 Intergovernmental Agreement on the International Space Station, and provides support to NASA for a network of overseas emergency landing sites for the Space Shuttle. OES/SAT leads interagency coordination on all civil space-related international agreements implementing important NASA, NOAA, and USGS cooperation with other space agency partners, and plays a key role in the implementation of National Space Policy focused on dual-use space applications such as space-based positioning, navigation, and timing, satellite-based remote sensing and earth observation, and the monitoring of physical phenomena in the Sun-Earth system (space weather).

Currently, OES/SAT office is coordinating a broad diplomatic effort to encourage acceptance of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) as a worldwide standard for satellite-based navigation. In 2004, an agreement was reached with the European Union (EU) to ensure compatibility and interoperability of GPS and the EU’s new global navigation satellite system (GNSS) called Galileo. Bilateral discussions are also underway with other GNSS providers such as Russia, Japan, and India. As a member of the UN Action Team on GNSS resulting from the Third UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), held in 1999, OES/SAT, representing the United States, was instrumental in the creation of the International Committee GNSS (ICG), an informal body bringing together providers and users of GNSS technology to promote compatibility and interoperability among systems, cooperation on matters of mutual interest related to civil satellite-based positioning, navigation, timing, and value-added services, and promoting the use of GNSS to support sustainable development, particularly in the developing countries. The U.S. hosted the third full meeting of the ICG in Pasadena in December 2008.

OES/SAT represents the State Department in a range of international deliberations on advanced technology issues. The office leads an interagency effort to coordinate U.S. international activities in the emerging field of nanotechnology and leads U.S. participation in several multilateral bodies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Working Party on Nanotechnology. Similarly, the office represents the State Department in the negotiation and implementation of the ITER nuclear fusion test reactor project through the ITER organization and in the NATO Science Committee as well as other multilateral science organizations.



Gabriel M.
July 20, 2009

Gabriel M. in Greece writes:

You may Open the case with solar system spatial space exploration metrics for U.S. Space leadership by institutionalize a Space Solar System Orbital Directorate, that will set the space coordinates control framework for Earth like global future positioning systems to other planets. I am telling this because is a key concept for tomorrow space navigation, and it will be better the U.S. to set from now these issues for the moon and for Mars and for Europa, so in the coming years we do not need to have the same with the GPS and Galileo implication cases and for technical mode compliances.

July 21, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Gabriel M. in Greece -- Gabriel you sound a bit ironic. I may be wrong though. So, Ok! I'll forward you a link posted recently by a friend.


It works!

New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Julie,

For a long time now folks have been trying to figure out a way to make space a viable commercial venture.

Tourism will no doubt be a part of that, but I think we must balance the "haves" rich enough to spend the money with the "have nots" who don't, through some form of scholastic scholarship sponsored by individual nations.

And before we retire the shuttle, I'd like to see an Iraqi and an Afghan get the chance to grasp the larger perspective of the world we live upon.

It's a question of "inclusiveness" in the common future that has an easy solution.

The other thing I'd like folks to start thinking about is the very serious problem of what to do with high level nuclear waste that is currently stored in cooling ponds and other less than ideal locations.

Call it simplistic, but I can't think of a better way to keep terrorist hands off of it than by launching it off planet in a inert vitified form , placing it all on a platform in GS orbit, and once loaded, boosted out of orbit on a slow decay trajectory into the sun.

We don't have to reinvent the wheel to do this, we have the technology to do this now in a global partnership.

I'm talking about material that is beyond reprocessing and our ability to recycle into nuclear fuel. First order souces of contamination, which to date, have no permanent disposal site available. Just with what is in inventory, we'd need several Yucca mountains.

Globally, nuclear waste is an accident waiting to happen.

The basic objection to such a plan will be the cost involved. Creative minds in both the global nuclear industry and the governments of space-faring nations will have to come to an arrangement, standardize the program using the most reliable delivery vehical available (atlas V ? ) and figure out how to fund it.

I would think that any nuclear plant built would of neccessity also incorperate funds to deal with waste disposal and when a new nuclear plant is funded, the money for waste mngmt. could be immediately tranferred to a global board of directors for disbursement towards disposal off planet.

Here's a real good example of not being able to solve the problem via any one nation's efforts, but is resolvable through combined cooperative methods.

That's where your office comes into this little idea.

NASA has got a number of directions it could go in at the moment, none of which leads to commercial sustainability from what I've seen on the drawing boards.

I think if NASA looked at this, they might just find a way to sustain funding for long term scientific goals and a robust fleet of second generation manned orbital work vehicals over time. Without being subject to the whim of budget cuts.

And to folks like GreenPeace, who may object to the method of disposal as "risky", the current state of affairs is not exactly a situation I would like to see continue while we contemplate solving the question of clean energy.

If anyone wishes to debate this in terms of risk management, and long term cost, remember this must be weighed against the risks and cost of keeping it on planet isolated from the environment, terrorists, and monitored for thousands of years to come.

As opposed to a policy of "Launch it and kiss it goodby." (chuckle)...and I don't mean in the traditional cold-war sense.



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