|Acronym for a proposed International Astronomy and Space Organization|
What if there were a space agency that made it affordable for even the poorest nations on the globe to participate in a vigorous and inspirational international space program. Such a space organization could also allow up to eight citizens from each member nation to participate as astronauts in an international astronaut corp. Funds from this international space agency could also be used to contribute towards the development and deployment of space telescopes and space probes primarily being funded and developed by other space organizations.
I'll call this proposed global space agency the:
INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMY AND SPACE ORGANIZATION (IASO).
NASA's current funding level is over $19 billion a year (less than 0.5% of annual US Federal expenditures). Russia spends about $5.6 billion a year on its space efforts. But I propose a membership fee for each nation participating in the IASO of only $50 million per year. Such a low annual membership fee for an international space program would make it affordable for even the poorest nations on Earth to participate. The small annual fee also wouldn't be large enough to significantly hurt funding levels for national space programs being financed by some of the wealthier member countries.
But the purpose of the IASO would not be to replace existing national space programs. Instead, the IASO would utilize the existing resources and infrastructure of the various government space agencies and private commercial space companies. Doing so would increase demand for the products and services of private aerospace companies while minimizing IASO cost for operating their space program. This could also allow IASO astronauts from all participating nations to quickly become part of a vigorous pioneering space program.
|Future Boeing Starliner (CST-100) Commercial Crew spacecraft (Credit: Boeing Aerospace)|
The ISS (International Space Station) program currently has the participation of five space agencies and 26 nations. These countries could serve as the core nations for the IASO. Since each participating nation will have equal status and votes in the IASO, including other nations with existing space launch capability such as China, India, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Israel, South Korea and Iran could add some voting balance to an initially heavily European dominated organization.
But there are other nations with emerging space programs that could gradually be added to the IASO over the years such as: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, Taiwan, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Of course, there would probably be more than a dozen other European nations that enjoy the status and excitement of joining such an international space organization. Its also not difficult to imagine that economically advanced countries like Australia and New Zealand might also want to join such an affordable space program.
In principal, the IASO could add two member nations every year in order to maintain institutional stability. This could engendering excitement each year for the pair of nations lucky enough to be allowed to join the international organization that particular year.
Philosophically, I believe that at least 60% of the IASO budget should be spent on its astronaut corp. And each member nation should be allowed to have up to four adult men and four adult women in the IASO astronaut program. After two years of membership, the IASO should guarantee a member nation that at least one of their national astronauts will be deployed into space every year.
Its not difficult to imagine an IASO consisting of at least 40 permanent members quite early in its formation. At $50 million per member, such an international space agency could have a $2 billion annual budget with at least $1.2 billion a year specifically dedicated to human spaceflight related activities.
|Artist rendition of future Bigelow Aerospace space hab (BA-330)(Credit: Wikipedia)|
A notional 16 day IASO missions to an IASO owned LEO habitat would give IASO astronauts launch and landing experience aboard a space craft with at least 14 days of experience inside of a microgravity habitat, plus at least one or more Flexcraft and pressure suit excursions outside of the habitat modules. Such spaceflight experience might even make some IASO astronauts desirable to participate in future beyond LEO missions conducted by other major space agencies such as NASA and ESA.
|Orion MPCV for deep space missions (Credit: Wikipedia)|
Once the age of water and propellant depots arrive, commercial companies could provide IASO astronauts with frequent and affordable access to habitats on the surface of the Moon and perhaps even Mars. Eventually, the IASO could simply purchase their own habitats from private companies on the lunar and martian surface.
|The IASO could eventually purchase a pair of regolith wall shielded lunar habitats from private aerospace companies which could give IASO astronauts the ability to remain on the lunar surface for months or for years.|
Other IASO funding could be contributed to international organizations involved in locating potentially dangerous asteroids and comets that could someday imperil the Earth and towards the development and deployment of new types of space telescopes and exploratory probes.
So basically, the IASO could help other existing space agencies to finance their manned and unmanned missions while also utilizing the services and infrastructure of private space companies to minimize the cost of their own space program. And this could allow a lot more nations, and the astronauts of those nations, to participate in the exploration and pioneering of the Moon and Mars and the rest of the New Frontier!
Marcel F. Williams
Links and References
International Space Station
Congress Set to Give NASA $19 Billion Budget in 2016
List of Government Space Agencies
Commercial Crew Development
Utilizing the SLS to Build a Cis-Lunar Highway
Reusable Hoppers and Orbiters for Rapid Lunar Transportation and Exploration