At the end of a 90-minute panel discussion last night in Washington about international perspectives on space exploration, organized by Women in Aerospace, moderator Ian Pryke asked the panelists—representing China, the German space agency DLR, ESA, and JAXA—how their countries had reacted to the Vision for Space Exploration, both within their space communities and their nations in general. Some responses:
- Mengxing Sun, First Secretary for Science and Technology at the Chinese Embassy, said the VSE has not had any effect on his country’s space program. “My country… will carry out its space program as planned.”
- Juergen Drescher, head of DLR’s Washington office, said that the “common idea [of the VSE] was understood” in Germany when it was announced, and see it as a “promoting tool for the world space community.” However, “we had some concerns about what are the rules of the game, and how do we proceed.” A particular concern has Europe’s big investment in the ISS, and explaining to politicians the shift in priorities from the ISS. “For this reason it’s very necessary to make a clear road map, what we are doing in the near future… and what can we do in a long-term perspective.”
- Hitoshi Tsuruma, Deputy Director of JAXA’s Washington office, said the Japanese people were excited in general by the VSE concept, but their near-term concern is the ISS. “The first thing of the exploration vision is the completion of the ISS,” he said. Many people in JAXA and academia are concerned about making the most of their investment in the ISS.
- Frederic Nordlund, head of ESA’s Washington office, noted that things have changed considerably since international partners were first invited to join NASA’s space station program back in the mid-1980s. “Those agencies have grown in certain ways” and have much greater capabilities. Like his German and Japanese colleagues, “ISS is step one.” A broader issue, he said, is the need “to work on the justification of exploration, which will be based on different values” for different countries. “If you use the wording ‘back to the Moon’ in Europe, it’s a no go. No one will give a single euro to invest in these activities because it’s ‘back to the Moon’… Now we have to convince the public that there are European values and interests attached to human space activities on the Moon.” He said there needs to be a “general consensus” on the justification for the VSE, and then each nation can build up the case “based on our own values”.