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Space Agencies Overview - Part I

written by: johnsinit•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 6/29/2009

Since the days of the cold war and the space race between the USSR and the U.S., space research has evolved into peaceful, multinational endeavors and cooperative ventures in acquiring and sharing scientific data. Each country brings its own strengths to the table. Read about Space Agencies below.

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    How it All Started

    Sputnik is the Russian word for “fellow traveler,” and it made its 98 minute orbit around the earth while a radio transmitter gave out a steady beep. That steady beep might have well said “We got here first, and what are you (America) going to do about it?” Later in 1958, President Eisenhower presided over the creation of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was later incorporated into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The space race and the nuclear arms race had begun in earnest.

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    Post Cold War

    With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the space race didn’t really end, but it definitely changed. The 1990s ushered in an era of cooperation not just between the United States and Russia, but included the many other space agencies that had been created around the world in the preceding decades.

    Space exploration is mostly a multinational effort today. Space agencies regularly discuss and share information with the intent of accelerating space exploration. While bilateral space exploration was more typical during the second half of the 20th century, multinational partnerships are the wave of the future.

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    The Big 13 Space Agencies

    Though there are nearly 40 space agencies around the world, the following 13 are considered the BIG 13 - and meet at least once a year in order to share efforts toward peaceful robotic and human space exploration:

    • Agenzia Spaziale Italiana
    • British National Space Centre
    • France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales
    • China National Space Administration
    • Canadian Space Agency
    • Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization
    • Germany’s Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt
    • European Space Agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation
    • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
    • Republic of Korea Aerospace Research Institute
    • NASA
    • National Space Agency of Ukraine
    • Russia’s Roscosmos.

    We will present a brief overview of each of those in this and future articles.

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    Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI)

    Italy's ASI, established in 1988, works closely with NASA and has participated in several scientific missions. One mission is the construction of the International Space Station, where Italian astronauts have resided. ASI builds scientific instruments for NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) missions that probe the scientific mysteries of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. ASI is operating under supervision of Italy's Ministry of Science and the headquarters are located in Rome.

    logo asi piccolo 

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    British National Space Centre (BNSC)

    The BNSC, established in 1985, constantly explores options for UK involvement in space missions. This involvement could be scientific, technological, or robotic. The UK economy has a strong component based on space sciences because of satellite communications and climate monitoring. The BNSC also has a role in publicizing the commercial benefits of space science. The BSNC opposes human flights and has taken no part in the ISS project.

    180px-BNSC Logo 

Space Agencies Around the World

NASA is not the only space agency on the planet. Many countries have their own national space programs and collaborate with other agencies, including NASA, to explore the Cosmos. This series reviews some of the most active agencies in the world.
  1. Space Agencies Overview - Part I
  2. Space Agencies of the World - Part 2
  3. Space Agencies of the World Overview - Part 3