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Russia Space Science Lunar, Asteroids, Outer planets Exploration 1971-1987

The Moon

In 1985, the Soviets announced a proposal to launch a lunar polar orbiter in 1989-1990. 103 The Moscow Space Future Forum in­ cluded three lunar missions in its long list of proposals: a 1993 lunar polar orbiter; a 1996 sample return from the far side of the Moon; and a year 2000 deployment of a large automatic station with rovers. Interestingly, even though missions to the outer plan­ ets seem much more speculative for the Soviets, they were listed with a set of prospective instruments and objectives to be met, but there were no comparable lists for the lunar probes. Among the in­ struments mentioned two years earlier for the orbiter were: TV camera, gamma ray spectrometer, X-ray spectrometer, neutron de­ tectors, spectrophotometer, infrared spectrometer, radar altimeter, charged particle spectrometer, plasma detector, micrometeorite de­ tectors, magnetometer, electron spectrometer, and scintillation gamma spectrometer. 104 It is not clear if this would still be the proposed instrument complement.

At the end of 1988, Soviet scientists reportedly again were dis­ cussing lunar probes, proposing the orbiter mission for 1992 and the far-side sample return for 1996. 105


The Space Future Forum list included the VESTA mission with a 1994 launch date. This proposed program has changed several times since it was first raised by the Soviets. Originally listed as a potential mission by the Soviets in 1985, it was described as a probe that would be launched in 1991 and fly by Venus, then proceed on to study Vesta, one of the largest and brightest asteroids. 106 The proposal then changed to a probe that would go to Mars, and then to Vesta. The Forum paper listed both as alternatives. The main objective is not to study either Venus or Mars, but the asteroids, and the Forum paper stated that such a probe could land on an asteroid and possibly return a sample to Earth. As noted earlier, however, the Soviets stressed that this mission depended greatly on CNES and ESA decisions about building an asteroid module. If the mission is pursued, the Soviets suggested the following instru­ ments: a high resolution, narrow angle camera and a wide angle camera; an infrared spectrometer; a radar; an ultraviolet spectrom­eter; a zodiac light detector; a dust detector; a mass meter; and a penetrator with an alpha backscattering spectrometer, an x-ray spectrometer, a TV camera, and detectors to study mechanical characteristics of the surface.

Outer Planets

The Moscow Space Future Forum paper included one of the first indications that the Soviets are interested in sending probes to the outer planets. They have never attempted to do so in the past. In the Forum paper, they listed a 1995 Corona Project to study Jupi­ter, and an unnamed 1999 probe to study Jupiter, Saturn and Titan (one of Saturn's moons) using a lander and balloon. Although the Forum paper did list types of instruments to be carried and objec­tives to be met, these missions are so speculative that the informa­tion will not be repeated here.


As already noted, the Soviet space science program is becoming increasingly internationalized. Although their first overtures out­ side the Soviet bloc have been to the Europeans, the strong interest in cooperating with the United States is also clear. Today, that in­ terest is focussed on cooperative exploration of Mars, but joint working groups are involved in virtually every space science disci­ pline. (This chapter discusses only automated space science pro­ grams, but it should be noted that the prospect of sending a joint U.S./Soviet human expedition to Mars has also received consider­ able attention. This topic is discussed in Part 1 of this study.)

The history of U.S./Soviet cooperative agreements will not be re­ capitulated here in detail. 107 The important point for the purpose of this report is that President Reagan chose not to renew the space cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union in 1982 be­ cause of concern about Soviet activity in Poland (two projects, one for search and rescue satellites and the other for a biosatellite mis­ sion, were "grandfathered," but other formal cooperation ceased). The United States attempted to renew cooperative activities in 1984, reiterating an earlier proposal to demonstrate crew rescue ca­ pabilities with a U.S. space shuttle/Soviet Salyut 7 space station mission. That fall, President Reagan signed into a law a bill calling for increased U.S./Soviet cooperation. 108 In the fall of 1985, a con­ gressional delegation visited the Soviet Union to discuss potential cooperative missions, but to no avail. 109 The Soviets were not re­ sponsive to the U.S. overtures during this period because of their opposition to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or Star Wars) program for ballistic missile defense. Finally, in the summer of 1986, the Soviets decoupled their opposition to SDI from renewed cooperation in civilian space activities, and discussions began which led to a new five-year agreement being signed in April 1987. 110 The new agreement listed 16 areas of cooperation:

  • Coordination of the Phobos, Vesta and [U.S.] Mars Observer missions and the exchange of scientific data resulting from them;
  • Utilization of the U.S. Deep Space Network for position track­ ing of the Phobos and Vesta landers and subsequent exchange of scientific data;
  • Invitation, by mutual agreement, of co-investigators' and/or interdisciplinary scientists' participation in the Mars Observer and Phobos and Vesta missions;
  • Joint studies to identify the most promising landing site on Mars;
  • Exchange of scientific data on the exploration of the Venusian surface;
  • Exchange of scientific data on cosmic dust, meteorites and lunar materials;
  • Exchange of scientific data in the field of radio astronomy;
  • Exchange of scientific data in the fields of cosmic gamma-ray,
    X-ray and sub-millimeter astronomy;
  • Exchange of scientific data and coordination of programs and investigations relative to studies of gamma ray burst data;
  • Coordination of observations from solar terrestrial physics missions and the subsequent exchange of appropriate scientific
  • Coordination of activities in the study of global changes of the natural environment;
  • Cooperation in the Cosmos biosatellite program;

(13) Exchange of appropriate biomedical data from U.S. and U.S.S.R. manned space flights;

  • Exchange of data arising from studies of space flight-induced changes of metabolism, including the metabolism of calcium, from both space flight and ground experiments;
  • Exploration of the feasibility of joint fundamental and ap plied biomedical experiments on the ground and in various types of spacecraft, including exobiology; and
  • Preparation and publication of a second amplified edition of the joint study "Fundamentals of Space Biology and Medicine."

The agreement established five working groups to deal with these issue areas, which have been meeting regularly since the agreement was signed. No new missions were included, since the availability of funding, at least in the United States, was consid­ ered doubtful.

At the 1988 Reagan-Gorbachev summit, the two countries slight­ly expanded their cooperative efforts. The following statement was included in the joint communique issued after the summit:

Recognizing the long-standing commitment of both coun­ tries to space science and exploration, and noting the progress made under the 1987 U.S.-USSR Cooperative Agreement in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, the two leaders agreed to a new initia­ tive to expand civil space cooperation by exchanging flight opportunities for scientific instruments to fly on each other's spacecraft, and by exchanging results of independ­ ent national studies of future unmanned solar system ex­ ploration missions as a means of assessing prospects for further U.S.-Soviet cooperation on such missions. They also agreed to expand exchanges of space science data and of scientists, to enhance the scientific benefit that can be derived from the two countries' space research missions. They noted scientific missions to the Moon and Mars as areas of possible bilateral and international coopera­ tion. 111

One concrete result of these new agreements is the inclusion of a relay device on the U.S. Mars Observer spacecraft for use with the balloons that are to be included on the Soviet 1994 Mars mis­ sion. 112 However, the instrument would be supplied by France, rather than the Soviet Union. 113 Other candidate missions for ex­ change of experiments include: flying a U.S. Total Ozone Mapper Spectrometer (TOMS) on a Soviet Meteor weather satellite; instal­ lation of gamma ray burst detectors joint developed by the two countries on balloons launched in the Antarctic; and use of U.S. optics in a Danish x-ray telescope that will be flown on the Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma mission. 114

A proposal that has received a lot of attention by both U.S. and Soviet scientists is for the two countries to cooperate in developing a rover/sample return mission. 115 Proposed by Roald Sagdeyev, the mission has received favorable responses from scientists and politicians who see it as an opportunity for the two countries to demonstrate that they can cooperate more in space. This type of mission, where each country would be responsible for building it own spacecraft, would limit technology transfer concerns since the only place the two spacecraft would have to have compatible sys­ tems would be for handing the samples collected by the rover to the spacecraft that would return those samples to Earth. It is ex­pected that if this mission was pursued, the United States would build the rover, and the Soviets would build the sample return spacecraft. 11 6 This is not an approved project on either side of the Atlantic, however. NASA is performing studies of a Mars rover/ sample return, but no decision has been made on actually design­ ing vehicles. Meanwhile, scientists from both sides are discussing the options and how the work would be divided. l17

The issue of potential technology transfer often is raised with regard to U.S./Soviet cooperation. In 1987, the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on International Relations in Space issued a report that addressed that issue, among others. The report conclud­ ed that after a "diligent" search, "no examples of NASA's coopera­tive activities leading to significant technology transfer" could be found, although they added that

in working with NASA on the Apollo-Soyuz docking, it is reasonably alleged that the Soviets did learn much about how the United States manages large space programs. That is not to say that the Soviets have not had access to and acquired U.S. space technology to the disadvantage of U.S. national security, but that the major paths for Soviet acquisition of U.S. and Western technology are espionage, evasion of export controls and access to open literature . . . [P]lacing the onus on cooperation for undesirable tech­ nology transfer . . . is to miss the mark. 11 s


A . SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1981-87, SPACE SCIENCE, SPACE APPLICATIONS, MILITARY SPACE PROGRAMS, ADMINISTRATION, RESOURCE BURDEN, AND MASTER LOG OF SPACEFLIGHTS, Part 2, April 1989, Printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D.C. 1989, Committee print 1981-87- part-2

101. Ibid.

102. Moscow World Service, 2231 GMT, Feb. 19, 1987.

103. Covault, Craig. Soviets in Houston Reveal New Lunar, Mars, Asteroid Flights. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Apr. 1, 1985. p. 18-19.

104. Soviets in Houston Reveal New Lunar, Mars, Asteroid Flights. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Apr. 1, 1985. p. 19.

105. Soviets Revise Mars Program; Prepare Missions to Moon. Aviation Week and Space Tech nology, Jan. 2, 1989. p. 39.

I06 Covauit, Craig. Soviets in Houston Reveal New Lunar, Mars, Asteroid Flights. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Apr. 1, 1985. p. 18-19.

107 For a general review of U.S./Soviet space cooperation through 1987 and its relationship to future prospects for Mars cooperation, see: Smith, Marcia S. Space Cooperation Between the United States and the Soviet Union. Proceedings of the 30th Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space (Oct. 10-17, 1987). New York, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1988. For detailed information on cooperation prior to 1981, see previous editions of this report.

A detailed account of Soviet negotiating strategy for the 1987 agreement is given in: U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Soviet Diplomacy and Negotiating Behavior: 1979- 988. Committee Print. 100th Cong., 2d Sess. Prepared by the Congressional Research Service. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1988.

108. Cooperative East-West Ventures in Space. P.L. 98-562, October 30, 1984. Hearings were held on this bill in September 1984. See: U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. East-West Cooperation in Outer Space. Hearing. 98th Congress, 2d session. September 13, 1984. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off'., 1984.

109. See: U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Science and Technology. Visit to Sweden and the Soviet Union. Committee Print. 99th Congress, 1st Session. October 1985. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1986.

110. Agreement Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Re­publics Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Pur poses. Signed April 15, 1987. 111. Joint Statement Between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Issued Following Meeting in Moscow, USSR, May 29-June 1, 1988. p. 14.

112. U.S., Soviets Agree to Share Mars Exploration Data. Aerospace Daily, Nov. 14, 1988. p. 228.

113. Lenorovitz, Jeffrey M. Soviets, U.S. Make Progress on Space Cooperation Talks. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Aug. 1, 1988. p. 43.

114. Ibid.

115. See: U.S. National Commission on Space. Pioneering the Space Frontier. New York, Bantam Books, 1986. p. 162 and 164.

116. Accept Soviet Offer of Joint Unmanned Mission to Mars: Edelson. Aerospace Daily, July 16, 1987. p. 82-3.

117. Smith, Bruce A. Soviet Scientists Present Details of Mars Exploration Program. Aviation Week and Space Technology, May 25, 1987. p. 22.

118 U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA Advisory Council. Task Force on International Relations in Space. International Space Policy for the 1990s and Beyond. Wash­ ington, NASA, Oct. 12, 1987. p. 27.

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