Together in Orbit: Round Two
In the post-Challenger period, there was unfinished business with respect to international space partnerships. Increasing U.S. cooperation with other spacefaring countries had been one of the four principal objectives of the national space strategy approved by Ronald Reagan in August 1984. Between 1986 and 1988, there was significant progress in achieving that objective. One element of the strategy was to convince U.S. “friends and allies” to accept Ronald Reagan’s invitation to participate in the space station program. That effort involved crafting the agreements needed to underpin the space station partnership during the facility’s development and multidecade operation. Taking that step turned out to be a contentious process that extended for more than two years and several times teetered on the verge of failure before ultimate success. On another front, with new leadership in the Soviet Union in the form of Mikhail Gorbachev, who took office as general secretary of the Communist Party in March 1985, the Soviet attitude toward space cooperation with the United States changed, and eventually steps toward resuming U.S.-Soviet space cooperation followed. Gorbachev even proposed a joint human mission to Mars, but the United States was not willing to agree to such an ambitious venture.