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The Political Construction of the International Space Station

204 Maxwell Hall

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William H. Lambright, Professor in Public Administration & International Affairs at the Syracuse University Maxwell School.  In 2011, the final segment of the International Space Station (ISS) was joined to existing components orbiting the Earth. ISS thus accomplished “assembly complete.” It had taken 27 years from President Reagan’s initiation decision to reach this point. The cost is usually put at $100 billion. ISS is now in the utilization stage, at least until 2024. What is most significant about ISS may be that five space agencies, involving 16 nations, made it happen. Holding a coalition together that long despite innumerable tensions within the group and pressures from outside was daunting. The most important and interesting relationship was that between the U.S. and Russia. Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union helped catalyze the project, and post-Cold War symbolism and arms control induced President Clinton to shift the relation to one of alliance with Russia. Conflict and cooperation were always present. The history of ISS’s construction holds many lessons for anyone interested in what it takes to accomplish bold and complex goals, especially those entailing technologies new to the planet—and space. 

Conversations in Conflict Studies is a weekly educational speaker series for students, faculty, and the community. The series, sponsored by PARCC, draws its speakers from Syracuse University faculty, national and international scholars and activists, and PhD students. Pizza is served. Follow us on Twitter @PARCCatMaxwell, tweet #ConvoInConflict.

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