The International Space Station is the most ambitious space project since the Apollo program. Being an international project, the majority of manned space programs depend on its success. The space station is an adventure because of the sophisticated nature of the project and it is an adventure because it is a collaborative experience between different nations.
On November 1, 1993, an agreement was signed in Moscow between NASA and the Russian Space Agency to carry out a joint space station project, merging the respective programs in this field, Freedom and Mir 2. This historic agreement was propitiated due to the political climate of distension resulting from the disintegration of the USSR and the economic problems facing Russia, unable to face a project of this nature on its own.
The Americans, on the other hand, also had significant problems in carrying out their Freedom station, whose cost had increased dramatically in recent years, putting the project in serious danger of cancellation by the American Congress.
The USSR had great experience in this field, not in vain in 1971 Salyut 1, the first space station in history, was launched. Six other Salyut stations followed in the following years (including two Almaz military stations). In 1986, Mir's first module was launched, culminating in fifteen years of experience, which would be the only space station of humanity for more than a decade, as well as the first to be permanently inhabited. In its interior several cosmonauts have broken the record of permanence in space three times, the current being in possession of Valeri Polyakov, with 14 months.
In the United States, for its part, the project originating from the Freedom station, born under the auspices of the Reagan administration, had seen its size reduced every year, while costs soared and delays accumulated.
The difficulties experienced by the Americans were due on the one hand to their little experience in the handling of space stations, which was limited to the Skylab in the early seventies, and to the great complexity of Freedom, which required dozens of shuttle launches to be completed The incorporation of Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA) into the project, which pledged to add one research module each, did not substantially improve the viability of the station.
With the program on the verge of cancellation due to its high costs, NASA began considering various participation options with Russia to improve Freedom (at that time already referred to as a Space Station only). At first it was thought to use Russian Soyuz TM ships, used to carry and bring cosmonauts from Earth to Mir, as emergency vehicles for Freedom, since in the original design of the station there was no such ship, but the strict security measures imposed after the Challenger accident forced its use. The project of an American emergency vehicle (CRV, Crew Return Vehicle) had multiplied its costs, thus being unacceptable.
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