Power and destiny: The International Space Station and United States foreign policy: Bridging two policy worlds

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


James Bennett


International Space Station, Foreign policy, NASA, Domestic policy, United States

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


While international relations theory has examined the influence of domestic politics upon foreign policy-making, the opposite relationship has not been closely examined. This study argues that domestic policy actors use foreign policy concepts and images to promote and defend domestic policies. In the United States civil space program, foreign policy has traditionally been an important justification for projects and budgets. Foreign policy rationales have included references to specific policy concerns and general appeals to the national interest. These rationales are central to the promotion of the space program, especially the human space flight program. These issues are explored using the Space Station Project (SSP), a controversial program the United States has pursued with fifteen other countries, including Russia. Begun in 1984, the SSP has evolved radically from its original Cold War justifications to become a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation. In this study, the political rationales of the SSP are identified and examined to discover how foreign policy is used to support a predominantly domestic program. Foreign policy ideas and concepts enter into the domestic policy-making process as a means to elevate the perceived importance of a policy. Identification with national security and economic competitiveness gave a higher political value to the SSP and helped it to survive numerous political challenges. This study offers a new framework to examine the interaction between different policy fields that allows for a deeper understanding of national decision-making.


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