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Ep. 018:  Jim Zimmerman

Show Notes

  • Susan hosting Jim Zimmerman.
  • For the last fifteen years Susan has directed training programs for NASA addressing international and intercultural negotiations.
  • What began as in-house training for NASA employees has grown to incorporate many of NASA’s international partners.
  • Susan believes that if you plan to collaborate with multiple organizations, it is helpful to be in training programs together.
  • Susan and Jim became close as Susan prepared a new case negotiation simulation—Mars Sample Return—a hypothetical collaboration between space agencies.
  • The International Space Station, one that hosts a diverse blend of representatives, is a gleaming example of international cooperation. (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html)
  • 1968 Apollo mission, and subsequent photos of earth created a special appreciation for our exceptional, though fragile planet.
  • These photos also provide a nice check on perspective when dealing with contentious social and political issues.
  • Jim Zimmerman is President of International Space Services (ISS), a space policy and business development consulting firm (http://www.space-services.com/index.html). Jim also served as the President of the International Astronautical Federation from 2004-2008 (http://www.iafastro.org/).
  • Jim is an expert in space policy and of all that surrounds collaboration among international space organizations.
  • Grew up in Wisconsin with little sense of either international relations or the business of space policy.
  • Undergraduate studies springboarded him into a fascination with international relationships.
  • Intersection of science and international cooperation.
  • Why is science a good environment for international cooperation?
  • Jim believes that science transcends international boundaries.
  • Science community understands that sharing and collaboration is the way to make gains within field.
  • Space exploration is a relatively new phenomenon, beginning in the 1950’s.
  • Space exploration began as political competition: chiefly between the US and Soviet Union.
  • Human-space-flight took precedence as the central objective and grand achievement.
  • Success in space was directly linked to a countries’ economic and political vitality.
  • After a successful moon landing, the US began to look beyond and to consider the possibilities of space exploration.
  • Post-Apollo program led to construction of the Space Shuttle, which included Europe and Canada as partners. Europe built an on-board module, and Canada, a mechanical arm.
  • The first multinational space station, rising in the mid 1980’s, included the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan (https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/).
  • What was pushing towards collaboration?
  • Not a complete collaboration, says Jim, but rather a demonstration that the Western block could cooperate.
  • The US still wished to remain the primary operator, and to go forward independently if the partner contributions proved unsuccessful.
  • A willingness to allow western countries to join, but a reluctance to rely on them.
  • Russia also maintained a space station along with their fellow eastern European partners.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union changed the landscape of space politics: Russia joined with the US and fellow countries.
  • These early years were marked by complicated and difficult negotiations among partners.
  • In stark contrast to the earlier developments, international space programs today assume high levels of respect and admiration among partners.
  • Future success of the International Space Station depends upon continuous support from ALL members.
  • The primary object of the space-faring countries is to move into CIS-lunar space (such as the area surrounding the moon).
  • The ultimate goal is to take humans to Mars.
  • New partners (States) are constantly entering the mix.
  • Global collaboration in space flight has changed from a peripheral goal to a now primary objective.
  • Multicultural cooperation has created certain complications, but also, and more importantly, some very fruitful opportunities.
  • There is some worry within space-faring community that members will misuse information for unsavory purposes (e.g. military advancement)
  • Jim believes we will transcend whatever beds of political disagreement we currently face.
  • Common goals in space will ultimately supersede political differences.
  • It is important for collaborations to be goal oriented, and for those goals to be well defined.
  • Weapon systems and space travel use similar technologies; it is thus important to maintain oversight and transparency.
  • The role of industry in space community.
  • Industry has always played a large role within the US’s space endeavors.
  • Companies realize the commercial potential of space flight.
  • International Astronautical Federation was originally fueled by a group of small space societies in the early 1950’s, all of which sought ways to enhance the space-travel community.
  • The Federation is an NGO that represents all organizations and professionals within the space flying community.
  • Jim served as president of the IAF from 2004-2008.
  • During the Cold War, the IAF served as a meeting ground for representatives from politically opposed countries (i.e. US and Soviet Union).
  • IAF is independent of governmental differences, and thus allows for a degree of collaboration that would be impossible on a federal level.
  • The IAF meets annually to exchange ideas.
  • The negotiations that precede each IAC (International Astronautical Conference, http://www.iafastro.org/events/iac/) are often very hectic.
  • The fate of these negotiations is subject to the opinions, objectives, and demeanors of the conference leaders.
  • As president, and leader of the negotiations, Jim learned the importance of being attentive and understanding of all players.
  • It is a real art form to devise solutions that will garner large-scale support.
  • IAF has become increasingly hospitable and welcoming to young people who wish to interact in the space community.
  • Programs have opened within the IAF that cater specifically to students and youth professionals.
  • More than 1/3 of those who attend the IAC each year are under thirty-five.
  • This bodes well for the future welfare of the IAF and for all space programs.
  • It is important to continue our support in global space programs; it is surely worthwhile investment—and one that reaches for a more peaceful future.


James “Jim” Zimmerman is President of International Space Services, Inc. which he founded in 1997. He also serves as past President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) which has more than 300 member organizations in more than 60 countries.

Jim has more than 35 years of international space and science program and international cooperation experience. He is particularly familiar with space program and policy developments in the United States and in Europe where he served as NASA’s European Representative for twelve years.

Before retiring from the US Government in 1997, Zimmerman held several senior executive positions at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other federal agencies. As Chief of NASA’s International Planning and Programs Office, Zimmerman was responsible for negotiating NASA’s joint projects with space agencies in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. In 1980 Zimmerman established and served as the first Director of the International Affairs Office of the National Environmental Satellite Service in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At the same time NOAA assumed responsibility for the Landsat Earth observations satellite program.

From 1882 to 1985 Zimmerman served as Assistant Director for Export, Import and International Safeguards of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission where he was responsible for approving American exports of fuel and reactor components to other countries for nuclear power and research purposes.

In 1985 Zimmerman returned to NASA to become the agency’s European Representative. During this twelve-year assignment he was based in Paris, France and traveled extensively throughout Europe to represent the US Government’s civil space interests.

Jim Zimmerman was elected President of the International Astronautical Federation in 2004 and re-elected for a second term in 2006. He currently serves as Past President of the Federation and continues to play an active role in many IAF programs.

Jim Zimmerman is a Fellow in the American Astronautical Society and an Associate Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics where he also served as Vice President – International. He is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and a co-author of an Academy cosmic study on Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space. He also served as rapporteur of Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World, a report published in 2009 by the U.S. National Research Council.

Zimmerman received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Beloit College and a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, both in the USA. He also studied at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and at universities in Finland, Austria and Italy.

Zimmerman was twice awarded NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal. In addition, he received the European Space Agency’s International Space Station Award and the German Space Agency’s International Cooperation Award. He also received the American Astronautical Society’s Award for the Advancement of International Cooperation.