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The popular image of space programs today is dominated by the activities of NASA, even here in Canada where our own space agency has a relatively low profile. But space exploration is a global effort, and numerous national governments undertake space activities without being well known to North Americans. This talk, originally a public lecture for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, revisits the history of national space programs, and discusses examples of established, emerging, and new space actors from around the globe, including the motives of governments in undertaking them. It concludes with a survey of the activities of the European Space Agency as an example of a successful and comprehensive space program in today's era of international and multilateral co-operation in space.

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