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Operation: Negotiation

Difficulty: Difficult

Duration: several hours (can be separated over a few days)

Materials: Minimal

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International collaboration is an important part of space exploration. Missions can be very expensive, and working together with other countries helps fund projects that one country would have a hard time accomplishing on their own. Canada has several international partners like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). Every three years, ESA member states and partners come together to decide what projects they will undertake, and which countries will partner together to make those projects successful. Each country decides which missions will best meet the needs of their goals and population and then commits funding and technology to the mission.

In the spirit of this program, this activity will challenge participants to balance their country's needs and budget with partner countries to collectively fund a space mission.

Mission description

Participants will be divided into small teams. Each team represents a different fictional country that is seeking help to fund their space mission(s). Each team will be given primary and secondary objectives. They will also be given a budget. Countries will need to collaborate in order to define a mission or multiple missions that meet everyone's priorities within the allocated budget. Teams can conduct research before the negotiations, and will formulate positions and then debate with their fellow teams.


Breakdown Duration
Introduction and Team Assignments 30 minutes
Country Mission Planning Approximately 2 hours
Space Mission Research (Optional) 60 minutes
Team discussion and planning 60 minutes
Conduct Mission Negotiations Between 1.5 and 2 hours
Opening Statements 20-30 minutes
Open Floor Negotiation 30 minutes
Presentation of Proposals 30 minutes
Closing Statements 20 minutes
Debrief (Optional) TBD by educator
Total Variable


Teams will debate, discuss and come to a consensus on what mission(s) to participate in and fund.


By the end of the activity, participants will be able to:

Mission preparation


Mission instructions

  1. Introduction and Team Assignments
    1. Divide participants into teams of 3 to 5 people. Each team will represent a different fictional country. There can be anywhere from 4 to 8 countries.
    2. Each country will be given primary and secondary mission objectives that are specific to them. They will also be given a budget of funds allocated for a mission.

      Note: No team will be able to fund large missions alone (see participant handout).

    3. All countries will be given the same background information about different types of space missions and the funds required for each (see participant handout).
  2. Country Mission Planning
    1. Optional pre-activity research: Based on the mission objectives given to each country and the list of missions, individuals and teams can conduct additional research on these topics or on other types of space missions.
    2. As a team, each country will determine which missions they are interested in pursuing and will need to set priorities and decide what is or is not negotiable for them. Based on mission objectives and the funds available, team members should come to an agreement on which mission(s) they want to fund, and what portion of their budget will go towards it.

      Note: Teams do not need to fund 100% of the full cost of a mission and can participate in one or more missions.

    3. Participants will need to come up with an opening statement that summarizes their objectives and what missions they are interested in supporting. It should also include information about what technical ability the country can bring to the selected projects (based off information in their country description and objectives).
  3. Program Negotiation
    1. Each country will present their 2–3 minute opening statement to the entire board of countries.

      Note: As you are listening to the opening statements of other teams, take note of which countries are providing support for each mission. This information will be useful in the upcoming negotiations. Each mission will require the partnership of a minimum of two countries.

    2. After each country has presented, there is a 20–30 minute open negotiation period. During this time, delegates from each country can meet and discuss budgets and partnerships. The goal of this portion is to create initial partnerships and negotiate how much funding each country will contribute to specific missions.
    3. All delegates return to the negotiation table. With the activity facilitator as moderator, delegates from any country can raise their hand to propose a collaboration on a specific mission.
      1. In their proposal, the delegate will state which countries are contributing and how the total cost of the mission is met.
      2. Each country that is named in the proposal can accept or reject this proposal.
      3. All unnamed countries can also decide to join the mission by committing funding as well. Any amount of new funding provided reduces the financial commitment required from the other contributors.
      4. This step continues until each proposed collaboration has been discussed one by one.
    4. Each team should take 5 minutes to prepare a short closing statement which addresses the following topics:
      1. Which mission(s) they are contributing to, including the funding breakdown.
      2. What direct benefits their countries will receive from the mission(s), taking into account their country descriptions and objectives.

      One by one, the teams present their closing statements. This confirms their commitment to each space mission.

  4. Debrief (optional)
    1. At the activity facilitator's discretion, have the teams respond to the following questions:
      1. Was it more challenging to negotiate within your own country, or with other countries?
      2. Do you feel like your country met its objectives?
      3. Is there a mission that your country wanted to participate in that it couldn't? If so, did this prevent you from meeting objectives?
      4. Did you learn anything new about space missions and their benefits?

Download the participant handout (PDF, 369 KB)

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