International cooperation in space is becoming more and more important in these very days. The human exploration of the Solar System being the next logical step in Astronautics, there is the need of combining the efforts and sharing the same goals among nations in terms of destinations in the Solar System. To be taken then in duly account, each space fairing nation must keep its own goals and respect its own requirements in terms of research& development, national pride, political situation, financial availability. This is what I'm referring to as "Autonomy for cooperation" which calls for a strong worldwide cooperation scheme and at the same time, guarantees the autonomy of each and every country involved on a voluntary basis. The paper is addressing several very important programs as examples of different schemes of cooperation. The International Space Station, the greatest achievement of collaboration in space so far, the ESA scientific programs, being an example of good cooperation at European and International level, the Global Exploration Strategy, one of the broadest scientific experiment in space ever, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), the international activities on space safety, dealing with space debris, asteroids threats, and commercial human spaceflight, pushing the idea of creating an "ICAO for Space". The paper is addressing the various programs and their collaboration models in an innovative way, due to the uniqueness of its content and the personal experiences of the author, reporting on all the various aspect of international cooperation in space from inside, underlining lessons learned and indicating the right path to a worldwide cooperative approach in space activities.