Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Russia's Woes Continue to Plague Space Station Project

Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Russia's Woes Continue to Plague Space Station Project

Article excerpt

Although the first piece of the international space station, a Russian-built module called Zarya, was launched on November 20, Russia's problems in meeting its commitments to the project continue to hamper the station's development. Russia's difficulties are prompting some members of Congress to try to force it out of the project.

Last fall, NASA asked Congress for a four-year, $660-million appropriation, including an emergency request of $60 million, to help Russia meet its space station responsibilities, particularly construction of the key service module, the launch of which has now been delayed until July 1999. Congress approved the $60 million but delayed a decision on the rest. It also ordered NASA to produce an analysis of alternative financing mechanisms to directly transferring funds.

NASA's request infuriated Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R.-Wisc.), chair of the House Science Committee and a critic of Russia's space station performance. Sensenbrenner introduced a bill that would cap space station costs and create a contingency plan to remove Russia from the "critical path" of the project.

At a Science Committee hearing in October, committee members and witnesses alike accused the Russian Space Agency (RSA) of being corrupt, unreliable, and poorly managed. Members were frustrated that RSA had been placed on the critical path of building the station, even though NASA and the Clinton administration have promised, in writing, that the Russians' role would be minimal. …

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