Magazine article National Defense

Congressman Denounces Administration's Space Program as Vehicle for Foreign Aid

Magazine article National Defense

Congressman Denounces Administration's Space Program as Vehicle for Foreign Aid

Article excerpt

Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on joint U.S.-Russian cooperative space ventures increasingly serve as foreign aid in disguise, charges a member of Congress who oversees U.S. space policy.

The Clinton administration has, during the past three years, been a staunch advocate of U.S. financial support for space projects that involve work-sharing between international partners-particularly Russia. But, as NASA and its non-U.S. partners begin preparations to launch an international space station, congressional critics complain that, in the name of international cooperation, U.S. space dollars are being spent to cover up for Russia's failures to live up to its commitments.

"We should never loose sight that the reason we cooperate internationally is to reap scientific and technical benefits," says Rep. F James Sensenbrenner Jr. (RWI), chairman of the Science Committee that oversees NASA spending. He discussed the issue of international space cooperation during a recent conference on satellite communications in Reston, Virginia, sponsored by ADPA/NSIA.

In Sensenbrenner's opinion, NASA is combining its scientific goals of conducting research in space with the political goals of not embarrassing its international partners. The Russian space program has been plagued by a string of failures in its flagship Mir space station program.

Congressional opponents of the administration's plan contend the Russian government is putting all its space eggs into the Mir basket-thereby neglecting its commitments to the International Space Station (ISS).

The 1-million-pound ISS will be assembled in space from modules, nodes, truss segments, re-supply vessels, solar arrays, thermal radiators and the thousands of other components required to make it work. Once assembled, the station will provide 43,000 cubic feet of pressurized living and working space for astronauts and scientists-the equivalent to the interior volume of a 747 jumbo jet

According to ISS prime contractor Boeing, hauling the parts and pieces of the space station into orbit will require 45 space flights on three different types of launch vehicles over a five-year period. The space flights will involve the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets.

Besides the United States and Russia,the ISS has 13 other partner nations Canada, Japan, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The administration's commitment to spend $472 million on Russia's 11-year-old Mir program, however, is beginning to rankle congressional officials who believe the only purpose behind the financial support is political, rather than scientific. NASA, says Sensenbrenner, is "prepared to send one astronaut after another on dangerous missions with greatly diminished technical or scientific value-all in the name of international cooperation. …

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