Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Hubble: The Future of US in Space Revolves around Finding Partners

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Hubble: The Future of US in Space Revolves around Finding Partners

Article excerpt

MEMBERS of the Hubble telescope repair team can relax after successfully completing one of the toughest jobs shuttle astronauts have ever tackled. The shuttle Endeavour landed just after midnight Monday. But their colleagues preparing for next month's Discovery mission face an even larger challenge.

For the first time ever, a Russian cosmonaut - Sergei Krikalev - will join a shuttle crew. Repairing the Hubble tested the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) ability to make good on its promise to do complex work in orbit. The agency's credibility was on the line. Now, the future of manned spaceflight itself is at stake as Russia and the United States try to forge a true space partnership.

Discovery's mission - targeted for a Jan. 27 launch - has been planned as a step forward in this effort. It will test the ability of Russian cosmonauts and Western astronauts to work together on the same team. This will be a prelude to the larger teamwork in which Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the US jointly build and operate an orbiting space station.

Last week, the current station-project partners officially agreed to invite Russia to join them. Vice President Al Gore Jr. and Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin are expected to follow up on this when they discuss Russian-American space cooperation in Moscow this week.

NASA administrator Daniel Goldin has said he expects Russian participation to cut space station costs. According to rough estimates Mr. Goldin sent to President Clinton last month, savings could run to $3 billion or $4 billion. Much of this would come from speeding up the station construction schedule. The slimmed-down station design President Clinton authorized last spring would be completed in 2003. A station redesigned to include Russian participation could be finished in 2001, according to NASA's projection. …

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