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(Spy case raises concern over U.S.-Russian program)  (690)

By Jim Fuller

USIA Science Writer

Washington -- A U.S. official says safeguards are in place to protect the

vital interests of the United States if the Russians withdraw their

participation in the construction of an international space station.

Daniel Goldin, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space

Administration (NASA), told the House Subcommittee on Space February 23

that the agency has a backup plan for building the space station without

Russian involvement, and has specific protocols and prohibitions to bar the

transfer of sensitive technology or information.

"At the same time we welcome greater Russian involvement with us and our

international partners, we are also proceeding with prudence," Goldin said.

"We have to learn to trust the Russians, and they'll have to earn our

trust," he added later.  "We are committed to protect American technology

and have set safeguards in place" that are being coordinated with the U.S.

Departments of State, Commerce and Defense.

He said those same safeguards to protect U.S. sensitive technology also

apply to the other partners in the space station project -- Japan, Canada

and the European Space Agency.

Goldin's comments followed expressions of concern by some members of the

subcommittee about pursuing a new space station program with Russia

following the recent arrest of a senior official of the U.S. Central

Intelligence Agency (CIA) accused of passing secrets to the former Soviet

Union and later the Russian government over an eight-year period.

Representative F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a long-time supporter of

the space station, said the arrest of the CIA official has raised serious

questions about whether Russia is a trustworthy and reliable partner.


Sensenbrenner said he was especially concerned about the current plan that

calls on the Russians to provide the critical elements needed for the

planned space station to become an orbiting laboratory.

The congressman challenged NASA to come up with a design that does not

depend on Russia for the space station's "rudimentary flight capability."

"This is not to say I seek a design without Russia, just a design where

Russia is optional and not critical to the success of the space station and

the U.S. space program," he said.

Representative Dick Zimmer of New Jersey, a long-time opponent of the space

station, expressed his concern by asking, "Do we really want our space

program to be hostage to our relationship with a nation that still

practices espionage against us?"

The latest plan calls for attaching two Soyuz spacecraft to the

international station as emergency crew return vehicles.  It also calls for

using the Russian Salyut spacecraft to provide propulsion, guidance and

attitude control for the station.

Russian involvement in the building of the space station marks a major shift

in the U.S. and Russian space programs, which have competed with each other

ever since the Soviet Union began the space race in 1957 by launching the

Sputnik satellite.

Goldin told the subcommittee that NASA intends to work with Russia through

"incremental engagements."  He said the first phase of the new program was

completed recently when Russian Sergei Krikalev became the first cosmonaut

to be launched into space aboard a U.S. shuttle.

In March 1995, U.S. astronaut Norman Thagard is scheduled to ride a Russian

rocket into orbit and spend three months aboard the Russian Mir space

station.  Possibly as many as 10 shuttle crews are then scheduled to dock

with the Russian station during the period from 1995 to 1997.

Goldin said the Mir missions will give the United States extremely valuable

on-orbit experience and knowledge about safety issues.  He said the

Russians have been operating Mir safely since 1986, providing a long-term

experience in space NASA simply does not have.

Goldin added that there is something else at stake besides a more robust and

safer space station.

"If we close the door on our partners and the Russians, it may be decades

before it opens again," he said.  "The signal we would send to our partners

and others would be unmistakable."