U.S.- Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation - 07 February 1997

The Vice President of the United States of America and the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation note with great satisfaction the progress made to date in the United States' and Russia's joint effort to expand cooperation in human space flight. This cooperation has resulted in many historic and unprecedented achievements in the short period of time since the Commission's first meeting in September 1993. In particular, the joint missions between the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian Mir space station have had tremendous importance, both in concrete scientific and technical results and as a symbol of the benefits of U.S.-Russian cooperation. Learning to work together in joint space operations and building trust creates the basis for future cooperation in the assembly, operation and use of the International Space Station (ISS).

The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government note that these cooperative activities continue to achieve significant milestones. Accomplishments since the last meeting of the Joint Commission in July 1996 include:

-- September 1996: U.S. astronaut Dr. Shannon Lucid, a member of the Mir space station crew since March 1996, set a record for the longest space mission for a woman and longest mission for a U.S. astronaut. During her stay on Mir, Dr. Lucid performed a variety of experiments to further our understanding of the space environment and its effects, both on materials and living organisms. Dr. Lucid's highly successful mission lasted 188 days, and was an inspiration for men and women around the world.

-- September 1996: the fourth Shuttle-Mir docking mission brought U.S. astronaut John Blaha to the Mir space station for a four-month mission, and returned Dr. Lucid to Earth. John Blaha continued work on the research program carried out by Dr. Lucid in the fields of life and microgravity sciences.

-- October 1996: the first ISS crew, consisting of two Russians and one American, began training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia.

-- December 1996: ad referendum agreement was reached on the ISS Intergovernmental Agreement. This significant milestone is the result of the dedicated and professional efforts of diplomats and experts from fifteen countries, including the U.S., Russia, Canada, member-states of the European Space Agency, and Japan.

-- January 1997: The Space Shuttle Atlantis delivered astronaut Jerry Linenger to the Mir space station, and returned John Blaha to earth. Dr. Linenger's four-month mission as a member of the Mir crew will include the first joint spacewalk by an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut.

In the area of science and research cooperation related to human space flight, the Vice President and the Chairman of the Government note with satisfaction that several important milestones were reached since the last Joint Commission meeting:

-- November 1996: The second annual joint symposium involving NASA and the Russian Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) was held in Moscow November 18-22, 1996. Over 180 papers in 10 space science and technology disciplines were presented by Russian researchers presenting the preliminary results of their STAC-funded, peer-reviewed research over the past year. The next joint NASA/STAC symposium will be held in the United States in November 1997, at which time the final results of the STAC-funded Russian research will be presented. The STAC research is taking place within the framework of the special funding set aside for such activities under the NASA/RSA contract signed in 1994.

-- Space Biomedical Center for Training and Research: In its first year of operations, work has progressed to establish the overall structure for the Center, and on planning the implementation of its projects, including:

-- exchanges of telemedicine hardware;
-- clinical sessions taking place via the Internet;
-- development of the Center's general medical education component;
-- assessment of Russian space technology which is applicable to improving life on Earth.

The Joint Oversight Committee for the Space Biomedical Center held two meetings since the last Gore-Chernomyrdin meetings, and reviewed the status of the various training and research activities of the Center. Of particular note were the issues of establishment of a separate dedicated building on the grounds of Moscow State University to house the Center, and the recent renovation and occupancy of the facility by Center personnel.

-- December 1996 -- January 1997: The Bion-11 mission, a cooperative biosatellite project involving the U.S., Russia, and France, was completed. This mission will further our understanding of the biological effects of the microgravity environment on humans. NASA scientists participated in the mission under a NASA/RSA contract signed in December 1994, and post-flight data analysis activities are continuing.

The sides express their satisfaction in the completion of the flight of the Russian Bion satellite, and in its scientific importance. The sides also plan to implement expanded utilization of the Cosmos satellites for materials research under conditions of microgravity and biotechnology research. For this purpose, the sides will prepare a plan for long-term scientific cooperation to be submitted at the next session of the Commission. This activity will take place under the auspices of the US/Russian Joint Working Group on Space Biomedicine, Life Support Systems, and Microgravity Sciences.

The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government will follow with interest the major upcoming events in U.S.-Russian cooperation in Human Space Flight. In particular they note the following:

-- May 1997: The crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis will perform the sixth docking mission between the Space Shuttle and the Mir space station. Atlantis will deliver U.S. Astronaut Michael Foale to Mir, and will return Dr. Linenger to Earth. Dr. Foale will continue the U.S. scientific research program on-board Mir. This mission will also include the flight of Russian Cosmonaut Elena Kondakova as a crew member on the Space Shuttle.

The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government note the particular significance of joint activities for the implementation of the ISS program. They confirm the commitment of both sides to this fundamental program, and encourage the continuing efforts to maintain the schedule for the beginning of its on-orbit assembly and completed construction by 2002.

The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government note that the sides are working diligently to overcome the difficulties presented by the slip of the Service Module schedule, from April 1998 until late November/early December 1998. The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government note that the Russian Government has stated its commitment to provide RSA with the funding necessary to fully meet its partnership responsibilities in the ISS program. The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government note their intention to monitor the situation closely to ensure that all possible measures are carried out to maintain the schedule for the assembly of the ISS.

The Vice President and the Chairman of the Government look forward to the signing of the ISS international agreements. Considering the importance of this major science and technology project, the Vice President and the Chairman of the Government believe the leaders of the ISS international partner countries should plan to sign the Intergovernmental Agreement by the middle of 1997.