(The following press statement was released February 7, 1997, by the White House Office of the Vice President following the eighth meeting of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation, also known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.)

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


Space Committee

Vice President Al Gore welcomes the significant progress in the joint U.S.-Russian effort to expand cooperation in human spaceflight. This cooperation has resulted in many historical and unprecedented achievements in the short period of time since the Commission's first meeting in September 1993.

In particular, the Vice President notes the particular significance of joint activities for the implementation of the International Space Station (ISS) program. He confirms the commitment of both sides to this fundamental program, and encourages the continuing efforts to maintain the schedule for the beginning of its on-orbit assembly and completed construction by 2002.

The Vice President also notes 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 or early December 1998.

The Russian Government has stated its commitment to provide Russian Space Agency (RSA) with the funding necessary to fully meet its partnership responsibilities in the ISS program. The Vice President and the Prime Minister intend 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 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 benefit of U.S.-Russian cooperation. Highlights include the flight of U.S. astronaut Dr. Shannon Lucid, a member of the Mir station crew, who set a 188 day record for the longest space mission for a woman and the longest mission for a U.S. astronaut on September 26, 1996; Dr. Lucid was replaced by U.S. astronaut John Blaha in September during the fourth Shuttle-Mir docking mission; in October, the first International Space Station (ISS) crew, consisting of two Russians and one American, began training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia. In December 1996, the ad referendum agreement was reached on the ISS Intergovernmental Agreement and in January 1997, the 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 space walk by an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut from the Mir space station in March 1997. Finally, a protocol was signed during this session of the Commission for the flight of two additional Russian cosmonauts on the U.S. Space Shuttle. Cosmonaut Elena Kondakova will fly on a mission to the Mir space station in May 1997, and cosmonaut Vladimir Titov will fly on a mission in September 1997. The latter mission will include the first joint space walk by an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut from the Space Shuttle. In the area of science and research cooperation related to human space flight, the Committee noted that the Space Biomedical Center for Training and Research is in full operation. Russian researchers presented preliminary results of peer-reviewed research at the second annual joint symposium in Moscow during November 1996.

The Vice President notes that cooperative activities in space sciences, Earth sciences and aeronautics have achieved significant milestones since the last meeting of the Joint Commission in July 1996. Accomplishments include:

-- Space Science -- The signing today of the Implementing agreements by NASA and RSA for Russian participation in the U.S. Mars Surveyor 1998 mission and U.S. participation in the Russian Spektr-Radioastron mission in 2000; significant progress on the Russian Spectrum-X-Gamma mission scheduled for launch in 1998; continued studies for joint projects on Mars Together; and continued studies of proposed "Fire" and "Ice" missions, involving joint observations of the Sun and a mission to Pluto.

-- Earth Sciences -- Progress on the Meteor-3M/Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III spaceflight mission scheduled for launch in 1998 and the Meteor-3M/Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) mission scheduled for launch in 2000.

-- Aeronautics -- The successful completion of the first two checkout flights of the Tu-144LL in November and December 1996; conclusion of the Tu-144LL engine ground experiments, which were completed ahead of schedule in October 1996, and the successful completion of ground tests of the Supersonic Combustion Ramjet at the Russian Central

Institute of Aviation Motors.

The achievements accomplished thus far to expand U.S.-Russian space and aeronautics cooperation are the foundation for an even closer ties between the U.S. and Russia. These programs are teaching us to work together, building trust and creating the basis for even greater cooperation in the future.