Subject: U.S., Russia agree on checklist for space station
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 1997 17:21:45 PST
From: [email protected] (Reuter / Deborah Zabarenko)
Copyright 1997 by Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuter) - The United States and Russia have drawn up a ``practical checklist'' to keep Moscow's contribution to the international space station on track, Vice President Al Gore said Saturday.

After two days of talks with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Washington and a one-day tour of Chicago, Gore said he was confident that the much-delayed global station would go forward, despite concerns that financial problems in Russia could further postpone and possibly jeopardize the $40 billion project.

``We went over, in intricate detail, exactly what flows of money have to go to which players and which contractors in Russia by which dates,'' Gore told reporters. ``And (Chernomyrdin) has got it clearly in his mind ...

``I think that the assurances now are backed up by a practical checklist of which dates and which amounts,and I hope it's going to work,'' Gore said.

Earlier Saturday a senior U.S. official traveling with Gore described the closed-door talks between Gore and Chernomyrdin.

``There was a very plain 'What do we have to do? How do we have to do it?' discussion involving the vice president and the prime minister ...,'' the official said, requesting anonymity. ''They laid it out and the prime minister said, 'I'm going to make sure it gets done.'''

The official voiced confidence that the Russian contribution to the space station would go forward, notably because of the ''tremendous national pride'' Russians had invested in their space program.

``The space program is one of the great clusters of Russian excellence ... which is still virtually intact coming out of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is the place where many of their brightest people are spending their careers,'' the official said.

Russia's ability to pay for its part of the space station has been called into question on Capitol Hill, where Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Democrat, has suggested that Moscow withdraw as a full partner in the project.

Other partners in the venture include the space agencies of the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan. Many of these have already constructed their modules for the station, which is being designed to conduct experiments in the near-weightless environment of Earth orbit.

Russia is several months behind schedule on delivering a key component of the station, a module where crew members will live during the construction of the project.