New Era Opening In Space

July 17, 1992|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- Russia and the United States want to launch a series of joint space ventures, ending 35 years of fearsomely intense rivalry.

Under plans announced yesterday, an American astronaut would train in Russia and then fly on the Mir space station for five to six months -- a longer period than any American has been in space -- and a Russian cosmonaut would go up on the U.S. space shuttle. Later, a shuttle and the Mir would conduct a joint space mission.

These flights could begin next year and extend into 1995, if the Russian and U.S. governments give final approval. And more missions could follow.

"This has been a very exciting and deeply moving trip for me,"said Daniel Golden, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, who has been touring Russian facilities for five days.

"I am an old cold warrior and I have met many other old cold warriors from the other side since I've been here. We now have the opportunity to take the skills we have all spent a lifetime perfecting in the enhancement of our military capabilities and apply them to the promotion of peace and the constructive benefit for all humankind."

Yuri N. Koptev, head of the Russian space agency, said he believes that the flights will be only the beginning of prolonged cooperation.

Only once in the previous 35 years has there been a joint mission -- in 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz station linked for two days. There followed 17 years of silence, until last month, when President Boris N. Yeltsin and President Bush agreed to discuss joint manned programs.

The Americans bring sophisticated computer analysis of space flight and experience with the reusable shuttle. The Russians bring larger boosters and experience with prolonged space flight.

"We have learned a lot about the Mir space station and its capabilities and the opportunities for life science research aboard Mir," Mr. Golden said. "We have also learned a great deal more about the Russian cosmonaut training at Star City, and we are very, very impressed by the broad range of capabilities we saw there, in the facilities, the cosmonauts and the leadership."

The Russians bring something else to the new relationship as well -- a desperate need for new financial resources. Mr. Koptev said that he hoped the cooperative projects could open the way to sales of Russian equipment and expertise.

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