Gore and Sensenbrenner React to Launch of Russian Space Station Module Yesterday's launch of the Russian unmanned space station service module was a long-sought step in the construction of the International Space Station. The two-year delay in the delivery of this module has been a sore point on Capitol Hill for both station supporters and opponents. At many of NASA's authorization and appropriations hearings this year, Russia's participation in the station program was a major topic of discussion.
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has been frustrated as well. At an April appropriations hearing, he told Senators Christopher Bond (R-Missouri) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), when describing Russia's agreement to provide critical station components, that "a deal is a deal is a deal." "We will be in a much better position," he told the senators, when Russia met its obligation, which it apparently did yesterday.
The station program continues to have the support of Congress, despite its misgivings about program management. During last month's consideration of the FY 2001 VA, HUD appropriations bill, the House rejected an amendment by Rep. Tim Roemer (D- Indiana) to terminate the station, by a vote of 98 yes to 325 no. Last year, a similar amendment received 121 yes votes. Roemer plans to work with Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) to get language in a conference report that will cap the station's cost at $39.6 billion and end Russian participation in the program.
The station is scheduled to be complete in 2005. Forty-six more launches will be required.
Vice President Al Gore and House Science Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) released the following statements on yesterday's launch:
VICE PRESIDENT GORE:
"This morning's successful launch of the Zvezda service module from Baikonur, Kazakstan marks an important milestone in the development of the International Space Station. It represents the result of intense space cooperation between the United States and Russia as part of the sixteen nation International Space Station consortium. It also represents the achievement of one of the earliest objectives of the U.S.-Russia Bi-National Commission's Space Committee. All Americans can take pride in this exciting accomplishment.
"We still face the technical challenge of docking the service module with the American and Russian components currently in orbit, an event scheduled to occur within the next two weeks. If the docking is successful, the key components permitting human habitation of the station will be in place. Once the International Space Station becomes fully operational, it promises to deliver enormous benefits to Americans in the form of increased scientific research and development opportunities. It will also allow us to expand the horizons of our understanding of space."
"I think all supporters of the American space program join me in welcoming the successful launch today of the Russian-built Service Module and eagerly anticipate its docking and integration with the International Space Station (ISS). Russian Space Agency Director Koptev and NASA Administrator Goldin rightfully deserve congratulations on making today's long- awaited launch a success.
"I hope the space partners use this occasion to learn from the mistakes that postponed today's event for 27 months so we can avoid similar problems with Russia's other critical contributions such as the Progress and Soyuz vehicles needed to maintain ISS, the Science Power Platform, or Russia's research modules. We must keep the most advanced engineering project in history moving forward so all can share in the potentially limitless scientific benefits from research aboard the ISS."
Richard M. Jones