Brussels, 30 Jul 2003
The heads of the world's space agencies have declared their continuing support for the international space station (ISS) despite the recent problems following the loss of the Colombia space shuttle in February.
The grounding of the US space shuttle fleet has led to delays, burdens and logistical problems, although cooperation between space faring nations has reduced the impact of the US grounding.
Russia is now the only nation capable of accessing the ISS, and happily came to the rescue in terms of relieving the astronauts who were on board the ISS at the time of the Colombia disaster. The two Americans and one Russian had been in space for five and a half months. 'Sometimes a partner has to take more responsibility,' said Yuri Koptev, Director of the Russian Aerospace Agency. 'When such big projects are involved, there is no other way to do it.'
This solidarity was echoed by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director the European Space Agency (ESA). 'The Columbia tragedy is not just NASA's tragedy - it's our tragedy,' he said.
The heads of the European, US, Canadian, Japanese and Russian space agencies also agreed that any decisions regarding the future construction of the ISS must wait until the US shuttles are once again operational. NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe believes that this will happen in the first quarter of 2004.
Further information on Europe's activities in space:
Further information on the ISS: