For Oct. 7, 1998
Goldin: NASA needs Russian bailout bucks or station could be
By Larry Wheeler
WASHINGTON - If the White House and Congress don't give NASA money
to bail out its Russian partners, it will be time to pull the plug on
the $40 billion
International Space Staion, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin said
Goldin's startling comment came under pressure from angry lawmakers
hastily arranged hearing to explore NASA's request for an additional
for the planned outpost.
"If we cannot fund this properly because of the budget deal, then
to cancel the space station," said Goldin in response to pointed
Republican and Democratic members of the House Science Committee.
"I would say this project will have to be terminated unless there is a
by the government that we have to give it the resources we need."
In an unusual display of candor, Goldin acknowledged the titanic
posed by the project pushed him to the brink of resignation but he
With just days left until Congress adjourns, lawmakers could barely
hostility toward the Clinton administration and NASA.
"It is not a mere coincidence that the administration waited until the
busiest week of this Congress to propose another bailout of Russia,"
Science Committee Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis.
"The administration is backing us into a corner and setting up a
could undermine all of the good things our space program has
Sensenbrenner accused the Clinton administration of lying to Congress
ago when it promised that Russia would be a helpful addition to the
partnership and would not be placed in the "critical path" leading to
and development of the research platform.
However, just the opposite has occurred.
NASA has been whipsawed and crippled by its reliance on the Russian
government to fund essential elements of the station, Sensenbrenner
NASA already has paid Russia $472 million for access to its Mir space
and $210 million to build the first piece of station hardware
launch Nov. 20.
Now, the agency is asking for at least $660 million to buy hardware,
services and other goods Russia will not be able to provide on its
The agency also may be requesting an additional $600 million in future
build U.S. launch and orbit components that will replace equipment
originally had promised to deliver.
Where the money will come from was not settled at Wednesday's hearing.
The House Science Committee has no jurisdiction over NASA spending.
panel can pass authorizing legislation setting out spending levels for
programs, but it is the Appropriations Committee that holds the purse
Tuesday, the House passed the annual appropriations bill containing
budget for fiscal 1999, which started Oct. 1.
The space agency is to receive $13.6 billion. The amount reflects the
administration's request but does not include Russian bail out funds.
Despite the vast uncertainties about funding, Goldin confirmed it is
intention to launch the first Russian-built piece of station hardware
to be followed Dec. 3 by shuttle Endeavour with a connecting node.
"We are go for launch in November and December," said Goldin.
NASA's desire to launch in the face of so many unknowns is
James Oberg, a former shuttle engineer who is now a space industry
and was called to appear before the Science Committee along with
"The launch of the (the first station component) under these
longest Hail Mary pass in history," said Oberg.
Unlike the Apollo and shuttle programs - large NASA projects that also
schedule slips, cost overruns and last-minute changes - the station's
changing status is far more threatening, Oberg warned.
"The space station ducks aren't in a row, and they don't stay in a
"Chasing ducks is something we should not be doing two months before
Judyth Twigg, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth
doubt on NASA's plan to send more money to Russia.
The issue with Russia isn't money, said Twigg who is an expert on the
The former Soviet space industry has been so degraded by years of
short-term infusion of cash isn't likely to restore its health, she
"The events of the last decade have produced degradation of both
and industrial capability, to the point that even a substantial
funding could not renew previous levels of activity in the short or
Twigg said. "In other words, money is a necessary, but not a
Despite assurances from Goldin that new funds would be narrowly
closely monitored, Sensenbrenner said he would be reluctant to
He then offered Goldin and the Clinton administration an ultimatum:
"If we don't see some willingness to meet Congress in the middle and
acceptance of reality from the White House soon, then I plan to spend
working with the other members of this committee and drafting
legislation for the
next Congress that will put an end to this problem, one way or
"My colleagues and I may find a way to do that and keep Russia in the
We might not."