April 2, 2001
MOSCOW — NASA and Rosaviacosmos (the Russian Aviation and Space Agency) could not agree on whether U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito would be allowed to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) later this month. They also failed to develop general principles of crew selection for the 16-nation outpost.
“No result has been achieved,” Rosaviacosmos spokesman Vyacheslav Mikhailichenko said of the five days of talks in Moscow between teams of negotiators from both space agencies, which ended March 30.
In a phone interview on April 2, Mikhailichenko said it remains unclear when and whether members of NASA’s Advisory Council Task Force on International Space Station Operational Readiness and their Russian counterparts will meet again to try reach a compromise on space tourist Tito’s flight, which is set to take off to ISS April 28.
A senior Rosaviacosmos official, who regularly participates in ISS negotiations with NASA, confirmed that the talks yielded no results.
“Both sides still stand where they have been,” the official, who asked not to be named, said April 2 in a phone interview. “Our position remains the same. We have signed the contract with Mr. Tito that we are determined to fulfill. So far we have seen no obstacles to his flight; he is fit to fly.”
He said the space agencies could still organize a telecom conference between NASA task force chief Thomas Stafford and his Russian counterpart Nikolai Anfimov, director general of the Central Machine Building Scientific Research Institute (TsNIIMash).
However, the members of this so-called Stafford-Anfimov commission will hardly be able to meet personally this month as Rosaviacosmos, Rocket Space Corporation (RSC) Energia, TsNIIMash and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center push ahead with plans to launch Tito at the end of April, along with cosmonauts Yuri Baturin and Talgat Musabayev, the official said.
Rosaviacosmos Director General Yuri Koptev told reporters in Korolyov on March 23 that he and NASA Administrator Dan Goldin agreed to have their experts negotiate on Tito and crew selection principles before the two space chiefs discuss the issue again sometime between April 2 and 4.
However, Koptev, who came down with a fever April 2, will not be able to communicate with Goldin during the next few days, the senior Rosaviacosmos official said.
NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies oppose Koptev’s plan to launch Tito this month, arguing that the space tourist may pose a safety risk and that he needs more training to prepare for the flight.
NASA even issued a press release last month to argue that the next several months will be a busy period for the ISS crew and that the “presence of non-professional crew members…would [place] a significant burden on the expedition and detract from the overall safety.”
Questions of medicine
The U.S. space agency has drafted its own principles of crew selection that provides for space tourists to undergo medical screening.
According to this “Crew Selection” draft, classified as administratively controlled information and obtained by Space News on March 30, any space tourists would have to meet the requirements of “NASA’s Class 4 space physical.”
Rosaviacosmos opposes having either Tito, or any other space tourists that Russian space companies may secure, undergo medical examinations in the United States, according to Rosaviacosmos spokesman Mikhailichenko.
If screened in United States these tourists can be found unfit to fly, even if Russian doctors have earlier passed them as fit, Mikhailichenko said.
NASA spokesman Carlos Fontana confirmed in a phone interview on April 2 that a delegation of U.S. members of the Stafford-Anfimov committee had already left Moscow with no compromise reached on Tito’s flight so far.
“There have been no further developments; they are still working on the criteria for tourists to fly to ISS,” said Fontana.
Neither Anfimov nor his spokesman Anatoly Yeremenko could be reached by phone April 2.