Congress: August 1997 Archives

National Aeronautics and
Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Office of Inspector General
August 29, 1997

The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner
U.S. House of Representatives
Chairman, Committee on Science
Suite 2320 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6301
Dear Mr. Chairman:

On July 11, 1997, you requested the NASA Office of Inspector General to assess NASA's participation in the Russian Mir Space Station Program. Specifically, you asked my office to analyze: (1) suitability of Russia's Mir space station for habitation by U.S. astronauts, (2) research productivity on board the Mir, and (3) cost effectiveness of continued NASA involvement in the Mir space station program. The Agency must address these same issues.

NASA balances three major factors in its assessment of the risks/benefits of continued astronaut participation in Mir. First, it evaluates the dangers posed by changing conditions aboard the Mir. As Dan Goldin stated, "Mir is an aging spacecraft that has long exceeded its original design life and is exhibiting an increasing number of in-flight anomalies." 1 Second, it considers the impact on American-Russian relations far broader than NASA's science and technology goals. (The Mir program is also a "critical underpinning of the success of the U.S./Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technologic Cooperation. 2) Third, it assesses how participation in Mir activities impacts the Shuttle manifest. 3 (The Agency has established a minimum number of six flights as being essential to fly the Shuttle safely. Down time effects the proficiency of the workforce that maintains Shuttle operations.)



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