A spokesman for Energia, meanwhile, said that the company had found a foreign sponsor willing to pay the US$250 million a year needed to keep the Mir station in orbit. “We have a preliminary agreement that a contract could be signed, but our partner had requested that the government first approve this resolution,” he said. The official would not identify the company, however, and admitted that details remained to be worked out before the deal could be signed. Another Energia official suggested that those particulars were likely to be resolved in the near future, preferably before the launch of a Russian-French-Slovak crew to Mir, which is scheduled for February 20. However, a third Energia official cautioned that Mir’s future is anything but assured: “first, because its old; second, because a flight program has not been worked out; third, because we have to make sure we can still fund the ISS” (Itar-Tass, January 22).
U.S. officials have greeted the news of Mir’s possible good fortune with understandable wariness. On January 22 a NASA official described the Russian government decision as an internal Russian affair and said that the United States had received assurances it would not undermine Moscow’s commitment to the ISS (AP, January 22). On January 26, however, another NASA official was quoted as saying that the Russian decision had caused some concern at NASA. He also said that the terms of the potential deal announced in Moscow sounded to him “like wishful thinking” (Reuters, January 26). Russia is more than a year behind schedule in its efforts to finish a key part of the ISS, and Russian officials recently informed NASA that the launch of the module would have to be postponed again, from July until September (AP, January 22).
MOSCOW LOOKS–AT LAST–TO DEAL WITH YEAR 2000 PROBLEM.