It was a bad week for space stations as Mir headed for one of Davy Jones’
South Pacific lockers and President Bush threatened to lop four bunks off
the International Space Station (ISS) that the US is funding to 70%. And
European hopes for participating in manned space exploration followed both
trajectories pretty closely.

Many French astronauts speak Russian, an
indication of their long-standing involvement alongside cosmonauts on board
Mir. [French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré holds the record for the
longest non-Russian space stint: 189 days.]

European participation in the
ISS was giving new hope to French and European space workers as they get
mission-ready at Europe’s little Houston, the ESA’s space training center
located in a suburb of Cologne. The US Administration’s declaration sowed
consternation in Cologne as no one needed a laptop to calculate how many
seats on the space ride there would be for Europeans who fund 8% of the ISS
while NASA has 189 astronauts lined up at the ticket window.

Criticism of
Bush’s intentions focused on the loss of scientific capacity since,
according to Haigneré, the ISS will need three crewmembers just for station
maintenance. Pro-manned-space opinion is hoping that if the Americans back
out of their commitment to building an addition onto the ISS house and to
adding the additional crew rescue vehicle needed that Europe will step up
in their place, but there is not much likelihood of this happening in the
face of repeated French and European commitment to spending space euros on
unmanned scientific expeditions.

French astronaut Claudie André-Deshays,
who is thrilled that her mission participation aboard the ISS is already
scheduled for October, may be the last European lifting-off for some time
to come. (Libération, March 31, p21, Rafaèle Brillaud)