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The BBC's Robert Parsons
"A space mission like no other"
 real 56k

The BBC's David Willis in Los Angeles
"Dozens of private firms are planning to carry passengers to the edge of the earth's atmosphere"
 real 56k

Yuri Karash, Space.com
"All the major problems between Russia and the United States... have been left behind"
 real 56k

Space craft engineer, Dr Chris Welch
"I can understand Nasa's concern"
 real 56k

Friday, 27 April, 2001, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Russia defies US over space mission
Soyuz spacecraft on the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
The Russians say their mission will go ahead as planned
Russia is to launch a mission to the International Space Station on Saturday, despite a US space agency (Nasa) request for a delay so that computer problems can be fixed.

Nasa has warned that, if the Russian mission goes ahead as planned, it could jeopardise the safety of everyone on board.

The space shuttle Endeavour has remained docked at the station due to the technical difficulties, leaving the Russian Soyuz craft very little room for manoeuvre when it docks two days after lift-off.

US businessman Dennis Tito is to be aboard the Russian flight as the world's first space tourist.

Computer failure

Nasa has been working to repair serious computer problems on board the ISS for several days.

The problems began when three computers shut down without explanation while the station's giant robotic arm still held a 1,360-kg (3,000-pound) crate to be placed in Endeavour's hold.

Space tourist Dennis Tito
Mr Tito paid $20m to be on board the Russian ship
Technicians worked through the night to restore ground contact with the orbiting platform after losing the link with the station's payload computer system, a backup and a standby.

Flight controllers have managed to get one of the computers working again, but want at least two on line before trying to operate the new 17.7-metre (58-foot) robot arm.

The shuttle had been scheduled to leave the space station on Saturday, well before the Soyuz was to arrive. But now Nasa has decided to extend Endeavour's mission to allow engineers time to resolve the computer problems.

If the Endeavour returns to Earth before that, flight controllers will have to leave the crate attached to the robot arm until June, when the next mission arrives.

No delay

Nasa asked Moscow to delay the Soyuz mission, but the Russian space agency says the timing of their mission has already been fixed and approved.

It says it would be better to temporarily unlink Endeavour from the space station while the Soyuz craft docks.

ISS robot arm Canada 2
The robot arm still holds its huge cargo
Russian space agency spokesman Serge Gorbunov did, however, say that the agency could change its decision and delay its mission, the French news agency AFP reported.

Mr Tito, the US businessman, has reportedly paid $20m to join the flight. Nasa originally objected to Mr Tito's presence on the mission, saying he would be a safety risk.

On Tuesday, however, Nasa spokeswoman Kirsten Larson said the ISS consortium of Russia, Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan had "granted an exemption" to allow Mr Tito to participate.

He will join two Russian cosmonauts on the mission. Russia has guaranteed Mr Tito's safety during the flight, Mr Gorbunov said.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Profile: Tito the spaceman
27 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Nasa extends shuttle mission
24 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Space tourist gets go-ahead
22 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Shuttle astronauts armed and ready
02 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Crew enters historic home
27 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Who rules the roost on ISS?
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