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Russia: U.S. Official Declares Mir Safe

Washington, 19 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - A senior U.S. space agency official says the dangers aboard Russia's Mir space station have been exaggerated by the press and it is safe enough for continued American participation.

The head of the Mir program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Frank Culbertson, told a U.S. congressional committee yesterday that Mir has passed the normal safety review process in advance of the scheduled arrival next week of another U.S. astronaut.

Culbertson told the House International Relations Science and Technology Committee that he takes the safety of his friends very seriously.

The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis is to carry astronaut David Wolf to Mir next week. He will be the sixth American to live on Mir and he will replace Michael Foale, who has been on the space station since May.

Science committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) has questioned continued U.S. involvement with Mir because of a series of failures aboard the vessel in recent months.

Vice President Al Gore plans to discuss U.S.-Russian space ventures with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin next week in Moscow.