Source Pravda.Ru

European Space Agency thinks highly of its cooperation with Russia

The European Space Agency /ESA/ considers very promising a project to launch Russian rocket carriers from the Kourou cosmodrome in French Guyana, Alain Fournier-Sicre, head of the ESA's permanent mission to Russia, said in a RIA Novosti interview.

He noted that allowing Russian carriers to the Kourou cosmodrome carries certain political implications, since ESA is an international organisation, which groups 15 European countries, and when crucial decisions are taken a consensus is required.

Fournier-Sicre recalled that such principled agreement was secured in June at a meeting of the ESA council, which adopted a separate resolution on carrier cooperation with Russia. Under this document, launches of Soyuz rockets from Kourou "exclusively for peaceful purposes" are to begin from the middle of 2005.

Another important aspect of the ESA Council's June resolution is that the agency confirmed its intention to begin, jointly with Russia, the development of advanced carriers. "I think such cooperation will be extremely profitable in all respects for both sides," Fournier-Sicre indicated.

Yet another area of cooperation between ESA and Russia, in the view of the head of ESA's Moscow office, is the now regular flights by European astronauts to the International Space Station /ISS/ as members of so-called visiting expeditions aboard Russian spacecraft. He recalled that flights by European astronauts to outer space as part of Russian crews began long before the establishment of the ISS. Since 1994, seven ESA astronauts have visited the Russian orbiting station Mir.

Among visiting astronauts were French woman Claudie Haignere, recently appointed French minister for research and new technologies, and an Italian, Roberto Vittori.

Frank de Winne, of Belgium, an ESA astronaut, is currently training at the Star City outside Moscow, to go to orbit in October-November of this year.

Fournier-Sicre emphasised that ESA representatives are not mere passengers aboard Russian Soyuz craft. They, after appropriate training, are qualified as "Soyuz flight engineers" and can control the complex space equipment in all stages of the flight.

Besides, the head of the ESA mission pointed out, each of them also carries out, as a rule, his or her own scientific programme, drawn up by various research organisations of Europe.