Russia will meet all the additional obligations it undertook after the US space shuttle Columbia crashed in early February and will deliver the required cargo aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council (Russian parliament's upper house), said on Saturday in the Kazakh town of Baikonur, the site of Russia's most famous space launch complex. A Russian spacecraft carrying a new ISS Russian-American crew successfully blasted off this morning from Baikonur's launch pad.
According to Mironov, Russia is taking on the additional ISS workload with due account of "the real strategic partnership currently under way between Russia and the United States." At the same time, the Federation Council speaker stressed that to meet its additional ISS obligations, Russia will need to find additional funding for the Russian space program.
Mironov welcomed the agreement reached by the Russian and Kazakh Presidents to extend Russia's lease of Baikonur for the next 50 years. In his opinion, "this agreement will benefit the entire world community."