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    FATE OF INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATIONS TO BE DECIDED IN MARCH

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    MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - The heads of the space agencies from the countries participating in the project of building the International Space Station (ISS) will discuss its further use and the resumption of the flights of shuttle space vehicles at their meeting in the first half of March. This is what the Director General of the Russian AeroSpace Agency, Yuri Koptev told a briefing on Thursday.

    "We expressly formulated our approaches to the implementation of the project linked with the International Space Station and will continue to insist on the decisions adopted by the member states late in 2002 in Tokyo. These decisions clearly defined that the new stage of the station's further development would be completed within 18 months," he said.

    According to him, over that period, the member states will resolve the issue of the station's inhabitability implying that six people should simultaneously work on the orbiter.

    Apart from that, in Koptev's opinion, crew safety should be ensured. For this purpose, two Russian Soyuz rescue boosters should be docked to the ISS."

    Commenting on the resumption of the flights of US shuttle vehicles, Koptev said the following: "The first launch of the Discovery shuttle has been scheduled for mid-September but for control purposes only to proceed from the results of the investigation into the Columbia shuttle disaster."

    "Our US colleagues cannot give an accurate schedule for the resumption of shuttle flights to the ISS," Koptev added.

    According to the head of the Russian AeroSpace Agency, next week his will meet with his colleagues from the European space agency to discuss the use of the European ATV cargo space vehicle for flights to the ISS.

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