|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Science / Vol.282, N 5386, 1998 October 2
Biologist Named Russia's Science Minister
The appointment of a physicist-turned-molecular biologist as Russia's new science minister could help the nation's natural scientists gain a bigger slice of the funding pie. Last week, Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov tapped Mikhail Kirpichnikov, 53, a veteran science administrator, for the top policy post despite opposition from some physicists and chemists, who currently garner the lion's share of Russia's science spending.
Kirpichnikov earned his doctorate at the Moscow Physical and Technological Institute before taking up a career in molecular biology at several prestigious institutes. Despite working for years as a wonk, Kirpichnikov has kept one foot in the research world, heading a lab in the Russian Academy of Sciences' Bioengineering Center. His background, says Mark van Montagu of the University of Gent in Belgium, could signal rising fortunes for Russia's struggling young biotech industry.
© 1998 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Nature / Vol. 395, N 6701, 1 October 1998
Russia appoints new science minister
MOSCOW - Mikhail Kirpichnikov has been appointed minister of science and technology in the new cabinet headed by prime minister Evgeny Primakov. He was previously a deputy to the former minister, Vladimir Bulgak, who has been promoted to vice prime minister.
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Kirpichnikov is a biologist who was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences while head of the government's science and education department. The move was a controversial one at the time, and many scientists argue that it creates a potential conflict of interest, as the minister is expected to oversee the fair distribution of research funds across the whole scientific community
Nature / Vol.395, N 6703, 15 October 1998
Pay crisis drives Russian scientists abroad
Ученые России продолжают уезжать за границу из-за политической нестабильности, невыплаты зарплаты и падения курса рубля.
MOSCOW - The flight of scientists from Russia shows no signs of slowing down. The Ministry of Science and Technology released figures last week showing that 15,000 scientists have left the country during the past five to seven years.
The emigrants represent five per cent of Russia's 300,000 scientists. Most went to the United States, with a minority heading for Israel, escaping continued political instability, a crisis over unpaid salaries, and the falling value of the ruble.
The average monthly salary of a scientist in Russia is 1,000 rubles (US$60). Although this is a 60 per cent increase from 1997, this gain has been wiped out by the devaluation of the ruble in August to 17 rubles per US dollar. Before devaluation, one US dollar was worth 6.35 rubles.
Despite repeated promises, the prospects that salaries will be paid on time remain poor. Initial hopes that the new prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, himself a fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences, would resolve the crisis have quickly faded. Although Primakov has promised to find a solution, he is expected to give greater priority to the plight of miners and teachers, who face a similar crisis. Primakov has allowed the science and technology portfolio - including virtually all research policy - to remain with Vladimir Bulgak, the deputy prime minister, who was science minister under the previous government.
But Bulgak's ability to lobby for scientists will be limited. He is in overall charge of 18 government agencies and departments including the ministries of transport, fuel and energy, and atomic energy. In a recent speech, Yuri Luzhkov, the politically ambitious mayor of Moscow, called on Bulgak to "return the lost valuables" to Russian science if impending catastrophe was to be avoided. Luzhkov said that 15 to 20 years are needed for Russia's science to reach the level of developed countries - and then only if financing reaches "adequate" levels.
Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
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New Scientist / 10 October 1998
Тысячи ученых вышли на улицы, присоединившись к акции протеста. Ученые выражают недовольство своей зарплатой, которая является одной из самых низких в стране.
Thousands of Russian scientists took to the streets this week as part of a nationwide demonstration against the government. The scientists were protesting about their reduced wages, which are among the lowest in Russia.
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Vladimir Klebodarov, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences trade union, says that so far this year only 40 per cent of the state science budget has been paid out, there is no money for new research or equipment, and in some cases nothing for basic needs such as lighting and heating.
Science / Vol.282, N 5386, October 2, 1998
A Bold Plan to Re-Create a Long-Lost Siberian Ecosystem
CHERSKII, RUSSIA - An international team of scientists is planning to test whether - by tearing up mosses and lichens so they can be replaced by grasses - bison, horses, and other large grazers can bring back the mammoth steppe in Siberia. In creating what is being called "Pleistocene Park", these ecologists and wildlife biologists are embarking on an ambitious experiment that aims to test theories about the forces that shaped, maintained, and ultimately vanquished a long-gone ecosystem. Some point out that the project's main goal - restoring the mammoth steppe - could be doomed because some Pleistocene elements are impossible to reproduce: the namesake mammoths, of course, and certain climatic features, such as cooler temperatures and less carbon dioxide in the air. But government officials are hoping Pleistocene Park will attract adventure tourist dollars.
© 1998 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Nature / Vol.395, N 6705, 29 October 1998
Russia beats silicon blockade of India
NEW DELHI - India is to receive silicon wafers for its civil and defence semiconductor industries from its old ally Russia. The move is an attempt to circumvent the ban on their export from Western countries as part of sanctions for conducting nuclear tests. The joint venture with Russia, however, dates from 1993, and has been revived under a science agreement between the countries. Single crystal silicon ingots will be manufactured at one of Russia's dismantled nuclear facilities in Siberia. The ingots will be converted into polished wafers in India.
Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
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Nature / Vol. 395, N 6701, 1 October 1998
Titanic tourists given a "scientific" identity
Исследовательское судно "Академик Мстислав Келдыш", принадлежащий Институту океанологии РАН, доставляет туристов к месту гибели "Титаника". Британская компания, собственником которой является австралиец Майкл МакДоуэлл, продает билеты всем желающим посмотреть на останки "Титаника" в батискафах "Мир-1" и "Мир-2" на глубине 3000 метров.
MOSCOW - The research vessel Academician Mstislav Keldysh, which belongs to the cash-starved Oceanology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has provoked new controversy by apparently delivering tourists to the site of the sunken liner Titanic under the guise of researchers. Deep Ocean Expeditions, a British company owned by Michael McDowell, an Australian citizen, has sold tickets at $32,500 each to people who descend 3 kilometres in the Russian bathyscaphes Mir-1 and Mir-2 to see the remains of the Titanic.
By doing this, the company appears to have infringed a US court ruling prohibiting such trips on the basis that the exclusive rights to taking photographs of the wreck belong to the US company RMS Titanic.
At first, Oceanology Institute officials denied suggestion that their vessel was involved in such an activity. But a telegram sent from the ship on 15 September, and later made public, suggested that the presence of the tourists had been disguised by referring to them as scientific observers. In the telegram, the head of the ship's 41st expedition reported that "scientific research of the first stage at the Titanic experimental range... is over; the observers from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Australia, who have invested in our expedition, took part in six dives." Sergey Lappo, the institute's director, says they have done nothing wrong. He argues that the US court ruling applies only to US citizens, and that the Titanic lies in international waters.
Deep Ocean Expeditions made an advance payment to the ship to cover the "scientific" expedition's expenses. The rest of money will go towards repairs to the ship and the two submersibles in the British port of Falmouth, to which it is now headed.
Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
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Chicago Tribune / October 26, 1998
Biochips power medical research
Возможно, наступит день, когда генетический код любого человека можно будет прочитать также быстро, как штрихкод с упаковки товара в супермаркете. Аргонская национальная лаборатория (Иллинойс, США) и Институт молекулярной биологии им. В.А.Энгельгардта РАН приступили к работе по созданию биокристаллов, которые несут в себе информацию о структуре генетического кода человека.
The day is fast approaching when your genetic make-up can be read about as quickly as a supermarket check out gizmo scans the bar code on a box of crackers.
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Scary as it may be to contemplate, such power to decipher an individual's DNA promises to accelerate medical progress in the coming decade the same way that computer chip upgrades have made consumer electronics products better and cheaper in the past decade.
Indeed, the very breakthroughs in microfabrication technology that make pocket-size wireless phones possible are now being applied to making biological chips that can pull meaningful information out of DNA.
Advances in technology for making biochips come as scientists are making a massive effort to catalog the entire human genome, creating a definitive database of human genetic structure. They also are defining the genetic make-up of numerous microbes, giving biochip developers the context to make sense of the information their tiny probes gather.
Just as happened with computer chips, biochips will provide users with powers that are different in kind as well as in scale from what has been possible before.
An example of the coming biochip era can be seen at Vysis Inc., a biotech company in Downers Grove that plans to market its first commercial DNA chip next year. The chip, which is now being tested at several academic research centers, is intended to help physicians determine which patients with breast cancer have a genetic profile that means they will probably benefit from the new drug herceptin.
But helping a subset of breast cancer patients is only the beginning, said John Bishop, chief executive of Vysis, which was started by Amoco Corp.
Researchers are already using the chips to look for useful patterns of genetic variation in patients with cancer of the prostate or other organs. They are looking for patients who have significantly more of a particular gene than average. Or significantly less. Scientists want to see if disease proceeds in a predictable way with people who have similar genetic profiles.
Their goal is to define genetic components of disease and devise useful treatments. It may be, for instance, that people whose genes fit one pattern tend to have a virulent, fast-growing form of cancer while patients with another genetic profile may experience slower-growing tumors. If researchers can find such patterns, it would help physicians select the best available treatment for an individual patient as soon as his cancer is diagnosed and a genetic profile taken.
Biochips are as essential to this research effort as electronic computer chips are to the space program. Just as it would be impossible to calculate by hand everything needed to guide the space shuttle, it's also out of the question to find genetic patterns tied to cancer using conventional laboratory technology.
"If you need to do 28 tests (to prepare a patient's genetic profile) and each one takes 24 hours using traditional lab technology, it isn't practical or cost-effective to do it on hundreds of cancer patients just to look for patterns," said Bishop of Vysis. "But if you can do all 28 tests at once in a low-cost automated process, then you do it. There's a great reduction of labor in this technology."
There are several different schemes for making biochips, and all involve using known pieces of genetic material called probes and attaching them to a chip made from glass or other material.
When a sample of a patient's DNA is put on the chip, it joins to DNA probes in a way that scientists can read to infer the patient's genetic make-up. Often the material to be sampled has been labeled with a colored dye to assist in analysis, as happens in the Vysis process.
Light reflected off the targeted DNA produces different colors according to the genetic profile it hits. Variations in light colors are read by sensors that feed the information to a computer for tabulation.
Vysis plans to produce a whole family of DNA chips in the near future that will provide more and more complex information about a patient's genetic status, said Bishop. While it may be in the forefront of commercial exploitation of biochip technology, Vysis has plenty of company.
Dozens of biotech companies are developing chips based on their own innovative technology. Perhaps the most ambitious project is a collaboration of Argonne National Laboratory with Motorola Corp., Packard BioScience Co. and the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow. Whereas most biochips are two-dimensional in nature, the Argonne-led group is developing three-dimensional biochips.
They do this with tiny dots of gel developed by Russian researchers, and scientists are now able to put 10,000 bits of gel on a single chip about the size of a thumbnail. Eventually, they expect to put 64,000 on a single chip.
Each bit of gel works like a tiny test tube where DNA or proteins can interact with probes in a far more complex fashion than occurs on a two-dimensional chip, said Harvey Drucker, Argonne associate director.
While gel technology enables scientists to do more ambitious probing of genetic material, it also generates more signals, making it more difficult for scientists to design equipment that can make sense of the information. But Drucker said that Argonne's associates at Packard have developed solutions to the signal/noise problem.
Motorola researchers are working to develop fabrication processes that will pack more gels on individual chips at lower production costs, Drucker said.
Instead of narrowly focused tasks such as looking for expression of certain genes in cancer patients, the Argonne-led group's goal is to produce highly flexible chips that can discover a wealth of information about genetic mutations in samples being examined. The Department of Defense is funding some of this research in hopes of developing biochips that will combat genetically based terrorism.
Military planners fear that one day terrorists will genetically manipulate a normally harmless bacterium so that it produces the cholera toxin or even churns out insulin, said Drucker.
Such bugs could cause massive illness that would stump physicians who would wonder why people who aren't infected with cholera were afflicted with cholera symptoms or why people who aren't diabetic suffered from insulin shock.
"We intend to produce biochips that can look at a large chunk of DNA and see a single mutation," said Drucker. Such chips would also offer huge advances in medicine's perpetual battle with germs, said Eli Huberman, director of Argonne's center for mechanistic biology and biotechnology.
Physicians could use biochips to determine in a few minutes if their patient's illness is due to infection by bacteria or a virus and if the particular bug responsible carries the potential for resistance to antibiotics, said Huberman.
"We will be able to identify micro-organisms without culturing them, just by looking at their DNA and comparing that to known DNA in a database," Huberman said. "This will be a major advance for clinical medicine. As this technology develops, we'll certainly discover new uses that aren't expected." Drucker said that one possible spin-off from the technology that's unrelated to medicine could be an aid to finding oil.
"It's known that soil associated with oil fields has a certain type of bacteria in it," said Drucker. "It may be that you could design genetic probes for those bacteria to give geologists a new tool for locating oil." Argonne's commercial partners hope to have new biochips on the market within a year and to have a large number of products available in three to five years, said Drucker. The future of biochips is as open-ended as with electronic chips. Andrei Mirzabekov, director of Moscow's Engelhardt Institute, believes the technology will some day be ubiquitous. His goal is for everyone in the world to one day carry digital versions of their genetic structures around with them, much as some people today wear bracelets identifying themselves as diabetics or providing their blood type. The future digital genetic ID could be used to enable physicians to tailor therapies for a wide range of illness.
"Andrei has made a religion of DNA sequencing," said Argonne's Drucker. "He thinks that everyone in the world should know his own genetic make-up just as he knows the alphabet for his language."
Nature / Vol.395, N 627, 15 October 1998
Congress warns nuclear labs of spy risk
Крупнейшие центры оборонных исследований США - Лос-Аламос, Сандия и Ливермор - усилили контроль над посещениями иностранных специалистов, опасаясь шпионажа.
WASHINGTON - The three nuclear weapons laboratories of the US Department of Energy are tightening controls on access by foreign scientists in the wake of growing concern in Congress that the lack of thorough vetting of visitors is enabling foreign intelligence services to spy on them. The directors of the Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore laboratories told a congressional hearing on 6 October that steps were already being taken to vet visitors more carefully, following a 1997 report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) that attributed security breaches to inadequate vetting.
But Duncan Hunter (Republican, California), chairman of the procurement subcommittee of the powerful National Security Committee in the House of Representatives, which held the hearing, doubts that the laboratories or the Department of Energy are doing enough to vet foreign visitors.
According to one laboratory official, Hunter and other committee members from both parties are "really steamed" about the security issue. The weapons laboratories have opened up markedly to overseas visitors since the end of the Cold War. According to the GAO, the number of foreign visitors to the three laboratories has grown from around 3,800 in 1988 to 5,983 in 1994 and 6,998 in 1996. Almost one-third of visitors now come from countries that the United States regards as "sensitive" - chiefly India, China and Russia.
Foreign visitors include hundreds from Russian weapons laboratories engaged in "lab-to-lab" collaborations on weapons issues, as well as some Chinese weapons scientists involved in a far smaller and less formal liaison with their US counterparts.
Scientists from all over the world also work with the laboratories on non-weapons-related work, which has expanded greatly since the end of the Cold War, and on topics such as inertial confinement fusion, which is unclassified but could still have weapons applications.
Additionally, the laboratories hire some young scientists who are not US citizens, especially in disciplines where US-born PhDs are in short supply.
Most of these visitors do not gain access to the closed areas of the laboratories where classified nuclear weapons work is done. But Congress is concerned about secret evidence that trained spies have been able to enter the non-classified areas of the laboratories, and perhaps extract valuable information.
According to a GAO report published in September last year, examples of espionage activities against the labs "include recent cases involving the possible theft or compromise of sensitive information in which foreign nationals at the Department of Energy's laboratories played a prominent role". Hunter's subcommittee was extensively briefed on these breaches during a closed session of last week's hearing. The GAO said that Los Alamos and Sandia were performing background checks in advance of visits of scientists from sensitive countries in only 5 per cent of cases; in contrast, Livermore performed them on almost half of such visitors. It found 13 cases in which "persons with suspected foreign intelligence connections" were allowed access to Los Alamos or Sandia between 1994 and 1996.
Both the Department of Energy and the laboratories say they are revamping their counter-intelligence procedures and will implement more background checks. At Sandia, for example, a 1997 security review has resulted in new requirements for advanced notice of visits. This may be up to 55 days for scientists from sensitive countries who plan to work for more than a month in a closed part of the laboratory. "The rules are much, much stricter, and we feel we've got control," says Melanie Flores, head of counter-intelligence at the New Mexico laboratory. "It adds a little bit of a burden, but foreign visitors tend to plan far in advance anyway," says John Crawford, Sandia's vice-president. The new rules do not deter visitors, Crawford says, but even tighter controls could do just that. "You could tighten things so far that people would be totally discouraged from visiting the labs - it definitely could be damaging," he says. In testimony to the committee, John Browne, director of Los Alamos, stressed the importance of interchange with foreign scientists: "Without participation in the international scientific community, the credibility of and talent in these labs will wither."
But officials say that Congress is inclined to push the labs towards a more cautious approach to such participation. The GAO is already working with more than one congressional committee to investigate the subject further. If Congress is not satisfied with the answers, its options include reducing funding for collaborative programmes, and enforcing stricter rules that may keep scientists from sensitive countries out of the laboratories.
Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
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Washington Post / Sunday, October 18, 1998
Iraq Sought Russian Arms Technology
Probe Details Moscow Deal For Missile Equipment in '94
- By David Hoffman / Washington Post Foreign Service
Появилась информация, что в 1994 году российские чиновники продали Ираку оружие в обход санкций ООН.
MOSCOW - A delegation of top missile experts from Iraq went on a shopping trip to Russia in late 1994 and signed documents to acquire missile engines, technology and services despite the U.N. sanctions against Iraq and in violation of Russian export controls, according to results of a new investigation by Russian and American nonproliferation specialists.
The probe offers further evidence that Iraq carried out a clandestine effort to rearm after the 1991 Persian Gulf War and that Iraqi weapons builders turned to Russia's hard-hit military-industrial complex as a source of hardware and know-how about weapons of mass destruction. Most of the items apparently were never delivered for several reasons: An initial shipment of missile guidance systems was intercepted in Amman by Jordanian authorities; a key middleman was later arrested in Baghdad by Iraqi authorities; and Russian security services may have interrupted the planned deals.
But the probe raises new questions about whether high-ranking Russian officials gave a green light to Iraqi officials for the items' procurement inside Russia. A Russian criminal investigation was closed without any charges being brought.
The new information comes from a joint investigation carried out by the Center for Policy Studies in Russia, a nonproliferation group here headed by Vladimir Orlov, and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, headed by William C. Potter, at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif. Their findings are being published soon in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and were made available in advance to The Washington Post. According to the authors, the new study is based on their own interviews and on Russian, U.S. and U.N. documents.
Orlov's group previously disclosed that the Iraqis used a Palestinian, Weaam Gharbiyeh, as a middleman to acquire more than 800 sophisticated gyroscopes for intercontinental ballistic missiles, which were shipped from Moscow in 1995. The sensitive devices, which keep missiles on target, had been removed from Russian submarine-launched ballistic missiles being destroyed under arms control treaties.
In addition to the gyroscopes, it was earlier disclosed separately that Iraq signed an agreement to buy a 5,000-liter fermentation vessel from Russia that could be used for developing biological weapons.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied that they breached the U.N. sanctions by selling arms to Iraq. After Rolf Ekeus, who then headed the U.N. Special Commission in charge of investigating Iraq's weapons programs, came to Moscow with detailed evidence in February 1996, officials acknowledged that the gyroscopes had come from Russia, but insisted the government had not given approval.
The new investigation broadens the picture of Iraq's dealings in Russia. According to Orlov and Potter, Iraq was seeking parts and technology to build a new, more accurate, and possibly longer-range missile than it had possessed before. The Scud missiles that Iraq launched at Israel during the Gulf War are notoriously inaccurate. The investigators said Gharbiyeh, the Palestinian middleman, was given his most lucrative offer in August 1994 from the Ibn Al Haythan Missile Center in Iraq. In a secret protocol to a contract for raw materials and electronic parts, they said, the missile center agreed to pay him $3.9 million if he could supply specific missile technology items, including precision guidance instruments.
That November, they said, Gharbiyeh brought a delegation of Iraqi missile specialists to Russia, from the Ibn Al Haythan center and from Karama, a large Iraqi aerospace and defense firm. In Russia, they met "very senior officials at Russian missile design and production facilities," according to Orlov and Potter. The Iraqis met the Russians at their factory sites as well as outside. According to the investigation, the Iraqis and Russians "signed literally dozens of protocols," or letters of intent, for the purchase of "a wide array of missile goods, technology and services."
"The Russians would supply missile engines, missile design, training, technology, manufacturing and testing for engines, airframes, and guidance and control systems," they reported. The Iraqi accounts of the meetings show that the Russians were willing to provide "the most advanced technologies, and eager to work out specific offers as soon as possible, as long as payment was assured."
The investigators said one of the letters of intent was signed with the Scientific Production Association Energomash, a huge Soviet and later Russian producer of rocket engines based in Moscow. The company agreed to provide "complete technology transfer," they said, including production equipment for two types of liquid-fueled missile engines.
"Energomash agreed to provide a complete rocket engine of four-ton thrust as well as design calculations, final design, and five complete samples of a propulsion system for a "communications satellite" whose size matched the payload specifications for an intermediate-range Scud-derived missile," they said.
"The Russians also agreed to train the Iraqis in the design, production, and testing of modern rocket engines, and to enter into a project to jointly design a rocket engine," the investigators reported. "Energomash officials assured the Iraqis that they could go ahead with these deals even without the approval of their government by paying bribes to the appropriate people." Energomash spokesman Viktor Sigayev denied that the company had contact with the Iraqis. "Categorically no," he said. "There were not even any meetings." He added, "The accusation is outrageous. It's a very serious problem, and one cannot just publish rubbish." Energomash has established a joint venture with Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., to produce the Russian-designed RD-180 rocket engines that will be used to power Lockheed Martin Corp.'s space launch vehicles. After the Iraqi officials' visit, Orlov and Potter said, the middleman Gharbiyeh remained in Moscow completing the deals, and returned to Baghdad in early 1995 where "he drafted new contracts with his Iraqi sponsors based on the November protocols." The contracts with the Karama company alone totaled more than $65 million, they said. They also recount how Gharbiyeh returned to Russia to purchase the gyroscopes from a missile destruction factory in Sergiyev Posad, a town north of Moscow. According to the authors, he went so far as to have the gyroscopes tested and certified at a special facility in Moscow. He then arranged for the export out of Moscow's lone international airport of 800 sensitive missile gyroscopes and accelerometers to Amman.
The gyroscopes were seized in November 1995 in Amman by Jordanian authorities acting on intelligence information from U.N. disarmament experts. The discovery of the gyroscopes was an early and significant indication that Iraq was attempting to acquire forbidden weapons during the U.N. disarmament inspections. Iraqi authorities later arrested Gharbiyeh in Baghdad after the defection to Jordan of Hussein Kamel Hassan Majeed, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, who was later assassinated upon his return to Iraq. The reason for Gharbiyeh's arrest is unclear, and his whereabouts are unknown. Orlov and Potter said not all of the gyroscopes have been accounted for. The devices came from Russia's SS-N-18 missiles. Of the 800 components that arrived in Amman, 240 were strategic missile gyroscopes and 240 were accelerometers. However, only 120 gyroscopes and 120 accelerometers were seized in Jordan, they said. An additional 33 gyroscopes and 26 accelerometers were pulled out of the Tigris River in Baghdad by U.N. arms inspectors on Dec. 9, 1995. That means about 180 gyroscopes and accelerometers - enough for 30 missile guidance systems - are unaccounted for, they said.
Orlov said many of the other missile items mentioned in the documents signed in Moscow were never delivered, because the plans were later interrupted by Russia's security services, or by Gharbiyeh's arrest in 1995. The investigators again question - as Orlov had earlier - why the Russian criminal investigation of the case was narrow, focusing only on the gyroscopes, and not looking at Gharbiyeh's other activity. "Given the frequency of [Gharbiyeh's] visits to Russia and the extensive nature of his contacts and contracts with the Russian defense establishment," they concluded, "it is hard to imagine that the Russian authorities at some level were not aware of his activities" beyond the gyroscope deal.
© 1998 The Washington Post Company.
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Nature / Vol.395, N 6701, 1 October 1998
Agencies to mitigate space station delays
- TONY REICHHARDT AND ALISON ABBOTT
В конструкцию МКС будут внесены некоторые изменения, из-за чего серия запланированных ранее опытов откладывается на неопределенное время.
WASHINGTON & MUNICH - Life scientists and microgravity researchers face serious delays to the start of their experiments on the international space station as a result of proposed changes to its construction schedule being discussed this week in Moscow.
If US and Russian negotiators agree on a plan to shift part of the burden for supplying the station from Russian to US space vehicles, the need for extra space-shuttle missions could delay the seven scientific "utilization" flights planned between 2000 and 2003. These would furnish the laboratory with experiment "racks" that can be used for a variety of investigations. Although the new assembly schedule has not been finalized, the average delay for utilization flights would probably be about six months, according to Mark Uhran of the US space agency NASA's Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences. Construction of the station starts next month, with the first utilization flight planned for April 2000.
The proposed schedule changes - made necessary by Russia's inability to pay for key elements it had promised to deliver - could also delay the completion of the station, now planned for 2004, by up to a year. Because the laboratory module of the European Space Agency (ESA) is among the last elements to be attached, European use of the station would probably be affected. US space managers have been struggling for months to find a politically acceptable solution to the Russian problem, which threatens the project's schedule, if not its very survival. NASA now hopes to pay Russia $60 million immediately to finish work on a crucial "service module" scheduled for launch next summer as the station's centrepiece during its early stages of assembly. but a more ambitious NASA plan to buy an extra $600 million worth of Russian hardware and services over the next four years got a chilly reception last week from key figures in the US Congress.
These included House Science Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (Republican, Wisconsin), Senate Science Committee chairman John McCain (Republican, Arizona) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Republican, Georgia), who called the current US-Russian agreement on the station an "absolute disaster". With further slip in the schedule now almost inevitable, NASA hopes to soften the blow for space researchers by accommodating more experiments on the proposed half-dozen extra space-shuttle resupply flights. Another possibility is for NASA to use the Russian service module, which is nearly identical to the Mir station that housed several US experiments over the past three years. But the research community would be limited by scarce funds to flying mostly repeats of past experiments, according to Uhran. ESA, meanwhile, wants to help its small space research community weather the delay by starting up a granting programme for ground-based experiments in life-sciences space research. The proposed scheme, suggested as part of ESA's programme for exploitation of the space station from 2000 to 2004, was discussed this week by ESA's Microgravity Programme Board, which includes representatives from ESA member states.
The scheme would give researchers access to large-scale facilities such as those designed to model aspects of living in space, including bed-rest, confinement and isolation facilities, and would help them build up facilities in their own institutes.
To complement the scheme, ESA is trying to persuade the European Commission to include ground-based space biology in its fifth Framework programme (FP5), which is due to begin operation next year, to provide researchers with project money. "More ground-based work will allow experiments to be very carefully designed on the ground, so that we can be sure they will work in space," says Didier Schmitt, director of ESA's life sciences department. The proposed 2000-2004 space-station exploitation programme continues microgravity work in life sciences in parallel to ground-based work, which includes sounding rocket experiments and parabolic flights.
ESA has also negotiated space for some experiments on the privately owned Spacehab, which will fly in the space shuttle's cargo bay later this month and again in 2000. "We hope the space station is not delayed", says Didier. "But if it is we hope to have a complete strategy to keep our scientific community going."
Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
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Science / Vol.282, N 5387, 9 Oct 1998
NASA to Buy Research Time to Bail Out Russian Agency
On 2 October, NASA announced that it will buy thousands of hours of cosmonaut time from Russia's bankrupt space agency to keep the agency afloat. The deal should provide ample time to conduct U.S.-led experiments while the station is being assembled. The $60 million agreement is intended to prevent the $50 billion space station project-whose first components are scheduled to be launched next month-from falling even further behind schedule (Science, 1 May, p.666). But some members of Congress are attacking the plan as a giveaway.
© 1998 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Fox News / October 5, 1998
Russia Sells International Space Station Timeshare
Российское космическое агентство, испытывающее финансовые трудности, согласилось продать США время для проведения исследований на Международной космической станции за 60 млн. долларов.
MOSCOW - The cash-strapped Russian Space Agency has agreed to sell its research time on the international space station to the United States for $60 million so it can finish a long-delayed component, officials said Monday.
The deal to buy research time is part of NASA's effort to bail out its Russian counterpart and prevent costly new delays in constructing and launching the 16-country international space station. The project is behind schedule because Russia lacks the funds to build the station's crew compartment.
Russian Space Agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said the deal wouldn't change Russia's obligations and its rights under the $21 billion project. Russia would lose research time during the station's assembly in orbit, expected to last for at least four years, he said. "The agreement will not hurt Russia's space program," Gorbunov said in a telephone interview. Russia's space agency has failed to meet three target dates for the crew module's launch because of a lack of funds, putting the whole project more than a year behind schedule. Under the deal, Russia would let NASA use research time that had been reserved for Russian scientific experiments. Russian cosmonauts also will help with U.S. experiments, Gorbunov said. He acknowledged that Russia badly needs money to complete the module that will house the station's crew.
He insisted, however, that the deal doesn't mean NASA is paying for the segment's construction. "It's a separate contract that doesn't affect Russia's obligations to build the service module," Gorbunov told The Associated Press. Representatives of the 16 countries participating in the project, including Russia, the United States, Canada and Japan, met last week in Moscow to discuss the construction timetable. Despite the delay in the service module's construction, they decided to carry out the first two launches as planned.
A cargo module built by the Russian Khrunichev company, under contract with the U.S. firm Boeing, will be launched first on Nov. 20. NASA will follow in December with the launch of a second part, an American-built passageway, Gorbunov said. The Russian service module will be launched in July, not in April as earlier planned, he said. Media reports said last month that NASA will ask Congress and the White House for approval to buy up to $660 million in goods and services from the Russian Space Agency over the next four years. Gorbunov said the sum wasn't discussed at last week's meetings between Russian and NASA officials. He said, however, that Russia turned down a NASA proposal to buy two escape capsules for $100 million because the offer was too low.
© 1998, News America Digital Publishing, Inc.
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© 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Fox News Online / October 25, 1998
Russian Space Cargo Craft Blasts Off for Mir
MOSCOW - Russia launched an unmanned cargo craft on Sunday carrying supplies for the crew on the Mir space station, Mission Control said. The Progress M-40 blasted off smoothly from the Baikonur cosmodrome, which Russia rents from Kazakhstan. It is due to dock with Mir on Tuesday. The Progress is carrying food, water and scientific equipment, including French-made instruments for recording meteorite showers.
Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev are expected to make a space walk to install the equipment outside Mir at the start of November. Itar-Tass news agency said the Progress craft was also carrying New Year gifts for Padalka and Avdeyev marked "Open on December 31." They left earth on August 13. Mir has suffered a number of problems in recent years including a collision during a docking manoeuvre in June last year - its worst accident in 12 years in space.
But the craft has suffered few serious problems in recent months and is due to remain in space until midway through next year.
© 1998, News America Digital Publishing, Inc.
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© Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.
ABC NEWS / October 27, 1998
Russia to Test Warming Cities from Orbit
- By Vladimir Isachenkov / The Associated Press
Россия готовится запустить в космос гигантское зеркало, которое будет отражать солнечный свет и освещать некоторые северные города в течение долгих ночей.
MOSCOW, Oct. 23 - The Russian space agency is preparing to launch a giant mirror into orbit to illuminate sun-starved northern cities, officials said today. The Znamya, or Banner, will blast off with a cargo ship headed to the Mir space station on Sunday, and will be unraveled in February. The mirror, about 100 feet in diameter, is a membrane covered with a metal layer that, in theory, would reflect sunlight onto some of the chilly reaches of Russia during the long nights.
However, officials said the Znamya would only be visible in good weather and to those who knew its precise position. They said it would resemble a shooting star, not a large object such as the moon. The mirror would serve as a prototype for larger models that may go up later, provided the cash-strapped space agency comes up with funds, said Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin. Attached to Cargo Ship According to the plan, the folded membrane will be attached to the Progress cargo ship, which will dock with Mir on Tuesday. In February, the Progress will unfold Znamya and the station's crew will guide the cargo ship using remote control to align the mirror. Lyndin wouldn't say exactly how long the experiment would last. Eventually, the cargo ship and the mirror would be discarded and allowed to burn up in the atmosphere. He said that the scientists will also study the membrane as a potential "solar sail," a feature that might allow spaceships of the distant future to sail through space using solar wind. In February 1993, Russia ran a similar experiment, but the mirror was barely visible on Earth, Lyndin said.
Mirror Launch Delayed.
The new mirror had been scheduled to be taken into orbit earlier this year, but the experiment was delayed due to a shortage in funds. The money crunch that has afflicted the country for months also led to the postponement of the Progress launch, which had been originally planned for Oct.15.
Along with the mirror, which weighs less than nine pounds, the cargo ship will deliver some regular cargo, including fuel, food, water, equipment and other supplies to the Mir, Lyndin said.
Space officials initially planned to keep the 12-year-old Mir in orbit through the end of 1999, but the last crew is now expected to depart in June because of the money shortage.
Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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