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时间:2006-04-18 16:00来源:互联网 提供网友:cfgxj   字体: [ ]

US Law Could Block Astronaut Activities on

Space Station



Now that the U.S. space shuttle Discovery is back on Earth, future shuttle missions are postponed1 until the space agency NASA solves the problem of launch debris2 endangering the orbiters. Whenever missions resume, they will continue building the International Space Station, which the United States operates with Russia and the support of Europe, Canada, and Japan. But there is a legal obstacle that may keep U.S. astronauts off the Space Station.


The issue dates back to 1996, when the two countries agreed that Russia would provide the United States free crew and cargo3 transportation to the station until next April. This provision proved crucial during the long ban on shuttle flights after the Columbia disaster in 2003, for the United States had no other way to get its astronauts and supplies to the station.


But the agreement is nearing an end. According to Marcia Smith of the U.S. Congress' research service, the final free round trip Soyuz spacecraft ride for a U.S. astronaut to the station is to lift off in October with a planned April return.


Marcia Smith: Right now, The United States doesn't have any guaranteed access to the space station after next April, when Russia will have fulfilled its obligations. We don't know if the shuttle will be flying or not, but if it is flying, then the astronauts will be able to stay there only when the shuttle is there.


The U.S.-Russian agreement made sense at a time when shuttles flew regularly and NASA envisioned an April completion date for the station. For the period after that, NASA had planned to have a special escape vehicle that U.S. crews could use in case of a space station emergency, freeing them from reliance on Soyuz craft. But Marcia Smith says the Bush administration canceled plans for such a lifeboat.


Marcia Smith: The United States was going to build its own, but it decided4 not to because there were cost overruns and other factors. So for a [U.S.] crew member to stay on the space station after the shuttle leaves, that crew member has to have access to a seat in a lifeboat, and, once again, Russia's obligations to provide that to NASA for free will end in April of 2006.


An obvious solution would be for NASA to buy Russian space transportation services. But a five-year-old U.S. law prohibits such payments unless President Bush confirms that Moscow has not provided Iran with missile or weapons technology in the previous year.


In a recent House of Representatives hearing, Congressman5 Dana Rohrabacher told NASA's new chief, Michael Griffin, that the law has failed to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. He blames the Bush administration and the previous Clinton government for not taking diplomatic steps to prevent Moscow from providing technical help to Tehran.


Michael Griffin: What needed to happen was some type of overture6 to the Russians that would give them an alternative. Neither administration did its job in the past and now you, after two months as being leader of NASA, are faced with this very serious time period when decisions have to be made.


The Bush administration wants Congress to amend7 the U.S. law so NASA can begin buying services from its Russian counterpart.


But congressional researcher Marcia Smith says there are ways around the measure. It allows exceptions for payments to prevent imminent8 loss of life aboard the station or to help maintain the Russian module9. She says President Bush could declare such exceptions. He could also conclude that the act does not apply to the Russian manufacturer of Soyuz spacecraft and let NASA buy some for its own use.


Retired10 U.S. government physicist11 Albert Wheelon, a member of the commission that investigated the 1986 shuttle Challenger explosion, says another alternative is to renegotiate the U.S.-Russian agreement to continue free services to NASA. But he thinks that a financially struggling Russian space agency would be unlikely to do this.


Albert Wheelon: I think we have painted ourselves into a serious corner here, I think it unlikely that they would refuse a rescue plea. The idea of doing 28 more missions I think is probably beyond the bounds of their generosity12.


NASA chief Michael Griffin says this dilemma13 is a major reason why he wants to replace the aging space shuttle fleet by 2010 with a more agile14 astronaut craft that will allow the United States to maintain its independence in space.


David McAlary, VOA news, Washington.



debris [5debri:] n. 碎片,残骸

orbiter [5R:bitE(r)] n. 人造卫星

obstacle [5CbstEkl] n. 障碍

lift off (火箭,导弹等)发射,(直升飞机等)起飞

obligation [Rbli5^eiF(E)n] n. 职责;责任

envision [in5viVEn] vt. 想象,预想

lifeboat [5laifbEut] n. 救生船

module [5mRdju:l] n.〈天〉(航天器上各个独立的)舱

rescue [5reskju:] n. 援救,营救

plea [pli:] n. 请求

generosity [7dVenE5rCsiti] n. 慷慨,宽大

agile [5AdVail] adj. 敏捷的,灵活的


1 postponed 9dc016075e0da542aaa70e9f01bf4ab1     
vt.& vi.延期,缓办,(使)延迟vt.把…放在次要地位;[语]把…放在后面(或句尾)vi.(疟疾等)延缓发作(或复发)
  • The trial was postponed indefinitely. 审讯无限期延迟。
  • The game has already been postponed three times. 这场比赛已经三度延期了。
2 debris debris     
  • After the bombing there was a lot of debris everywhere.轰炸之后到处瓦砾成堆。
  • Bacteria sticks to food debris in the teeth,causing decay.细菌附着在牙缝中的食物残渣上,导致蛀牙。
3 cargo 6TcyG     
  • The ship has a cargo of about 200 ton.这条船大约有200吨的货物。
  • A lot of people discharged the cargo from a ship.许多人从船上卸下货物。
4 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
5 Congressman TvMzt7     
  • He related several anecdotes about his first years as a congressman.他讲述自己初任议员那几年的几则轶事。
  • The congressman is meditating a reply to his critics.这位国会议员正在考虑给他的批评者一个答复。
6 overture F4Lza     
  • The opera was preceded by a short overture.这部歌剧开始前有一段简短的序曲。
  • His overture led to nothing.他的提议没有得到什么结果。
7 amend exezY     
  • The teacher advised him to amend his way of living.老师劝他改变生活方式。
  • You must amend your pronunciation.你必须改正你的发音。
8 imminent zc9z2     
  • The black clounds show that a storm is imminent.乌云预示暴风雨即将来临。
  • The country is in imminent danger.国难当头。
9 module iEjxj     
  • The centre module displays traffic guidance information.中央模块显示交通引导信息。
  • Two large tanks in the service module held liquid oxygen.服务舱的两个大气瓶中装有液态氧。
10 retired Njhzyv     
  • The old man retired to the country for rest.这位老人下乡休息去了。
  • Many retired people take up gardening as a hobby.许多退休的人都以从事园艺为嗜好。
11 physicist oNqx4     
  • He is a physicist of the first rank.他是一流的物理学家。
  • The successful physicist never puts on airs.这位卓有成就的物理学家从不摆架子。
12 generosity Jf8zS     
  • We should match their generosity with our own.我们应该像他们一样慷慨大方。
  • We adore them for their generosity.我们钦佩他们的慷慨。
13 dilemma Vlzzf     
  • I am on the horns of a dilemma about the matter.这件事使我进退两难。
  • He was thrown into a dilemma.他陷入困境。
14 agile Ix2za     
  • She is such an agile dancer!她跳起舞来是那么灵巧!
  • An acrobat has to be agile.杂技演员必须身手敏捷。
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