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U.S.-Soviet space science pact drafted.

U.S./Soviet space science pact drafted

In 1982, a decade-old U.S.-Soviet agreement permitting cooperation in peaceful space-science research was allowed by President Reagan to lapse, as part of U.S. response to Soviet activities in Poland. Reagan had announced his intention months in advance, and strong opposition among some U.S. scientists was already evident as the May 24 deadline approached (SN: 3/27/82, p. 214). Two years later, both houses of Congress unanimously passed--and the President signed--a joint resolution urging him to "endeavor, at the earliest possible date,' to renew the arrangement (SN: 11/10/84, p. 295).

Last week, U.S. and Soviet negotiators met in Washington and settled on the wording for a new agreement. The document was not signed or initialed--it must first be reviewed by officials from both sides, as well as survive any unforeseen changes in the political climate. But, says a U.S. official, the teams did "reach substantive agreement on the text of a new general agreement on civil space science.'

As for the pact's likelihood of reaching fruition, officials from both the U.S. Department of State and NASA declined to speculate on the record. "I think there's a good chance the agreement will be signed,' said one; although, cautioned another observer, "there could always be another Poland' that might set back the negotiations.

The document, which evolved from discussions in Moscow in September and then at the Reykjavik summit meeting, identified five areas of space science: planetary exploration; astronomy and astrophysics; solar-terrestrial physics; earth science; and biology and medicine. There is no mention of any manned space projects, including joint U.S.-Soviet exploration of Mars, a topic which has received much discussion in the last couple of years. In unmanned space missions, however, 16 candidate projects are included, though officials again decline to list specific examples from the document.

In a different cooperative arena, members of a U.S./Soviet/European/Japanese organization called the Inter-Agency Consultative Group (IACG) met in Padua (Padova), Italy, this week and concluded that solar-terrestrial physics would be what one U.S. official describes as "the next focal point' for the group's efforts. The IACG plans no missions of its own, but was established a few years ago to coordinate research plans and spacecraft operations for the appearance of Comet Halley. All of the IACG member-states' space organizations are planning activities to study details of the sun's interaction with the Earth during the 1990s, although U.S. goals of developing space probes to participate have yet to show up in NASA's budget.

The IACG established two working groups to aid in the project--one for matters of science, and the other to deal with questions of coordinating data. In addition, it set up two panels to consider possible future studies in planetary and primitive bodies, and in very-long-base-line interferometry.
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Author:Eberhart, Jonathan
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 8, 1986
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