Today marks an important milestone for the International Space Station as senior government officials from 15 countries meet in Washington to sign agreements to establish the framework for cooperation among the partners on the design, development, operation and utilization of the Space Station.

Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will sign the 1998 Intergovernmental Agreement on Space Station Cooperation, along with representatives of Russia, Japan, Canada and participating countries of the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). The signing will be held at the U.S. State Department's Dean Acheson auditorium at 4 p.m. EST.

Three bilateral memoranda of understanding also will be signed by NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin separately with his counterparts: Russian Space Agency General Director Yuri Koptev, ESA Director General Antonio Rodota and Canadian Space Agency President William (Mac) Evans. The memorandum of understanding between NASA and the government of Japan will be signed at a later date.

Today's new agreements supersede previous Space Station agreements among the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada signed in 1988. These new agreements reflect changes to the Space Station program resulting from significant Russian participation in the program and program design changes undertaken by the original partnership in 1993.

Led by the U.S., the International Space Station will be the largest, most complex international cooperative science and engineering program ever attempted. Taking advantage of the technical expertise from participating countries, the International Space Station will bring together scientists, engineers and researchers from around the globe to assemble a premier research facility in orbit.

Beginning in June 1998, with the launch of the first Space Station element, the partnership will ultimately assemble more than 100 components in low Earth orbit over the next five years, using approximately 45 assembly flights. When completed, the Station will provide access for researchers around the world to permanent, state-of-the-art laboratories in weightlessness.

As currently envisioned, the International Space Station will support a crew of up to seven and include five complete pressurized laboratories and attached external sites for research. The Station will provide a focal point for space operations among the partners well into the next century, and will serve as a stepping-stone for human exploration of the solar system. On the football-field-sized station, permanent crews will perform long- duration research in a variety of scientific disciplines advancing the world's understanding of life sciences, earth sciences and materials processing, while fostering commercial research activities in space.

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