The Clinton administration's recent discussions with Russia on enhanced space cooperation and a possible joint space station prompted a two-part hearing by the House Science Subcommittee on Space, held on October 6 and 14. Subcommittee members, citing rumors and news stories about a joint station, questioned Presidential Science Advisor Jack Gibbons and NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin on the status of the proposed cooperation and heard from additional witnesses regarding the feasibility of and support for the concept.
Gibbons reassured subcommittee members that no decision has yet been made on Russian cooperation, and that Congress would be consulted in the process. He explained that, after the Vancouver Summit, establishment of a Joint Commission headed by Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin provided an opportunity for enhanced cooperation in space, as well as in such other areas as energy, nuclear safety, the environment, business development, science and technology, and defense diversification. Gibbons testified that the study of a cooperative station program took place concurrently with NASA's work on defining the redesigned U.S. space station, now being referred to as “Alpha.” He affirmed that while Alpha's modular design made it adaptable to a joint effort, it could “be built independent of any Russian participation.”