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a rare inside view of the next frontier in space exploration

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PBS's Revealing Space Station Series
Offers Rare Inside View of the Next Frontier in Space Exploration

"The Space Station is like the first piece of highway. It gets you out there and gets you on the way."
--Michael Foale, NASA, Space Station Expedition Corps Leader

Early in the next century, people from across the globe will be able to look up into the night sky and see the results of the most ambitious space construction project ever undertaken in the history of humanity - the International Space Station.

This December, PBS will take viewers behind-the-scenes to share in the surprises, challenges, the human ingenuity, tough decisions, and even the disappointments of this massive endeavor. SPACE STATION, a two-part documentary airing on consecutive Tuesdays, December 14 and 21, 1999, from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. ET (check local listing), follows engineers, scientists, managers and astronauts from sixteen nations, led by NASA, as they navigate the financial, technical and political challenges of creating the International Space Station (ISS). Viewers will discover through their eyes what it takes to build a project of this immense size and complexity.

"A lot of people would like to go back to the Moon, to Mars or some other celestial body. I want to do those things too, but when I get there I want to be able to have the people survive and do something useful," says The Boeing Company's Flight Element Manager Brewster Shaw. "If we can demonstrate that we can assemble the International Space Station on orbit above Earth, I think we will have demonstrated to ourselves that we can assemble a place for human beings to live and work anywhere we can get to."

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Episode One, SPACE STATION: The Journey Begins sets out to answer the questions of how you build a space station and why? Viewers will learn the biggest challenge of the project is that the hundreds of components developed around the world, which will make up the finished space station, cannot be tested together before they are assembled in space - a task never done before. Producer, director and writer Karl Sabbagh believes viewers "will be astonished at the complexity of even the simplest engineering task and amazed at what human ingenuity can accomplish." The story of the design and construction of the International Space Station begins with the problems and advantages resulting from NASA's decision to collaborate with the Russians as a way to control costs. The program shows the project's early growing pains as the Americans and Russians learn how to put old rivalries aside and share with each other their years of experience.

"The Russians are very proud of their space experience," says Ginger Barnes, The Boeing Company's Russian Program Manager. "They would really like for us to respect their heritage and their legacy and treat them like a full partner. The premise of the Space Station and the international participation has been that we will treat these space agencies like they know what they're doing and we're not always good at that."

The program travels to Canada, Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as locations throughout the United States, as the global team of engineers and astronauts struggle to get the first elements ready for launch. Episode One concludes with the launch into orbit of Russia's Zarya Module, the seed from which the International Space Station will grow.

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Episode Two, SPACE STATION: The Next Step continues as the astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour take the U.S.-made Unity Node, the second element of the ISS, into space to connect with Zarya. At this point, the Space Station is already two years behind schedule and problems with the U.S.-Russian partnership begin to surface. The program takes a hard look at the complexity and difficulties involved in this massive international project. The failing Russian economy dries up funds for the third element, the vital Service Module, and delays are put on all future launches as the Americans begin to look for alternatives. U.S. Congressional Representatives take the Russians to task, worried that the delay is jeopardizing the entire project. At this point, everyone is frustrated. "If I had to do it [partner with the Russians] again, would I?" asks Gordon Ducote, NASA Launch Package Manager. "Boy, that's a tough question."

Meanwhile, work continues as the next Space Shuttle crew completes repairs and provides supplies for the Space Station's future inhabitants, testing begins on the prototype "lifeboat" for the ISS, future astronaut crews undergo rigorous training and preparations for their missions and the massive solar rays, the power generators for the space station, are built and tested. Episode Two concludes with a look forward to the end of 2000, when the Space Station will only be one-quarter complete but will have a permanent crew embarking on fifteen years of scientific research that NASA hopes will be the crowning achievement of this next step in the manned exploration of space.

SPACE STATION is a Lark International presentation produced by Houston Public Television in association with Skyscraper Productions. Co-producer and co-directors are Karl Sabbagh and Belinda Aird. SPACE STATION is written by Karl Sabbagh. Executive producers are Jeffery O. Clarke and Elizabeth Brock.

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