WASHINGTON, D.C.: While Russian cosmonauts may be able to fix the power-thirsty Mir space station next week, repairing the growing cracks in the US-Russian Mir program may prove to be a far more difficult task, reports TIME's Dick Thompson. "While NASA insists that meaningful work can be achieved, many people believe that the only meaningful work that can be done now is learning survival skills in a leaking lifeboat. These critics are arguing more loudly than ever that the US-Mir program is not a science program at all, but a transparent tool of foreign policy designed to help the Russian space program through an enormously difficult period of political and economic instability." As Mir continues to limp around the Earth, NASA and the Russian Space Agency remain confident the repairs will be made and that Mir will continue to serve as a valuable scientific platform into the next century. Whether it does now depends in large part on convincing Congress that the station remains a safe and sensible platform for American astronauts.