Workers rolled a Soyuz TM-12 rocket into place to take the first Briton in space and two Soviet cosmonauts to the Mir station in what may ultimately be seen as an example of the failure of Soviet plans to make money from space.
In Moscow, President Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday hailed international cooperation in space as a new frontier where nations can work together to solve the world's problems."I am convinced that the future of space exploration lies not in Star Wars, but in fruitful work to meet the pressing needs of all nations large and small, West and East, North and South," he said in a message to an aerospace conference opening in the Soviet capital.
Helen Sharman, a 27-year-old British chemist and former employee of the Mars candy company, is to blast off Saturday afternoon with cosmonauts Anatoly Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev for a nearly weeklong stay aboard the Soviets' Mir space station.
Sharman defended her presence on the mission in response to lampoons in the raucous British press, with some newspapers gleefully depicting her as a glorified space secretary.
"I am not (just) a passenger," Sharman said at the Soviets' main space port in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan. "I can't just sit there and go to sleep."
Sharman and the two Soviet cosmonauts would become the 248th, 249th and 250th people in space since Gagarin began manned space travel 30 years ago. Sharman, who first heard about the Juno mission on her car radio, will become the first Briton in space.