A Soviet scientist says that despite the delay in U.S. space exploration caused by the Challenger disaster, his country is not ahead in space.

Albert Galeev, co-chairman of the USSR Space Research Institute, said Monday that the Soviets have taken advantage of the two years that the United States has not been able to launch satellites easily, but he said both countries could learn from the other."We never have had the illusion that we were ahead," said Galeev at a news conference at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

"Temporarily, you've lost launch capability, but if you take into account the satellites waiting to be launched, the understanding is that you'll easily catch up," he said.

The United States has not had regular space launches since Challenger exploded and killed its seven crewmembers on Jan. 28, 1986. Since then, the space shuttle fleet, which was the main U.S. launch system, has been grounded. Flights are scheduled to resume in August.

"We took advantage of this delay," said Galeev. "We are still leading in a few fields."