Foreign reporters filed into the normally closed control room of the Soviet space flight center here today to watch a televised interview with two cosmonauts now in orbit aboard the space station Mir.
It was the first time in memory that correspondents have participated in such a scene, and it was another example of a slight lifting of the secrecy that has surrounded the Soviet space program.
On March 13, when cosmonauts Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov were blasted into space, the liftoff was shown live on national television. That too was a first: the liftoff of the 1975 joint U.S-Soviet Soyuz Apollo mission had been shown live, but only to a group of journalists.
Earlier in March, as the Soviet spacecraft Vega I and II neared Halley's Comet, the Space Research Institute here was opened up for foreign visitors, providing access that several western scientists said was unprecedented.
Today's press conference was held in honor of the approaching 25th anniversary of the first manned space flight, by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Reporters were bused to this normally closed city about 50 minutes' drive northwest of Moscow, and given a tour of the control room.
While loosening some of the wraps on the space program, Soviet authorities still keep much about the program's goals secret.
Today, the cosmonauts denied that the Soviet space program has any military purpose, saying the space station Mir "does not provide for any experiments for military purposes," contrary to western reports.