Ukraine Crisis Could Keep Americans Out Of Space
The United States may soon find itself unable to find a ticket to space, after the situation in Ukraine has led the Obama Administration to suspend military exercises with Russia. Since the US got rid of their space program, they have been reliant on the Russian program to get them to space. While NASA says there will be no disruption, some advocates of a revitalization of the space program believe they may be able to coerce Congress to support such a move.
Russia’s incursion into Ukraine could generate enough congressional support to end American reliance on Russian launches to get into space.
The Obama administration has already suspended military-to-military ties with Russia in response, among other actions. And while NASA insists the deteriorating U.S.-Russia relations won’t affect the civil space program, advocates of commercial development of American launch vehicles believe the crisis could create enough political pressure on Congress to fully fund an American way to the International Space Station.
“The situation in the Ukraine underscores the need to re-establish America’s human spaceflight capability as soon as possible,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO. “The advancements in commercial space offer U.S. space exploration a future that doesn’t include reliance on Russian rockets or engines. Spending $70 million a seat on a Russian rocket launched from Kazakhstan to send a U.S. astronaut in space should not be a goal we settle on.”
Currently, American astronauts rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get to the space station – a necessity since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle in 2011. But the U.S. is developing an alternative via the Commercial Crew Program, which partners with aerospace contractors to design and build privately operated vehicles to transport astronauts into low Earth orbit.
President Barack Obama’s budget request on Tuesday seeks $848 million for the commercial crew program, and the proposed White House Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative investment fund asks for another $250 million.
And that kind of money, a NASA spokesman said, could help the U.S. be ready to manage its own launches in by 2017.