8 Aug 2015

llNASA to Congress: Want to stop using Russian capsules to get to space? Let us work. "The greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on others to launch humans into space," NASA Administrator wrote in a letter to lawmakers

Ever since we mothballed our last space shuttle in 2011, we've been relying on Russian spacecraft to help put U.S. astronauts into space. It's not a little embarrassing, as it basically means renting seats on Soyuz capsules like you're a budget passenger on some Greyhound bus to low-Earth orbit.
And now, NASA says, we're about to throw even more money at the Kremlin because Congress is holding back a program aimed at replacing the space shuttle.
In a letter to lawmakers Wednesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said his agency is extending a contract with the Russian government to the tune of $490 million. The contract pays for the transportation of crew and supplies to the International Space Station and back, among other missions.
To stop relying on the Russians, NASA is working with Boeing and SpaceX to develop a space shuttle replacement that would let us launch astronauts from U.S. soil again. But NASA complains that the so-called Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program has been underfunded from its inception. In its first year, Congress allocated only half of what NASA proposed.
Looking ahead to next year, lawmakers appear poised to grant around 70 percent to 80 percent of what the agency has asked for, not the full $1.2 billion NASA says it needs to speed the commercial crew program along. As a result, SpaceX and Boeing may have to stop their testing and development of the new spacecraft because NASA could run out of money to pay them.
"The greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on others to launch humans into space," Bolden wrote in his letter.


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