NASA Cuts Ties With Russia For Most Space Operations

Posted: Apr 3 2014, 12:59am CDT | by , in Technology News


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NASA Cuts Ties With Russia For Most Space Operations

It seems that space isn’t immune from Earth-side politics. In a statement issued today, NASA confirmed that due to “Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the agency will be suspending most of its “ongoing engagement” with Russia.

One major exception to this statement? The continued joint operation of the International Space Station. This is critical for NASA, which currently relies on the Russian space station to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. While NASA is able to deliver cargo to the station without Russian assistance thanks to its contracts with Orbital Sciences and SpaceX, the agency currently has no operational manned spacecraft.

Apart from Russia, the only other country currently operating manned spaceflights is China. However, the United States and China are not at present cooperating on any joint operations involving the International Space Station. Additionally, a law passed in 2011 prevents NASA from spending funds to cooperate with the Chinese government.

The earliest that NASA won’t rely on Russia for sending astronauts to and from the ISS is likely 2015, which SpaceX is currently targeting for its first manned mission. Last month, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed his personal investment in this venture, noting that it’s “embarrassing that the United States has to thumb rides from the Russians.”

The last manned flight to the International Space Station was completed on March 27 with a Russian Soyuz carrying Steven Swanson of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. The next planned cargo launch to the ISS is at present unclear. The cargo will be delivered via a SpaceX Dragon flight, originally scheduled for launch on March 30. However, due to a “range asset issue,” the launch has been delayed and a new launch date has not been announced.

You can read the full text of NASA’s statement below:

Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.

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