NASA Blames Congress for American Dependence on the Russian Space Program

Friday, 07 August 2015 - 3:44PM
Space
Astronomy
Friday, 07 August 2015 - 3:44PM
NASA Blames Congress for American Dependence on the Russian Space Program
The American space program has technically been defunct since 2004, but our astronauts are still on the ISS as a result of a tenuous arrangement with Russia, who allows us to use their space shuttles. This week, NASA administrator Charles Bolden sent a testy letter to Congress, stating that NASA was extending their contract with Russia once again. We will pay them $490 million for ISS missions, for the simple reason that lawmakers aren't giving NASA enough funds to maintain their independence. 

In 2010, NASA proposed a plant to Congress which would allow us to stop relying on the Russian space program in five years. But now that five years have passed, the contract is still being extended, because Congress didn't follow the plan NASA laid out. While they have increased funding incrementally each year, they have not given as much money as is necessary to begin launches from the U.S.

Specifically, Congress hasn't given sufficient funding to NASA's Commercial Crew Program. For this program, NASA works with private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX in order to build a replacement space shuttle that could transport U.S. astronauts. In its year of inception, Congress only gave NASA half of its requested funding, and next year it's projected to give 70-80% of the budget the space agency is looking for. 

Opening quote
Human spaceflight and exploration are important activities for this Nation. The broad scope and bold goals of our human spaceflight program set our Nation apart from all others. Human spaceflight is both an exploration program beyond low-Earth orbit comprised of the Space Launch System and the Orion crew vehicle as well as the ISS and the private sector crew transportation systems necessary to support our research and technology development on the ISS – research and development that is critical to the success of the exploration program. While I understand that funding is extremely limited, it is critical that all of NASA's human spaceflight efforts be supported.
Closing quote


This is a difficult issue, as there are many areas in which our country needs funding (and many wouldn't agree that our spaceflight program makes America inherently superior to other countries). However, scientific advancement is always extremely important, and while it's easy to view it as a non-necessity in the short-term, it will help America in every aspect of its existence in the long term. Hopefully, this letter won't fall on deaf ears, and Congress will stop de-funding our space program and allow us to disentangle ourselves from an obligation to Russia.

Opening quote
It is my sincere hope that we all agree that the greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on others to launch humans into space.
Closing quote
Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy

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