POSTED: 21 JANUARY 2006 - 12:30pm HST

NASA manned space effort with Shuttle stalled

Rendering of the International Space Station over the earth. Note no US Shuttle is in the dock

NASA Had No Choice But To Buy Soyuz Flights
from on 6 January 2006

NASA's announcement last week that it will pay Roskosmos $43.6 million for a round-trip ride to the International Space Station this spring, and an equivalent figure for an as-yet-undetermined number of future flights to the station until 2012, represents the agency's acknowledgment that it had no alternative.

The deal was reached recently between the two space agencies after Congress last October amended the Iran Nonproliferation Act to permit NASA to conduct commerce with its Russian counterpart. The act had prohibited such transactions, because the both the Clinton and Bush administrations determined that the Russian government was aiding the development of Iran's nuclear program. The fact that both the Bush administration and Congress agreed on the need to exempt ISS activities from the prohibition underscores the desperate situation in which NASA finds itself regarding manned spaceflight.

"If the U.S. is to maintain a presence on the ISS and take advantage of the billions invested in the facility, we must rely on the Russians," Joe Pouliot, a spokesman for the House Science Committee, which oversees NASA, told

"It's clear we have to rely on Soyuz and Progress, and we definitely have to pay for it," Pouliot said.

Such comments sum up NASA's predicament succinctly. Since February 1, 2003, when shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over the Southwestern United States, and with only the exception of shuttle Discovery's 14-day mission beginning last July 25, the U.S. space program has lacked any capability of putting humans into orbit.

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