This photo of the International Space Station was snapped by an STS-133 crew member on the space shuttle Discovery on March 7, 2011. Image Credit: NASA
It’s started. Not quite three years since the last shuttle flew, the Russian government has threatened to pull support from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. NASA has hoped that the ISS could operate through 2024, possibly even as far out as 2028 – which extends its original lifespan, which I believe was 15-20 years.
The Russian government has also decided to block the U.S. from using Russian NK-33 and RD-180 rockets to launch U.S. military satellites due to the growing tensions between the two resulting from U.S. sanctions in response to the upset in Ukraine, as well as U.S. plans to deny export licenses for high-technology items to Russia.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has decided to really spice things up by saying the U.S. could use a trampoline to get our astronauts to the station. He also implied the Russian Space Agency may continue to utilize the station alone, as the U.S. segment cannot function without the Russian segment, though the Russian segment can function without the U.S. segment. The thrusters on the Russian segment keep the ISS in orbit and at the proper attitude.
NASA issued a statement saying they have not received any formal word from the Russian government regarding this proposed change in space exploration cooperation. The $100 billion space station is the result of the work and cooperation of 15 nations, predominantly the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Europe. I am pretty sure we have covered a pretty huge dent in the costs, in one way or another.
This raises so many questions. Why did President Bush decide to cancel the shuttle program before there was another option in place? Why was this aspect (replacement for the shuttle i.e. human spaceflight) so short-sighted in thought and forward planning? Though the space shuttles were becoming outdated, NASA was in the process of upgrading them. Why does our government continue to cut our space exploration legs out from under us by cutting funding?
Why does our government seem to have a problem with strategic long-term planning support in this area? Often NASA makes plans, gets funding, starts work, and then whichever administration is in power loses patience and interest. I would love to see a complete list of all NASA (and other government) programs that were funded, worked on, and then scrapped, and why they were scrapped.
Asking these questions will not change what has happened, but I think examining some of these disconnects might help going forward. Space and politics aren’t really my thing, but even I am smart enough to understand the implications of the U.S. not having a prominent place and role in manned space exploration.
Well at least the Russians aren’t threatening our seats on the Soyuz just yet. And maybe this is just all bluster on Rogozin’s part. There is still a lot of knowledge to be gained from the space station, not counting the amount of money that has been invested. It only seems right to get as much out of it as possible for all parties involved.
What a way for the greatest engineering achievement ever embarked upon and completed successfully to end. What a way for one of the most auspicious global collaborations in cooperation of shared visions to come to a close.
Just something I was thinking about . . .