NASA cuts ties to Russia, jeapordizing our space travel

Traveling to and from the International Space Station will now be a big challenge for the U.S.

Traveling to and from the International Space Station will now be a big challenge for the U.S.

With the recent Russian annexation of the Crimea, its political ties to the U.S. have become strained, to say the least. Now word comes that NASA, our  preeminent federal space agency, has officially cut its ties with Russia and its space program.

This becomes highly problematic for the U.S. agency since we retired all our Space Shuttles in 2011 and have none at present to replace them. It’s going to take a few years yet for the new  Orion deep-space vehicle to be available and fully operational. And several private companies are still working on creating spacecraft to shuttle humans to the International Space Station.

But after an official memo was leaked that stated “Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine¹s sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the US Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted.”

This ban included travel by NASA personnel to Russia, visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities, meetings, email, teleconferences, and videoconferences. The only exceptions to this ban are ISS operations and multilateral meetings outside of Russia involving other nations.

American astronauts can no longer hitch a ride on the  Russian Soyuz spacecraft

American astronauts can no longer hitch a ride on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft

The official statement that NASA released last night said that the aim of this ban signals a change in NASA policy, which will now target funding at launching manned spacecraft from US territory, and that the Obama administration is encouraging Congress to provide additional funding. This follows a NATO statement on Monday saying that the Alliance is suspending all civilian and military cooperation with Russia.

So where does this leave our space program? Somewhere between a rock and a hard place AND/OR a BIG opportunity for private space companies. We’ll see over the coming months just what direction and innovations are proposed and implemented. Perhaps after all those years of NASA stepping on the toes of private enterprise joining the big boy club, the little guys may just take the entire brass ring.

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