NASA Uses Russia-Ukraine Conflict to Seek More Space Funding

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 01:49 PM

By Courtney Coren

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NASA is using the Russia-Ukraine conflict to seek funding from Congress to put astronauts back into space.

NASA announced in a memo on April 2 that it was suspending contact with Russia's Roscosmos space agency because of the nation's aggression toward Ukraine in Crimea, except for activities that were necessary at the International Space Station, UPI reported.

The Russian crisis has led NASA officials to blame Congress for putting the United States in the position of having to rely on Russia for human space exploration, NASA said in a statement, National Journal reported

"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," the statement said.

"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 . . . back to the United States next year."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden testified before Congress on Tuesday that getting the necessary funding of $850 million to start building commercial space partnerships is his top priority for the new budget.

NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011, and the United States now sends $70 million to Russia for each American astronaut that hitches a ride to the International Space Station.

In March, Bolden told a different House committee that "the choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to American soil or continuing to send millions to the Russians . . . The Obama administration chooses to invest in America — and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same."

The original plan was for the United States to start launching its own astronauts again in 2015, but budget cuts have pushed that back for at least another three years.

Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, told Bolden that what Congress has provided to NASA has been more than adequate and that Congress has "protected this program."

Other Republicans pointed to the administration's sanctions against Russia as partly to blame for the threat to NASA's space flight program, not budgetary matters.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, a former astronaut, said he is committed to making sure NASA gets proper funding, calling American commercial spaceflight "vital."

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