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NASA cuts ties with Russia

By

April 3, 2014

NASA's dependence on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft (pictured) to send astronauts to the ISS...

NASA's dependence on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft (pictured) to send astronauts to the ISS will cause problems after NASA cut ties with Russia

The Ukraine crisis reached into space yesterday as NASA confirmed that it is cutting ties with the Russian space program. With the exception of continued cooperation aimed at keeping the International Space Station (ISS) operating, the agency says that in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, it will no longer participate with its Russian counterparts on projects, bilateral visits or communications.

NASA has been carrying on bilateral relations with Russia since the early 1990s. In order to improve relations after the fall of communism and the collapse of the USSR, and to provide jobs for Russian rocket scientists to keep them from seeking work with unfriendly powers, Russia was invited to become a full partner in the ISS; providing not only modules, but also Soyuz and Progress space capsules to ferry crews and carry cargo to and from the station. However, geopolitics back on Earth have radically altered that relationship in a very short time,

On Wednesday morning, The Verge revealed a leaked memo that had come into its possession stating that, "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."

The memo went on to say that 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.

Last night, NASA released a statement confirming the contents of the memo saying that, "NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station."

The statement goes on to state 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.

The effects of this ban will make NASA’s manned spaceflight program problematical for the next few years. After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA astronauts became completely dependent on the Russian Soyuz capsules for traveling to the space station, with a ticket price of US$70.6 million per seat. Even though NASA is developing the Orion deep-space vehicle and several private companies are working on manned spacecraft for shuttling to the ISS, they are still years away from going into full service.

In addition, the ban will also mean NASA and its vendors will have to rethink launch vehicles designed to use Russian components for which replacements will have to be found.

Sources: NASA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
14 Comments

Nasa, supporting democracy as long as the people vote to be part of the west.

fenshwey
3rd April, 2014 @ 06:03 pm PDT

Thank you so much, George W. Bush, for the brilliant idea to shut down the shuttle program prematurely. We could have kept that launch capability for the foreseeable future if we hadn't spent trillions of dollars on the Iraq War.

Gadgeteer
3rd April, 2014 @ 06:13 pm PDT

Gadgeteer - Really...your still blaming Bush for all the worlds problems...He left the office over 5 years ago...I think it's time to move on.

NASA should not be in the rocket building business, companies like Space X can bring whatever NASA may need to space, for a far better price tag.

For now, Russia may think that they have the US over a barrel when it comes to our astronauts getting into space, but they don't. Space X's Dragon capsule, is pressurized and safe enough for people, and could be quickly converted if we were in an absolute pinch. But since were not, theirs no point in looking into it, since the manned version of the dragon is a little over a year away.

The shuttles were clearly long in the tooth, and an un-safe design to begin with. Bush put NASA in the direction of the Constellation program, which Obama changed much of it in 09', and then he also under funded the whole thing, and now the Orion spacecraft isn't even expected to have a manned version of it in space before 2020!

Government in general is a massive waste of tax money, they are no longer needed to launch people into space, and should no longer attempt to. Russia may look like the top dog in space right now, but their entire space agency is rusting away. While the US has Space X, which is breaking the mold, and pushing space access innovations further then Russia could have ever hoped for.

Derek Howe
4th April, 2014 @ 02:04 am PDT

No, Derek Howe, I don't blame Bush for all the world's problems. Just the many he's responsible for. You can't deny that he killed the shuttle with no replacement available, just some pie in the sky Constellation program which was justifiably cancelled because it was over budget, behind schedule and with no guarantee it would even get off the ground. Not even his fiercest supporters can deny that he started the Iraq War on false pretenses, with lies about WMDs that Colin Powell is still furious about. That war has cost trillions that we could have used elsewhere, like for NASA.

Doesn't matter that the shuttle was "long in the tooth." If that was the only criterion, why are the astronauts now flying on the even older Soyuz platform?

SpaceX? It'll be years before that's man-rated. You're really looking at them through rose-colored glasses.

Gadgeteer
4th April, 2014 @ 05:26 am PDT

You have to laugh really don't you! It's pathetic all this posturing on both sides. The US have no right to decide what happens in Europe, especially when they're now a bit of a joke power. As for my own UK, they're the biggest joke of all! All of the west has been taking dodgy money from Russia for years, hence why the sanctions are minimal. This pathetic statement by one of the world's most respected institutions is the latest in a line of major political faux pas and downright stupid statements. "We're not playing spacemen any more...oh, by the way, you don't mind giving us a lift to the ISS, do you?"........We all know what the answer's going to be, don't we?

The Master
4th April, 2014 @ 05:36 am PDT

So now the big kid in the schoolyard is taking his ball away and obstinately wants to play with his chosen friends, even if it costs him more to get new equipment...

You got it right Mr. Master. It's just a lot of pompous posturing, but most of it is coming from the US. The Russians have an extensive space experience, and practically, they can do whatever NASA and profit-driven SpaceX can do at a lower cost. An example of their resourcefulness is the Antonov 225. A workhorse of a cargo plane that can do whatever a Boeing C6 can do, with a bare-bones set up that is very reliable and economic. This is the Russian character.

America's attitude is polarizing the world. They're going broke (17 trillion and counting) but they still over-extend themselves internationally, like a player at a casino who's deep in the red, keeps committing himself to higher bets and refusing to back off and cut his losses. One hopes that the USA will get it's act together and stop the outsourcing of jobs and all that military spending, but it looks like their plan is to stay in the war business to keep ahead of the curve.

Besides, Russia has been working with China in many areas including space, and why shouldn't they? Yup, the world is getting polar and it need not be this way.

Talking politics on Gizmag?

owlbeyou
4th April, 2014 @ 08:50 am PDT

@owlbeyou - Antonov 225 cargo plane designed and built in Ukraine. It isn't even Russian.

If you recall a decade or so ago when the ISS was constructed and Russia wasn't able to deliver its modules on time. So bad the delay was the other partner countries were planning to kick it out of ISS.

You say that "Russians can do whatever NASA and profit-driven SpaceX can do at a lower cost". Do you have data to back it up?

Ilya Katsnelson
4th April, 2014 @ 11:50 am PDT

owlbeyou: Governments can't do anything constructive, after calculating the net cost. The market, i.e., private enterprise (no cronyism), must be efficient or go out of business. It must be innovative to stay in business or lose out to competition. Govt. is not accountable. It has a moral/blank check. It lasts until it bankrupts its worshipers and forced supporters (voluntarists).

We will never know how far space exploration/exploitation would have advanced in a free world or even in a free American. Perhaps starships would be a fact, not a dream. Taxation/regulation has almost killed the world market.

I supported the U.S. space program in the sixties because I knew the money would be wasted somewhere and I thought it was the lessor of evils. That was a mistake. The principles involved should never be compromised or suspended. Taxation is theft. It is theft no matter how the money is spent. No good can come of it in the long run, and it is difficult to predict the long run. For example, the West loved Hitler in the '30s. He was Time's "Man of the Year". Hundreds of thousands attended support rallies in the U.S. Fascism was the craze. Germany was rebuilt/armed by U.S./British banks, not supermen. Hitler and his platform of nationalism and national security justifies totalitarianism was supported as a "necessary evil" by the German people, including German Jews who claimed, "I'm a citizen first, a Jew second." It looked like Germany would be the new dominate empire, in the short/medium run.

How did sacrificing human rights to national security work out for Nazi Germany?

What has U.S. spending programs done to our economy? Or the world's governments spending done to the world economy?

Don Duncan
4th April, 2014 @ 01:50 pm PDT

So lame, like reliving 1984 movie 2010 Today.

Least ISS is going with Russia.

Need Our own craft, & cut bureaucracy to make happen please.

Thanks

Save 5-7 years on R&D can help./

Stephen N Russell
4th April, 2014 @ 03:51 pm PDT

Don Duncan: assuming US government was never involved in space program. I wonder, how would you justify to your shareholders or some VC that you plan to spend billions of their dollars developing something that no one knew at the time could even work, let alone bring revenue?

SpaceX and others are making some headway because (1) they are backed by some very wealthy people, (2) the humanity knows it could be done.

So, no, government shouldn't be in busyness of running airlines, or car companies, or ferrying astronauts. But basic research - private companies frankly suck at it. They are very good at commoditizing it (look at GPS), but not at starting it.

Ilya Katsnelson
4th April, 2014 @ 04:10 pm PDT

Whenever one nation pronounces itself better than another there is not much room left for hobbies like playing with rockets together.

You don't really want the occupants of that tin can up there arguing about who is better than who.

nutcase
4th April, 2014 @ 05:56 pm PDT

Morons. (Referring to the governments / bureaucrats involved, not fellow readers.) Both [morons] are "cutting off their noses to spite their faces," as an old cliche goes. And NASA's response is just ridiculously silly (not to mention embarrassing); they are in not exactly in a position of strength from which to make threats. Excuse me while I go regurgitate in an attempt to rid myself of the foul taste in my mouth.

Maxwithershins
6th April, 2014 @ 10:59 am PDT

NASA is just following the overall gvt's decision re Russia. And that decision is not only based on love/hate of gadgets, it's far more informed and justifiable than many here see. Learn history of pre WW2 and you'll see what can happen when maniacs aren't stopped in advance.

YuraG
6th April, 2014 @ 11:32 am PDT

@ fenshwey

An Vote held by and under the guns of a invader is not an expression of democracy.

Slowburn
6th April, 2014 @ 09:06 pm PDT
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