Some lawmakers and analysts fear
that Russia's invasion of Georgia may hurt U.S. space exploration. The U.S.
space agency, NASA, depends heavily on Russian launch vehicles to reach the
international space station. Analysts say deteriorating relations between
Washington and Moscow could cut off U.S. access to Russian Soyuz
spaceships. Leta Hong Fincher has more.
The United States and Russia have been working together on the International Space Station since 1993
The United States first invited
Russia to collaborate on the International Space Station in 1993. Russia had
years of experience with its Mir space station and was able to offer U.S.
astronauts transportation aboard its Soyuz launch vehicles. In turn,
analysts say, the U.S. was able to showcase a new relationship with its former
Cold War adversary.
"We would provide access to the [international] space station using the [space] shuttle,they [Russia] would provide access to the space station using the Soyuz vehicles and it was to be this happy era of cooperation in a new international, post-Cold War realm," said Howard McCurdy, a space expert at the American University in Washington.
That happy era appears to be ending because of Russia's invasion of Georgia and deteriorating U.S.-Russian ties.
NASA plans to retire the space shuttle in 2010. After that, the U.S. agency will only gain access to the international space station by purchasing rides on Russian Soyuz vehicles.
The law forbids U.S. government agencies from buying space-related services from Russia unless the president determines that Moscow is taking steps to prevent weapons transfers to Iran.
Some space experts worry about what might happen to U.S. space programs if Congress does not extend the waiver
NASA has a waiver, but it expires in
Space experts say if Congress does
not extend the waiver, U.S. space programs could suffer.
Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.
"It is very important that Congress pass waiver authority to allow the United States to negotiate with Russia to purchase more seats aboard the Soyuz launch vehicles," said Scott Pace, the director of the Space Institute at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. "Otherwise we won't have access to the international space station after the shuttle program ends in 2010."
Republican presidential nominee John McCain and other lawmakers have voiced concern about Russia's reliability as a partner on the space station.
The era of post-Cold War cooperation appears to be ending because of Russia's invasion of Georgia and deteriorating U.S.-Russian ties
Still, some space experts argue that
despite political tensions, the U.S. and Russia must continue to cooperate in
"Almost everything we do in space
today is done in some international context," McCurdy added. "When we go to
Saturn, the probe that drops onto Titan is made by the European Space Agency.
Every space program practically speaking has an international component, and the
international space station is probably the sterling example of that
McCurdy and others argue that learning how to collaborate across geopolitical boundaries will be critical not just for space exploration, but for all other scientific challenges of the 21st century.
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