Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snatching Defeat from Victory in the Space Race

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Russian spacecraft blasted off into a clear Central Asian sky Tuesday, carrying a three-man crew on their way to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz TMA-06M lifted off from the rolling steppes of Kazakhstan as scheduled Tuesday afternoon to deliver NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin to the orbiting station.
After a two-day journey, they will join U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan's JAXA agency.
Of the three, only Ford has been on a space flight before. He spent two weeks in space as pilot of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009 on a mission to transport scientific equipment to the station.
Wonderful...wonderful.  But, did you know that the Russians are charging us to send an American along for the ride?  Guess how much...go ahead....guess.
Dependable, yes. And a monopoly -- which lets the Russians charge NASA $60 million a ride, contributing roughly 10 percent of the entire space budget.
Of course, $60 million buys more than just a round trip on the Soyuz. American astronauts also get an extensive training program, which includes a dip in what may be the world's most specialized swimming pool.
But there are undercurrents of resentment at NASA that America's space program is now hostage to Russian technology. It's an issue that Palmer brought up with Oleg Kotov, deputy chief at the Gagarin Training Centre.
That's right.  Since we gutted our space program, we are dependent upon Russia for a ride.  They decided that $60 Million per trip sounded about right, and now the US taxpayer is shelling out for 10% of the Russian space program.  At least we still have our overgrown Tonka Toys on Mars.  Enjoy your day.

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