Saturday will mark 1,500 days since the Space Shuttle touched down for the final time. Grounding human spaceflights was always supposed to be temporary as we made the necessary transition to a new generation of spacecraft, operated by American commercial carriers. Likewise, paying for seats on Russian spacecraft to send our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) was always intended to be a stopgap.
Had Congress adequately funded President Obama’s Commercial Crew proposal, we could have been making final preparations this year to once again launch American astronauts to space from American soil aboard American spacecraft.
Instead we are faced with uncertainty—and we will continue to be so long as Congress resists fully investing in Commercial Crew.
What we do know for certain is that every dollar we invest in Moscow is a dollar we’re not investing in American businesses in Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota or any of the 35 states where 350 American companies are working to allow the greatest country on Earth to once again launch our own astronauts into space.
It’s as if we keep ordering expensive takeout because we haven’t yet set up our own kitchen—only, in this case, the takeout meals are costing us hundreds of millions of dollars. Just recently, NASA was left with no other choice but to write a $490 million check to our Russian counterparts so that we can get our own astronauts to the Space Station. It doesn’t have to be this way. Congress can and should still fix this by investing in Commercial Crew.
Picture: By NASA (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons