Dammit, Congress: Just Buy NASA Its Own Space Taxi, Already
We still depend on the Russians to get to space. Why is that?
NASA’s budget for the Commercial Crew Program keeps getting raided to pay for rental seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the only current option for sending astronauts into space. We’re shelling out so much in renting Soyuz seats that we’re delaying development of Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s crew Dragon spacecraft. In doing so, we maintain an American presence on the space station while denying building capacity to maintain that presence in the future. It’s a classic case of short-term penny-pinching resulting in long-term cost.
NASA is unamused by this state of affairs. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote an open letter to Congress on August 5, 2015, scolding them over how their lack of vision is crippling the future of human spaceflight in America. The letter starts:
Across the United States, aerospace engineers are building a new generation of spacecraft and rockets that will define modern American spaceflight. The safe, reliable, and cost-effective solutions being developed here at home will allow for more astronauts to conduct research aboard the space station, enable new jobs, and ensure U.S. leadership in spaceflight this century. The fastest path to bringing these new systems online, launching from America, and ending our sole reliance on Russia is fully funding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in [fiscal year] 2016.