US-Russia chill threatens NASA space programme
US: The chill left on US-Russian relations by Moscow’s military
incursion into Georgia could spell problems for future US access to the
International Space Station, US experts said.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will become
dependent on flights to the ISS by Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft when it
retires the shuttle fleet that has long ferried US astronauts into space
NASA will only get its successor space vehicle, Orion, planned for a
revival of trips to the moon, ready for flight in 2015 at the earliest.
That leaves the needs of US astronauts visiting the ISS vulnerable to
the possibility of a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow after
Russia’s powerful military overran much of Georgia two weeks ago in the
dispute over South Ossetia.
“If recent Russian actions are any indicator, a technical excuse to
completely block US access to the ISS for geopolitical reasons would fit
nicely into the Kremlin toolkit,” Vincent Sabathier, an expert on human
space exploration at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in Washington, told AFP.
Sabathier noted that not only was the short Georgia war a serious
thorn in relations, but also the US determination to set up in Poland
and the Czech Republic its missile defense system, which Russia calls a
threat to its military.
“Almost immediately after the Czech Republic signed an agreement with
the US to place missile defense tracking radar in its territory, oil
supplies through the Druzhba pipeline to the central European country
were reduced to a trickle ... ostensibly for technical reasons,”
The end of the three-decade-old shuttle program leaves NASA with at
least a five-year hole on which it will have to pay Russia’s space
agency to deliver and retrieve US astronauts and cargo to the ISS.
Washington, Monday, AFP