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Space United States

US to Pay to go to ISS 636

Posted by samzenpus
from the buy-a-pass dept.
forgotten_my_nick writes "According to BBC News, Russia has announced that it will no longer ferry US astronauts to space for free (It has been doing so for two years). From 2006 the US will be expected to pay."
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US to Pay to go to ISS

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  • Repaid already? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by irving47 (73147) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:24PM (#11215596) Homepage
    Did they already repay us for the huge amount of money we spent to pay for their parts of the station? IIRC, they claimed a few times they couldn't finish their pieces because of lack of funding, so we footed the bill...

    • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:35PM (#11215678)
      You were paying to keep missile specialists and other assorted weapons designers from going to work for dubious nations. That actually pretty much describes the entire purpose of Russian involvement: the US wanted to keep rocket scientists from going to Iran after the fall of the USSR, so it paid them to make space junk.
      • by demachina (71715) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @02:02AM (#11216612)
        I imagine that was a factor but I think you are really underestimating the experience the Russians brought to the project. They have a couple decades of hands on experience with long duration space station construction and operation. The Zarya and Zvedza modules they built are the heart of the ISS. The U.S. had no space station experience other than then the short duration Skylab flights 30 years ago which were mostly stunts to get rid of the rest of the Apollo rockets.

        It was pretty obvious the U.S. has since lost "the right stuff" to do a space station. First sign ... one failed space station design after another at huge expense over twenty years, with nothing flown.

        I think the "keeping Russian space scientists" employed was little more than saving face. In reality I think the U.S. and Boeing came to the conclusion that using the experienced Russian engineers was the only way to get actually get a working space station off the ground. They in fact paid them to build a Mir2 and it became the heart of ISS. The U.S. sure did love to rant that the Russian modules were behind schedule and over budget. Well this convieniently glosses over the fact that those were two of the most complex and challenging modules in the station, and that the U.S. and Boeing had flailed for nearly 20 years, squandered billlions and billions of dollars, and hadn't managed to build ANYTHING. More than a little hypocrisy there.

        I've seen more than a few people point out how the U.S. pays for everything on ISS. Well this is for damn sure if you count the nearly 100 billion the U.S. wasted in those awful years when they didn't building anything, and the billion dollar a pop Shuttle flights versus the tens of millions for a Soyuz or Progress flight, and it probably costs 20-50 times as much to employ Boeing engineers to build a component as it does Russian engineers. All in all I don't think the total dollars squandered really counts for much other than to prove that nobody squanders money like NASA and Boeing. The Russians have launched and run multiple successful long duration space stations for a tiny fraction of what NASA and Boeing have wasted on ISS. I think they deserve a lot more kudos for their frugality and their ability to get bang for the buck, versus the NASA/Boeing aptitude for wasting billions of dollars.
      • Either that or they build rockets that dont kill people. Russia has proven its worth in aerospace design with very little funding.

        Which would you buy for your own country, the Eurofighter or the Su-37?
    • Re:Repaid already? (Score:5, Informative)

      by bckrispi (725257) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:36PM (#11215681)
      From TFA, the Russians will be paying off this debt by putting in free man-hours in the next couple of years. Prior to the Columbia tragedy, the Russians & Americans shared the burden of transport. The Americans moved passengers, the Russians moved supplies. So yes, for the past two years, Russia has had to shoulder 100% of the transportation costs. It sounds to me like they are open to negotiation on these terms.
    • Wanna go REALLY far back? They still owe a shitload for help in WW2.
  • by thegraham (700880) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:27PM (#11215624)
    According to the article at first the US will pay in work already done on the ISS that the Russians didn't do.
  • White Elephant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3lNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:28PM (#11215631) Homepage
    In the beginning, the ISS was supposed to be a great international effort to promote science in orbit, among other things.

    We all know the 'great' and 'international' part got scrapped (well, not entirely, but still)... what about the science? With a crew of 2 members and troubles with reapprovisionment, is there any (real) science getting done on the ISS? Or is it only kept up because we already invested too much in it?
    • Re:White Elephant (Score:4, Informative)

      by Atrax (249401) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:41PM (#11215706) Homepage Journal
      I recall reading recently (New Scientist?) that the current crewing levels are barely enough for ongoing maintenance, never mind space science, which for the most part doesn't require a big-ass expensive clunky space station anyway. A lot of zero-g work can be done far more easily, aside from long-term studies, of course.

      I think in part the whole project was a mixture of diplomatic goodwill and make-work for a floundering industry sector, with a healthy helping of publicity banner thrown in. As far as I'm aware, the ISS has contributed nothing of note scientifically, and far less than it ought to have in terms of technological/engineering breakthroughs, though I'd welcome any infirmation that either confirms or denies this baseless accusation.

      I suppose it's better than nothing, but there are (could be) far better science platforms than a manned space station. Look what the HST did, for instance.
    • by qbwiz (87077) <john.baumanfamily@com> on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:53PM (#11215770) Homepage
      They were planning on studying the effects of starvation in space, but the Russians managed to screw up the experiment.
    • ...and troubles with reapprovisionment

      Dear god man! Where did you find that word?!!

      I can understand how NASA pays several hundred dollars for a hammer, but 17 characters just to say "money" is insanity!* Did you read this from a .gov site?
    • Re:White Elephant (Score:4, Informative)

      by tsotha (720379) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @03:34AM (#11217039)
      In the beginning, the ISS was supposed to be a great international effort to promote science in orbit, among other things.

      Actually, in the beginning it was supposed to be an American space station. Then when it was clear the taxpayers didn't want to pay for it the Russians were enticed to join the effort as a way to tap their supply systems and also to keep Russian engineers from moving to the Middle East and building guided missles. Then the Europeans were pushed into adding their tax dollars (for no reason I can see, from the European point of view).

      And no they aren't doing any usefull science. But then they wouldn't have with a seven man crew. What usefull science would you expect to get out of a manned space project in LEO anyway? The Russians did all the usefull human biology stuff decades ago, so I think what we'll see is more of the same old worthless stuff they did on the shuttle: high-school science projects and more space crystals that could have been grown more cheaply on the ground.

      • ASS! (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dogtanian (588974)
        >> In the beginning, the ISS was supposed to be a great international effort to promote science in orbit, among other things.

        > Actually, in the beginning it was supposed to be an American space station.

        Perhaps they didn't want to do it themselves after they figured out the acronymn for 'American Space Station'? ;-)
  • by Sta7ic (819090) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:29PM (#11215635)
    As a US citizen, I'm curious if this is fallout from our wonderful public relations. Half the known world is pissed off at us, and it wouldn't surprise me if this isn't much more than Russia saying "You want to bum a ride? How much ya got for gas money? The price of rocket fuel isn't going down, ya know."

    Hint to the current and future US Presidents: you may be the elected leader of a technological powerhouse, but you can't go it alone.

    (it'll also pay for them to keep an eye out on Japan's technology, that the EU is becoming a collected economic force to bruise egos, and China's locomative-esque economy with about a third of the world's population, too, but who knows if they pay any attention)
    • " Half the known world is pissed off at us, and it wouldn't surprise me if this isn't much more than Russia saying "You want to bum a ride? How much ya got for gas money? The price of rocket fuel isn't going down, ya know."

      Or it could simply be just the latter half of your post here.

      I mean, seriously, you're going out on a limb here to make your point that you don't like what Bush did. Why not take it a step further and blame the hurricanes in Florida on the immorality on the war?

      Frankly, I'm not the
    • by demachina (71715) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @01:34AM (#11216454)
      I certainly wouldn't be surprised if Russia didn't lob this little missile at the U.S. at this particular component because Putin is royally pissed at the outcome of the elections in Ukraine. It appears the Moscow backed thugs that were in power were thoroughly bad but I'm not sure the new government is exactly going to be a pillar of Democracy. Putin was equally unhappy about Serbia, and Star Wars(Russia is building new warheads to defeat it) and in general that the U.S. and Europe is trying slowly suffocate Russia on the world stage.

      A couple of days ago at a Collin Powell press conference Powell was talking about how important it was Ukraine get a democraticly elected government without outside interference. The reporter being especially smart, informed and ballsy pointed out the U.S. was funding Yuschenko's party through the National Endowment for Democracy and was in fact interfering in the election just as much as Moscow was. It wouldn't be suprising if the CIA was helping fuel the uprising after the previous election too, they do that sort of thing, all the time. You see "National Endowment for Democracy" is one of those big brotherisms. They don't actually promote democracy where people in a country pick the leader of their choice, they work to bend and twist countries so that only governments friendly to U.S. win, even if that outcome runs counter to the actual democratic will of the people that live there.

      It will be interesting to see how deeply the relationship between the U.S. and Russia fractures. It appears poised for a really deep schism that could lead to a new cold war. I'm wondering what will happen to ISS if the U.S. and Russia return to a true adverserial relationship. I'm pretty sure the Russians could with some work, undock the pieces they built and have a functional space station core they could use to build a new MIR while the rest of ISS eventually ends up in cinders.
  • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:29PM (#11215639) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I am not surprised by this revelation. I doubt that they would have done this if the shuttle fleet wasn't grounded. Right now, they see themselves as the only current way to get our astronauts into space, so they're going to take advantage of that. Besides, $20 million to the Russian space agency is a fraction of the cost of somehow getting a new shuttle out (if that's even possible anymore). I'm somewhat surprised that this wasnt thought of earlier.

    They pretty much have us by the jubbles and they know it. You vant an astronaut in space, comrade? Ve're your only real solution right now. Ve're going to take advantage of that. Can't say that I blame them. Ah, the capitalist spirit hits the Russian space program!
  • by clawDATA (758072)
    Just claim it as their own. What's the US going to do? Kick 'em out?

    It'd make an awesome weapon platform. They could event rent it out to the Chinese to use as a stop-over on their way to the moon. Maybe even a step toward a Russian-Chinese joint-venture on an eventual moonbase.

    The US no longer has any power in space, and Russia, true to its nature, is taking advantage of this.

    Not surprising.
    • Knowing Bush, do you think he:

      a) Would let the Russians take the space station the US paid for?
      b) Would negotiate with the Russians for a resumption of normal relations?
      c) Would simply blow up the ISS to end the argument over who owns it? (Hey, it cost less than Iraq!)
      d) Would just blow up Moscow instead?

      The Russians aren't dumb, and hijacking the ISS would be an act of war.
  • by alpha1125 (54938) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:36PM (#11215684)
    Do the astronauts get frequent flyer miles for this trip?
  • by glomph (2644) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:38PM (#11215691) Homepage Journal
    on the pickup trucks with the gun racks:

    "Gas, Grass, or Ass, Nobody Rides for Free!"
  • by D.A. Zollinger (549301) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:48PM (#11215742) Homepage Journal
    Addendum information class, 44535i

    Topic: Manouver to effectivly gain ridership from an unknown source.

    Step 1: Extend arm.
    Step 2: Make fist, then extend thumb to full open position.
    Step 3: Bend elbow to move hand from starting position to the side of the head. Count to two, return hand to starting position, count to two, and repeat.
    Step 4: Optional step for female austronauts - pull up right leg covering to expose skin.

    With any luck, you will attract the attention of passing space craft who will give you a ride to your destination of choice, preferably the International Space Station.
  • How unbiased (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Portal1 (223010)
    I don't understand how especialy the american can be reacting so egoistic and selfcetered about the INTRENATIONAL spacestation.
    Like they own the world, Actulay they own nothing they have big debts which only grow.
    I wonder how long it will take before the rest of the world start realizing this sceme.
    I am hoping i will see that day.
    And americans become again sane people.

    • Re:How unbiased (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stevyn (691306)
      I share your sentiment. We, Americans, have gone completely insane. Our culture seems to have gone from hardworking, sane individuals to a group of zombies desperately searching for something our culture will never give them.

      I blame television. If you watch the major stations, you have to be insane. In the morning, you have Matt Lauer and Katie Couric pretending to be happy and nice to each other. Then the daytime television starts and it basically consists of people fighting with or cheating on each
  • Hollow, empty shell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday December 29, 2004 @11:59PM (#11215812) Journal
    The U.S. space program today is a shadow of its past. It's primarily a holdover from a pissing match between the budding USA and the USSR.

    The USSR has ceased to be a "superpower", and the USA has established clear, military dominance. What's the point of NASA today?

    What's really interesting is the kickoff of the private/commercial space age begun with SpaceShipOne. The Ansari X-Prize wasn't the goal - it was the starting line.

    Within the next 1-2 decades, we'll see the old-style national space agencies dwarfed as pure economics brings scale to the space industry.

    Space today is basically a high-dollar, cottage industry. Everything is hand/custom made at high expense, and in painfully small volumes.

    It'll start with the obvious - people paying $25,000/seat to fly into space for an hour. Technology will be refined, prices will drop, and by the time I'm an old guy (I'm 32 now) I expect to be able to spend a week in space at a price I could actually afford.

    But that's not so big, as the reality that new uses for the reduced-cost space travel will be discovered - uses we have no way of predicting.

    Just like Edison could never have predicted micro-electronics, the future holds possibilities we can only begin to imagine!
  • by Vexar (664860) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @12:01AM (#11215828) Homepage Journal
    Okay, I did the math:
    1 seat on the Russian taxi sells commercially for $25 M US dollars, however that included several weeks of training, as the story goes.
    I believe that the Soyuz is a 3-seater. Assuming all passengers are capable astronauts, It isn't unreasonable to still expect the astronauts can travel for the same price as a civilian tourist.
    At that price, let's round up and say the seven-person Space Shuttle ride equivalent is $200 M US dollars. I believe that the cargo volume in the Soyuz is much smaller, so tack on $50-100 M US dollars for an additional supply-only launch.

    It sure seems to me like no matter how you jiggle the numbers, there really isn't much fiscal sense to fire up the Space Shuttle, for routine, non-assembly missions. A billion-dollar Shuttle launch means 1/3rd to 1/4th the investment value.

  • Part of the Strategic Arms reduction treaty, Russia is scheduled to remove all 308 R-36M MIRV systems from active service. These are hoisted by Dnepr boosters. Since 1999 the Russians have been looking for a commercial application for the Dnepr launch system. They've had a few failures and a few problems, but who hasn't? (ESA Ariane-5 for example).

    So the Russians seem to have found a good use for the Dnepr system. But the remaining problem for them is that the Russians want to stop using Baikonur cosmodrom
  • by helioquake (841463)
    The bottom line is that Russians need money to sustain their skill levels in space technology by retaining the old and training the new engineers and scientists. Or else these talents may end up in the darker side of the think-tank market.

    I am in favor of paying them off for the lift. Heck, I'm surprised that we hadn't been so far.
  • Really the US can afford to pay Russia for space trips. The problem has always been that nobody can decide whose budget is going to pay for it. This forces the issue.

    I'm not convinced that Russian boosters are any safer than US Shuttles. But whatever.
  • In other news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by noidentity (188756)
    ...companies around the world are choosing to charge for services that they have determined would otherwise be a significant burden to continue to give for free.

    Things are often offered with the understanding that they will only be lightly used. Once they become more heavily used, a different arrangement must be worked out. There is no clear division between the two, so the decision of transition is somewhat arbitrary.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If every decision involving other countries is interp
  • I think this is very understandable. As said before, Roskosmos isn't trying to make a profit off this, merely trying to break even. It would be in the best interest of international relations and the future of the ISS to not let the Russian agency forced to stop contributing to the project because they can't afford to bear the burden of it any longer. It's not like they're demanding the money either. From the article,

    "For 2005, Mr Perminov said, he had agreed a temporary barter scheme by which Russia p

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As a society that favors athletes and entertainers over people that contribute to society in real ways (other than mental masterbation) we deserve to have to pay a formerly communist country to condescend to take us to space. We have a country full of universties where teaching is for foriegners by foreigners, where we've dumbed down the curiculum so that anyone can go and keep going for as long as possible to enrich the university rather than the student. We encourage immoral, unproductive behavior and aro
  • ...for the shuttle. We hear today that the shuttle's fuel tanks are now safer, but that it may cost a bit more.

    Now the pressure will start for resuming shuttle flights. At the same time the Russians say they'll charge money to ferry the astronauts.

    Hmmm. I wonder when that phone call took place?
  • by candiman (629910) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @12:48AM (#11216120)
    The US Government cannot pay money to Russia for launch services due to an Act of Congress. This was passed to prevent any monies going to Russia (or the Soviet Union) after they supplied weapons to Iran.

    This announcement by the RSA is nothing more than a rehash of an old argument - and one that will not be solved any time soon as it would require an Act of Congress.

    The only way it can be resolved realistically is through a barter arrangement (which is what RSA is suggesting in some reports). Hence, not a lot of immediate use to the "cash-strapped Russian space program".
  • by JohnnyNuke (844661) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @12:52AM (#11216162)
    The comments so far seem to be a flamefest on Russia. Personally, I think that Russia is justified on asking for money to pay to send US astronauts into space. So what that the US is building most of the ISS personally? The Russians could care less, the US' money isn't going torwards them, but to the building. All the Russians see is that they're lugging an extra American and equipment into space at their expense. It should be common courtesy to pay back a bit for their services. You'd be pissed if that guy in the carpool who lives half an hour out of town didn't even say "Thanks" for picking him up every morning. The US should realize that they can't rely on other countries to be their taxis forever while they stall on the next generation of US spaceflight.
  • RTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mock (29603) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @03:38AM (#11217065)
    Sigh.
    As usual we get the slew of high moderated posts about how the americans built everything, and how the russians are now gouging them.
    Some people blame the americans, others the russians. All didn't read the article.

    Fact: The russians are currently ferrying everything to the station.
    Fact: NASA is grounded.
    Fact: The russians are very low on funds, and can't afford to keep doing this.

    They've stated that they'll wait to see if NASA meets its May deadline to get their shuttles going again.
    They've stated that they want to negotiate something to ease the burden (such as bartering for the man hours they currently owe for other work).
    America's response hasn't been made clear yet.

    Is this gouging? No. They haven't even entered negotiations yet.

    Should they gouge? Some of you "capitalist or die" affictionados may think so, but that kind of thinking is what drives the CEOs who only look to the next quarter's earnings, and what they can get out of it before the thing collapses.

    This doesn't work in world politics, as can be seen from the fallout of Iraq.
  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin@@@amiran...us> on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:50AM (#11219080) Homepage Journal
    1. It's a drop in the ocean. As people have said all over this discussion, its $20million per launch versus $1 billion for the shuttle. It'd make more sense to scrap the shuttle completely, give up on it, and codevelop/comanufacture Soyuez with the Russians.

    2. It's realistic. The Russian space program is extremely strapped for cash, yet we are RELYING on it to keep the ISS in space. Yes, the U.S. has probably paid more in this venture. At the same time, the U.S. has a great deal more funding avaliable. Not even the U.S. government at large, but NASA it self. NASA's budget is many, many times the size of the Russia space program.

    Instead of thinking of Russia as some kind of nebulous partner, think about it this way: For launches, we are 'contracting' out to the Russian space program.

    Doesn't sound so bad in that context, eh? Who would you rather pay? American contractors, to work on the shuttle, literally spending BILLIONS of dollars, 70% of which is pork? Or the Russian space program, which incidentially helps (slightly) our relationship with Russia, and who can do the job better, faster, and cheaper.

    Screw the shuttle. They do it better, and we should learn from them. We American's need to pull our head's out of our collective anuses.

    The Russians attempted to build a space shuttle in the 70s, and failed because of the cost (not techincal reasons). We should learn from that. It's just TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE.

    3. There's no way around it. Russia doesn't have the money any more. That's a combination of our fault and their fault, by the way. Yes, communism was failing, because it was rotten. Their new economic system, shock-therapy capitalism, has so far been a disaster, as well. We planned it for them, eh? We set Russia up for this economic nightmare. They are, however, a competent people, with immense natural resources, so they will recover. At some point. But right now, there simply is no money in the Russian Space Agencies coffers.

    For all you idiotic nae-sayers: THEY AREN'T TRYING TO GOUGE US! WHAT THEY ASK FOR IS NOTHING COMPARED TO WHAT BOEING WOULD ASK FOR! WE NEED THEM TO KEEP LAUNCHING SOYUEZ UNITS! THEY CAN'T DO IT WITHOUT FINANCIAL HELP!

    Btw: I believe the number of Soyuez missions has stepped up because us, the U.S., can't get to space!

    In comparison to our domestic contractors, or the ESA (European), or the JSA (Japanese), the Russians do a fine, cheap job.

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