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As NASA Seeks Next Mission, Russia Holds the Trump Card 250

Posted by samzenpus
from the catbird-seat dept.
Geoffrey.landis (926948) writes "After the space shuttle retired in 2011, Russia has hiked the price of a trip to the International Space Station, to $71 million per seat. Less well recognized is the disparity in station crews. Before the shuttle stopped flying, an equal number of American and Russian crew members lived on board. But afterwards the bear began squeezing. For every two NASA astronauts that have flown to the station, three Russians have gone. Eric Burger asks, how did it come to this?"
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As NASA Seeks Next Mission, Russia Holds the Trump Card

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  • by rossdee (243626)

    Maybe we can persuade The Donald to invest in space exploration.
    Then no Russians would be needed.

    • Re:Trump (Score:5, Informative)

      by nitehawk214 (222219) on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:21PM (#47040871)

      Maybe we can persuade The Donald to invest in space exploration.
      Then no Russians would be needed.

      In dollars, Musk [google.com] is worth 5x Trump [google.com]. Musk has made more money this year than Donald Trump's entire portfolio is worth.

      In value to society, it is incalculable.

      • This.

        PLUS, one of the reasons Musk made so much money was because: how did it really come to this? It came to this because NASA and Presidents and Congress all made BAD decisions.

        Against better advice, I might add.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      Why? He's got negative net worth. On paper a homeless person has more money than Trump and things like the todays IRS result against a Swiss bank may make that reality.
      There's plenty like Gates, Buffet, Murdoch etc who didn't have to hide their money due to epic failures.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:26PM (#47040505)

    Russia being Russia is the best thing that can happen to Space X if they have what it takes.

  • So many mistakes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:38PM (#47040591)

    1. The ISS was a mistake in and of itself. The science its done wasn't worth the money. There were cheaper ways to attain the same knowledge. That money could have been better spent on other NASA projects.

    2. Never trust the Russians. By all means do whatever in the name of diplomacy. But NEVER trust them. It goes back to the policy under Reagan... Trust but Verify... which really means we DO NOT trust them but we do business with them in a safe and sustainable way.

    3. Allowing the US to lose its ability to go to space while the ISS remained active.

    4. Not cultivating alternatives from spaceX etc that offered to fill the gap.

    It goes without saying that the US is run badly these days. The politics being what they are about half the population will never admit it but such is the reality. As a people, we need to grow beyond our factionalism, find common ground, and hold our leaders to some reasonable standards. Otherwise, we'll just bounce between one faction's incompetents and the other's. Each side giving the profound incompetence of its own candidates a blind eye until they're out of political capital and then it shifts to the next guy. Back and forth.

    • by Bodhammer (559311)
      Well said, wish I had mod points.
    • Re:So many mistakes. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:53PM (#47040699) Journal

      The point of the ISS wasn't really to do science in space, but rather to learn the problems and solutions of long term habitation.

      • Re:So many mistakes. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ArcherB (796902) on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:00PM (#47040733) Journal

        The point of the ISS wasn't really to do science in space, but rather to learn the problems and solutions of long term habitation.

        Right. And that is science!

        I'm not disagreeing with you. The ISS is the only place to do that kind of science, which the parent you were responding to seems to think there is some cheaper way of doing.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        And to learn to cooperate with other countries. Remember that most of the ISS wasn't built by the US. Why shouldn't Russia send as many cosmonauts there as it likes, if the US is unwilling to pay the price any more?

        It seems like the US wasn't really all that serious about cooperation from the start. From petty squabbling over the name of the core module (which was built by Russia) to blocking China.

      • The principle science was actually done by the russians long before the ISS was launched. Either way, there were better ways to accomplish the same thing.

    • 1. The ISS was a mistake in and of itself. The science its done wasn't worth the money.

      The same can be said for any large, multi national project - science, engineering, 'sports'.

      There were cheaper ways to attain the same knowledge.

      Always. Especially in hindsight and especially before a project is started.

      That money could have been better spent on other NASA projects.

      See previous.

      2. Never trust the Russians. By all means do whatever in the name of diplomacy. But NEVER trust them.

      Don't trust ANYBODY. Including ourselves.

      3. Allowing the US to lose its ability to go to space while the ISS remained active.

      4. Not cultivating alternatives from spaceX etc that offered to fill the gap.

      It goes without saying that the US is run badly these days.

      Yep, Stupid. Stupid. Even for the US, it was stupid.

      The politics being what they are about half the population will never admit it but such is the reality. As a people, we need to grow beyond our factionalism, find common ground, and hold our leaders to some reasonable standards. Otherwise, we'll just bounce between one faction's incompetents and the other's. Each side giving the profound incompetence of its own candidates a blind eye until they're out of political capital and then it shifts to the next guy. Back and forth.

      While your goals are laudable, they are not likely achievable. Look back at the 10000 year history of 'modern' man and you s

    • by Tom (822)

      It goes without saying that the US is run badly these days.

      The US? Have you opened your eyes recently? Most european countries have their worst governments since... idk, mad kings of the dark ages or something. They are either corrupt, incompetent, puppets or all three.

      Russia may well be the best-run western(*) country these days. If you think badly about Putin, talk to some russian people about how it was before him. I did, and it was quite a learning experience.

      (*) yes, I count Russia as western, by culture and economy. "west/east" doesn't make sense anymore, the

      • by dbIII (701233)

        Most european countries have their worst governments since

        You should be old enough to remember when Greece was run by a fascist government. Then there's Spain, Romania was a horror story, and that's not even getting started on the bits of Yugoslavia when it first broke apart.

  • Maybe the reason more Russians are going up than Americans is because it costs $71Million to send an American.

    NASA's 2014 budget is ~$17.5B, and they do a lot of really good stuff, the ISS is kinda low on that totem pole, if you ask me. There's a lot more to space exploration than sitting in the ISS, babysitting experiments, chatting with school kids and waiting for your ride

  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:44PM (#47040637)

    Eric Burger asks, how did it come to this?

    I think this one's pretty friggin' obvious. We discontinued our man-rated means to low earth orbit before we had a working replacement. It's the exact same way we lost Skylab, except we were theoretically cooperating with Russia this time, while last time we weren't. Obviously our degree of cooperation was misunderstood, and they have chosen to exploit our weakness.

    Mind you, our man-rated means to low earth orbit was ridiculously inefficient compared to what it was supposed to cost, and the turnaround on our pretty little space planes was orders of magnitude worse than the week-or-two expected between launches. It was so expensive that our politicians wouldn't push for a small, inexpensive (relatively speaking) method to reach space for when we didn't need a crew of ten and a payload of ten tons. Had we spent the money to either refine the Saturn-series to make them less expensive and more efficient or started on a new project after the Shuttle finally got going then we probably wouldn't be in this predicament now.

    At least it'll be good for a relative up-and-comer in SpaceX and to a lesser extent to Orbital/ATK.

    This hopefully will be a lesson for not discontinuing one's own abilities before being ready with a new program, but you'd think that Skylab falling from orbit and burning up would have taught us that lesson.

    • Had we... started on a new project after the Shuttle finally got going then we probably wouldn't be in this predicament now.

      We did. Over and over again, in fact. They all got killed off / restarted / killed off again due to politics and bureaucratic in-fighting.

      • The X-37 program run by the Air Force has delivered a re-usable but unmanned stealth vehicle that has been undertaking military missions for almost 4 years now with little fanfare and the manned version is close to being ready for testing. I am surprised that Russia or China isn't raising a stink over this vehicle that renders damn near every satellite in orbit vulnerable to being destroyed.

        • by Zorpheus (857617)
          China already showed that it can destroy satellites too. They left a big mess behind, but that won't be their problem if the USA decides to block their access to space anyway.
  • Why do we need Russia if we now successfully can use Paypal?

    Errr... I mean SpaceX.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      We tried to but we kept getting a popup that tried to force us to sign up for "Launch me Later"

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:50PM (#47040685) Homepage

    But afterwards the bear began squeezing.

    Bull. Shit. During the Russia Ukrane conflict America had a few choices.
    1. Not our monkeys, not our circus. Avoid international diplomatic and military actions that may exacerbate the situation.
    2. Military intervention.
    3. Diplomatic intervention.

    we avoided 1 entirely because this hasnt been our style since 1910. We avoided 2 because we have a 25 year track record of failed wars and coups, not to mention king georges debacle in iraq. we also dont pick fights with countries that possess a nuclear fleet or long range bombers. Three works, and it works because we're beholden as members of NATO to protect our allies. because we rely on russia very little (as does russia us) we expect to get away with what basically amounts to a great deal of symbolism.

    If russia were sending more than just a shot across the bow for America to stop with the sanctions and rhetoric, it could...
    1. categorically deny access to Baikonur for american companies who rely on inexpensive satellite lift services
    2. gift Iran with a host of technical engineers and troops to help complete a functional nuclear powerplant.
    3. Re-value or cease export of oil to the united states...its just 5% of our total consumption, but they could offer incentives to Venezuela who provide 10% of american oil to refuse service as well. still, 5% would be enough to send our stockmarkets into a brisk panic.

    I very sincerely doubt Russia wants any part of a sincere challenge, so dicking with astronaut counts and the cost of a space toilet seems reasonable.

    • | I very sincerely doubt Russia wants any part of a sincere challenge, so dicking with astronaut counts and the cost of a space toilet seems reasonable

      The Russians are imposing sanctions on themselves, to pre-empt the embarrassment of US doing it to them first.

      "Oh, so you are thinking of ordering Lockheed to stop buying our RD-180 engine for hard currency? Nyet! We'll ban it first!"
    • Three works, and it works because we're beholden as members of NATO to protect our allies.

      Erm, no NATO countries have been threatened by Russia.

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      Somewhat more inspiring than Nixon's "You know what, this whole moon thing is overrated. Let's scrap it" speech.

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        Of course we absolve LBJ from any of this considering he had to curtail most of NASA's activities to pay for Vietnam the Great Society. [thespacereview.com] Even back in the mid 1960s Johnson's administration was looking for a way out and even contemplated doing joint missions with the Soviets. After the 1967 Outer Space treaty NASA's budget was cut, which was before old RMN was in office. Yeah, LBJ he fostered NASA for years in congress and nearly killed it in his own presidency.

        • by dbIII (701233)

          Johnson's administration was looking for a way out and even contemplated doing joint missions with the Soviets

          Which would have been far better than Nixon deciding to let Skylab fall when it was still new and the end of the era. It's a pity LBJ decided to fuck around with a French Colonial War to try to get a cheap victory and be remembered as a "War Hero President" instead of doing something like joint missions. If we'd got a moonbase out of it would it really have mattered if it had two flags on it? Rus

  • It came to this because American politicians are short-sighted assholes who cut budgets.

  • by meerling (1487879) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:01PM (#47041265)
    They increased the price to $71 million.
    From what?
    If it was previously $70 million, so what. Sure that's a lot of money to use, but maybe it was justified.
    On the other hand, if it was from something like $22 million, then some big flags should have been raised in the fraud dept.

    Actually in 2006 is was $22 million, but if the article is going to use the new prices as a point, it needs to mention what the previous price was, otherwise it's just an unqualified statement. Speaking of which, why didn't anyone start yelling when they more than tripled the price?
    • Re:To $71million (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:22PM (#47041415) Journal

      From NASA's inspector general [nasa.gov]

      After NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, the Russian Soyuz became the only vehicle capable of transporting crew to the ISS. Between 2006 and 2008, NASA purchased one seat per year. Beginning in 2009, NASA started purchasing six seats per year. The price per seat has increased over the years from $22 million in 2006, to $25 million in 2010, to $28 million in the first half of 2011. During the second half of 2011, the price per seat jumped to $43 million.4 The price has continued to increase. For example, the price of purchased seats for launches in 2014 and 2015 are $55.6 million and $60 million, respectively. In April 2013, NASA signed another deal with Russia valued at $424 million for six additional seats to carry NASA astronauts to the Station during 2016 through June 2017, and the price per seat has increased to $71 million.

  • When it is not Stationary?

  • Rogozin stated:

    "The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one,” Rogozin said. “The U.S. one cannot."

    The Russian boosted segments-- Zarya, Zvezda, Poisk Pirs total about 45,000 kg

    The US boosted segments--mostly trusses, laboratories, docking modules, etc total 240,000 kg...

    Now, the US paid for Zarya (the very module that enables Rogozin to claim operational independence) and the Europeans and the Japanese and the Canadians paid for various components that were lifted by NASA's

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:04PM (#47042609)

    If you think you can do it cheaper USA, go for it. Otherwise don't complain about how much another country charges you.

  • Russia is enjoying all the benefits of a Capitalist Free Market and America is crying about it.

    Swallow a teaspoon of cement and HARDEN UP people!

    You VERY SUCCESSFULLY engineered yourself into a situation where you have NO OTHER OPTION and you ONLY NOW wonder why it's so freakin expensive?

    THE WORLD IS FULL OF IDIOTS, POLITICIANS DON'T UNDERSTAND CONSEQUENCES BEYOND THE NEXT ELECTION, TANSTAAFL, YMMV, Murphy Rules.

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