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NASA ISS United States

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

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 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.

  • 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.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:50PM (#47040679) Homepage

    And that little fact is almost entirely due to Congress' inability to think past pork and the next re election cycle. Yes, NASA has some internal issues (as does every human endevour with more than one person involved) but yo-yo funding and put-it-here thinking have really trashed the agency.

    You reap what you sow. /grump

  • 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.

  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:55PM (#47040705)

    And that little fact is almost entirely due to Congress' inability to think past pork and the next re election cycle.

    So much of the budget is off-limits (social security and medicare) that the only areas left vulnerable to cutting are things like NASA.

    The USA has locked itself into forced spending in some areas and it's squeezing other areas.

  • by MildlyTangy ( 3408549 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:21PM (#47040879)

    I dont think the issue is how much money it costs sending US astronauts on Russian rockets, the issue is that the Russian rockets are the only option right now.

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:22PM (#47040881)
    Yes, as it should be. What those who bring up SS and Medicare never seem to want to say is that there is a specific tax collected to pay for those items, and until the recent collapse a few years ago, that tax brought in a SURPLUS every year. Even with a few years of no surplus from revenue (it's reserves are still growing, however), the fund will be in the black for the next 20+ years. Try blaming something that isn't affecting the budget with a negative.

    Here's an idea, lets gt rid of the F-35 program, a plane we don't need, is behind schedule, is massively over budget, and still can barely get off the ground. The cost projection for that one useless pork program, if given straight to NASA, would double their budget for the next 80 years.... of course, that's ignoring any MORE cost overruns that the F-35 will have in the future. It's odd, i don't find the phrase "create and maintain a global military hegemony" anywhere in the Constitution.

    The answer to the question put forth, though, is pretty simple: congress has been inundated with complete fucking idiots who couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag even if they had instructions. The complete idiots who are anti-science, anti-education, anti-intelligence... these people who rail against progress, all the while using and abusing their positions for their own political power. That's why we're in this situation. Every time you see someone on these boards who complain NASA isn't needed, or hasn't done anything useful.... those people exemplify is the reason why we're at this point: pure, unadulterated, stupidity.
  • by MildlyTangy ( 3408549 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:25PM (#47040895)

    17 bil? is that all? 17 measly billion dollars a year for all of NASA?

    Shit guys, get your act together. You spend more money a year on air conditioning for the US Army ( ~$20bil )

    Nice set of priorities you have there.

    seriously, wtf!?

  • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:13PM (#47041863)
    NASA's bureaucracy has had a long history driven into the ditch by Congress. No system can survive to function in any meaningful way when someone is constantly turning the steering wheel every which way while simultaneously and randomly jabbing the clutch, the brake, the accelerator, flipping switches and levers back and forth in the manner of a spastic three year old whom just finished downing the entire sugar bowl and six cans of Red Bull.
  • 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.

  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:09PM (#47043175) Journal

    [...] send robots out to explore other planets, and let real science move on.

    What's sad is that you figure that the robots are doing "real science."

    Remember that "real science" is pretty boring to most people. The conclusions are interesting but the actual study, hypotheses, testing--y'know, that whole "scientific method" stuff--is pretty damn dull unless it's something you're specifically interested and knowledgeable about. There is plenty of "real science" happening on ISS but since most of us don't understand it, we poo-poo it. Heck, just look at the information returned on the last Dragon capsule []. Boring shit, right?

    The robots, as you imply, are doing exploration, which is a bit more exciting. "What's over the next hill?" is a far more exciting question than "Why is that hill there?" The first one is exploration. The second one is "real science."

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle