Russia’s invasion of Georgia is threatening to put a stop to NASA’s trips to the International Space Station. With the space shuttle due to retire in 2010, NASA had hoped to catch regular rides on the Russian Soyez space craft in order to ferry crews and supplies to the ISS. The US is not expected to have a replacement for the shuttle until 2015 at the earliest, so is heavily dependant on the Russians in order to keep the ISS running.
The ISS has cost the US over $100 Billion, and would essentially be useless without regular visits from Earth. The Georgia Incident is currently straining relations between the US and Russia, which will further hamper stalled negotiations that have been underway to forge an agreement between the countries that would have had NASA pay Russia billions of dollars in order to catch a ride on future Soyez missions.
Russia has said that they need an agreement in place by Sept 30 in order to build the required number of Soyez spacecrafts by the 2010 deadline. This shuttle fleet is scheduled to be grounded in 2010, and NASA has almost no ability to extend that timeframe. Critical shuttle supplies are no longer being ordered, and thousands of workers who support the shuttle have already been terminated. To make matter worse, the long awaited shuttle replacement, Orion, continues to face delay after delay. NASA recently announced that due to inadequate funding and technical issues, the Constellation space program would not be ready for testing until September 2014 at the earliest.
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