Hitching a Ride With the Russians

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Never in my life have I seen America laid so low in the scientific exploration of space. With the space shuttles being fully retired, American astronauts will now be going into space—in Russian space capsules! Since the United States, which is totally BROKE, has no space capsules of its own (we used up all of the money for the space shuttle program), and has no money to develop any, now has to rely on the Russians to go into space and go to the International Space Station or even low orbit over the Earth.

From sending men ton the Moon to hitching a ride with the Russians has got to be one of the biggest setbacks in the annuals of human history. Twenty-five years ago the United States was capable of sending 22 astronauts into space a year on average. Now the United States will be lucky if it can send three to four astronauts into space with the Russians per year. But do not blame the Russians for the failure of the U.S. government. In order for the U.S. government to be able to send astronauts into space it must pay the Russians one million dollars per astronaut to go in the Russian Soyuz capsules. Remember that this includes Russian language training lessons (former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev must be laughing in his grave at this!), training for knowing how to handle the controls of a Soyuz capsule, and living and working aboard the International Space Station.

The National Aeronautical Space Agency (NASA) may or may not have a working American space capsule by 2015, and if such a thing is developed then it will come from private industry. I say maybe because the U.S. government is cutting funds from NASA to the bone and there may be no money left for even developing a new American space capsule by 2015 or even 2020. Meanwhile the Chinese are preparing to go to the Moon, and if they get there they will most likely establish bases there as part of a permanent settlement. Russia and the European Union will be building more space stations so that they will be able to eventually have bases for their space craft to reach the Moon and beyond.

And the United States? We can thank U.S. President Barack Obama and the largely Republican U.S. Congress for America losing its technological edge for not only developing space ships to go back into space but also to go to the planets. The U.S. government is not even investing in those private companies that could build better space capsules that could put America back into space. The investment that it would take for the U.S. government to build the next generation of space capsules would bring big benefits for the United States and indeed the entire world if the U.S. government had any guts to do so.

I do not hold NASA responsible for the mess it is in. After all the politicians started cutting back on the Moon missions in the 1970’s and they forced NASA to put all of their financial and technological eggs into one basket—the space shuttle program. For the last generation the politicians have made a mess of America’s vaunted space program, and this is why we as a nation must now hitch a ride with the Russians.

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