With the landing of the shuttle Atlantis in July, 2011, the United States officially retired its manned space program. It has surrendered its leadership in space, paying the exorbitant price of $52 million per ticket for American astronauts to fly aboard Russian ships to the International Space Station. In effect, Russia has total control of access to the International Space Station. In addition, many individuals interested in the space program are irate over President Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation program which would have carried the US even further into space. (More on that tomorrow.)
In an interview with CBS Astronaut John Glenn said, “We’ll actually have to go over and have our people go up on Soyuz out of Kazakhstan with Russian launch vehicles – which I don’t like. I don’t think that’s very seemly for the world greatest space faring nation as President Kennedy termed us.”
A space.com article states, “the August 24, 2011 crash of a robotic Russian cargo spacecraft highlights the United States’ need to develop new spaceships of its own, and quickly.” The loss of the unmanned Progress 44 supply vehicle was the latest in a series of Russian launch failures over the last 10 months. NASA is encouraging American private companies to take over this orbital taxi service. But that’s not in the near future. For now, the US must insure that the expensive ride we’re hopping into space is a safe one.
UPDATE: Due to safety concerns over transporting the astronauts following the recent crash of the Progress 44, the International Space Station may be abandoned until safer arrangements can be arranged. While the ISS can operate unmanned, repairs must be carried out by the astronauts. More later. RB
Tomorrow, The Future of US Space Flight Rita Bay