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Congress questions NASA about Russian partnership

The ISS.
The ISS.

Members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee are becoming concerned about the American-Russian partnership in the arena of spaceflight amid increasing international tensions over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. In an attempt to get an answer of how this impacts NASA, Representatives Lamar Smith, Mo Brooks, and Steven Palazzo wrote a letter to NASA chief Charles Bolden asking just what kind of impact Earthly discord could have on space cooperation.

These concerns in Congress come on the heels of some very heated statements from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Demitry Rogozin. Earlier this week, Rogozin announced that he would ban exports of Russia's RD-180 rocket engine to the United States unless he (and the Kremlin) was guaranteed that they would not be used for military purposes. For the record, many American rockets use this Russian engine.

The above statement was rather mild when compared to earlier ones Rogozin made, which implied that Russia would go it alone on the International Space Station if it had to (would Russia boot American astronauts?) after 2020. Additionally, in a rather sarcastic, but frank tone on Russian social media, Rogozin said that if the American government didn't like what Russia was doing politically, astronauts could always just take a trampoline into space.

This what some may consider funny statement does have a point, though: as of now, America has no way to get its own astronauts into space, which is made even sadder by the fact that we are now relying on the Russians, who we beat in the Space Race, to get us into space.

Talk about irony!

In the letter, the Congressmen write that "our international space partnerships, including our partnership with Russia, have historically endured political division. But Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin's statements raise serious concerns about the strength of those partnerships." Needless to say, all three authors have serious questions about the future of American-Russian cooperation in space.

NASA chief Charles Bolden has stated that he would address the concerns raised in the letter by May 28.

As for what America can do to remedy the problem of having no way to get astronauts into space, there are many proposals on the drawing board, both public and private. Most notable of all is the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket reminiscent of the Saturn Vs that launched the Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Additionally, many private companies are working on designs for manned space vehicles, too.

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