NASA has been forced to request Russia’s help due to its extremely limited funding. According to reports, NASA is short of funds to continue its “human spaceflight efforts.”
NASA said that it had been forced to extend its contract with Roscosmos, its Russian counterpart, to take U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. It will cost NASA about $490 million to extend the contract beyond 2017. Commercial alternatives in the United States have been delayed due to congressional budget cuts.
In a letter to Congress, NASA Chief Charles Bolden said: “Unfortunately, for five years now, the Congress … has not adequately funded the commercial crew programme to return human spaceflight launches to American soil this year as planned,” Bolden’s letter states, as quoted by the Guardian. “This has resulted in continued sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as our crew transport vehicle for American and international partner crews.”
U.S. taxpayers have to pay more than $80 million to Russia for each seat on a Soyuz rocket. The extension of the contract coincides with a time when Russia is facing U.S. sanctions that are stricter than ever. Washington has imposed multiple sanctions on Russia due to its alleged involvement in the political unrest in eastern Ukraine.
At the same time, the United States has to depend on Russia for station crew transportation when it has imposed a ban on imports of Russian rocket engines for U.S. military satellite launches.
Russia Today reported that the extended contract would guarantee seats in the Soyuz spacecraft. It will also ensure “comprehensive services like astronaut training and preparations for the launch, landing, and rescue of space station crew members following long-duration missions,” it reported.