Senators Question NASA Human Spaceflight Transition Plan

U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle publicly questioned NASA’s strategy of relying on Russian transport to the International Space Station between the end of the shuttle program and the beginning of Orion and Ares, CongressDaily reports.

During a hearing last week, senators complained that President George Bush’s proposed $17.6 billion NASA budget would slow a transition that could already result in a years-long flight gap when the shuttle is retired in 2010. The concerns come amid worsening U.S.-Russian relations.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin acknowledged that a risk exists but that this is the most reasonable strategy available. The U.S. will spend about $2 billion for Russia to provide Soyuz and Progress transportation vehicles to the station through 2012. Griffin had no estimate on how much four additional years of services might cost.

Meanwhile, there seemed to be general agreement that NASA needs a waiver from a U.S. law that would prevent it from purchasing services from Russia if the Russia government continues its support of Iran’s nuclear program.