NASA has cut off most of its cooperation with the Russian government except activities related to the operation of the International Space Station. In an unusually blunt statement, the space agency blamed Congress for delaying U.S. crew flights to the orbiting outpost:
Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.
Editor’s Note: This statement is aimed as much (or more) at Congress as the Russians. And it nails the point succinctly. There is a clear and workable solution that would allow us to end our dependence on Russia and restore our proud heritage in human spaceflight. Congress has been response for delaying its implementation. And that needs to end.