NASA is paying $424 million more than last year to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space.
NASA announced its new contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos yesterday. The contract asks for $70.6 million per seat for each U.S. astronaut. The previous cost had been about $65 million per seat.
The Russian space agency is currently the only way U.S. astronauts are able to get onboard the International Space Station. The $70 million will cover the cost of training, supplies and travel to and from the space station.
NASA Chief Charles Bolden blames Congress for having to pay Roscosmos. He stated that shutdown of the U.S. Space Shuttle program and congressional funding cuts to the development of U.S. commercial crew spaceships has left no alternative.
'While our Russian counterparts have been good partners, it is unacceptable that we don't currently have an American capability to launch our own astronauts,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a blog post.
Private companies, such as SpaceX and Orbital Science, are leading the race to provide commercial crew spaceflights in the near future. However, development, testing and complete vehicle certification for spaceflight hasn't been completed by the two companies yet. Even before the space shuttles were retired, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft was being used to transport U.S. astronauts.
In 2010, President Barack Obama directed NASA to invest funding in the development of U.S. commercial rockets to fly astronauts to the space station. NASA had hoped to start launching American astronauts aboard U.S. commercial spacecraft by 2015. The necessary funding of $821 million was greatly reduced in congressional cuts. Bolden said any further cuts or delays could greatly increase dependence on other partners.
"If NASA had received the president's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights," Bolden wrote.