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The U.S. government must now decide whether it will overlook Russia's skirmishes with Georgia

Even though Russia and Georgia have officially signed a cease-fire agreement, the volatile situation between the two nations could jeopardize whether or not NASA astronauts fly to the International Space Station aboard Russian spacecraft in the future, U.S. officials warn.

NASA will be forced to rely on Russian spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS on the Soyuz spacecraft and transport supplies from Earth to the space station once the shuttle is retired in 2010.  The next-generation Orion spacecraft is not expected to be done until 2015, at the earliest, NASA previously said.

"The new challenge we have is that for approximately five years, the plan — which is a very bad plan but is the only plan that NASA and the administration and Congress have approved — is to be dependent on the Russian Soyuz vehicle to get people to and from the international space station," said Tom Feeney, (R-FL).  "And so now, with the political realities with Russia invading Georgia, we have a new wrinkle thrown in."

Furthermore, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D, FL) also said the situation between Russia and Georgia could greatly impact the space cooperation between the United States and Russia.  Without the use of Russian spacecraft after the shuttle is retired, NASA astronauts will be unable to get to the ISS to help finish its construction.

Nelson also pointed out that a U.S. law signed in 2000 directly prohibits the government from entering contracts with any nation that gave assistance to North Korea and/or Iran with any nuclear programs -- Russia has helped the nations with their nuclear programs.  Congress must now either reauthorize the waiver so a transportation agreement can be made, or will uphold the 2000 law and not work with Russia.

So far, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has supported the waiver, though it must now pass the House, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senate.  

The French-brokered cease-fire that has been signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili forces both sides to return their troops to their original locations prior to the skirmishes.  But even with an agreement in place, tensions between the United States and Russia, the two largest contributors to the ISS, remain high.

The U.S. government must now try and determine whether or not it will move forward and pay millions to the Russian government for ferrying astronauts into space, or delay the looming retirement of the space shuttle fleet a few more years.

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Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By Jedi2155 on 8/18/2008 5:09:55 AM , Rating: 2
Keeping the shuttle fleet in service for another 5 years is an expensive prospect at a average cost of around $500 million per mission in addition to aging space frames.

Anyone know how many launches the shuttles were designed for or if the 2010 retirement is due to age issue or political/cost reasons?

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By nah on 8/18/2008 8:22:20 AM , Rating: 2
Anyone know how many launches the shuttles were designed for or if the 2010 retirement is due to age issue or political/cost reasons?

The technical documents that NASA brought out gave the shuttle a MTBF of 1 in 100,000 launches--although of course this was fiction--a better estimate would be 1 in 100. Age and cost issues are always there--why use a machine which relies on processors which are not even at 3 Mhz.

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By Spivonious on 8/18/2008 9:46:42 AM , Rating: 4
why use a machine which relies on processors which are not even at 3 Mhz.

Because if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By nah on 8/18/2008 10:53:47 AM , Rating: 2
Because if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Where did you get that from ? Read the Feynman Appendix to the Challenger disaster--there are many problems which are listed as 'may have been solved' 'probably solved' 'partially solved' and 'not solved'--13 of these problems occurred within the first 125,000 seconds of running the engine, and 3 within the next 125,000. Independent contractors for NASA give a probability ratio of 1 or 2 per 100 for chances of an engine failure--considering the Shuttle has had around 130 ? launches and two disasters--the probability ratio of around 2 per 100 seems quite accurate--you are literally playing with lives here

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By goz314 on 8/18/2008 2:10:32 PM , Rating: 2
...and of those 2 disasters, how many were directly attributable to the failure of the SSME system?
Neither of them.

Challenger was lost because of a booster o-ring failure during launch, and Columbia was lost during re-entry due to critical damage inflicted to the thermal protection system by ET foam striking the leading edge of the left wing during launch as well.

The main engine system on the orbiters is actually very reliable and robust when compared to other launch vehicles. The shuttle could actually have one of the three engines shut down during launch and either perform a programmed abort or continue on to orbit depending on the timing of the shut down.

Now, I'm not saying that Feynman was wrong. Just that the breakdown of problems or issues he listed pertained to the probability of failure in the main engine system - of which, knock on wood, there has never been a catastrophic failure.

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By croc on 8/18/2008 6:02:52 PM , Rating: 2
The Challenger was lost primarily due to the fact that the o-rings had never been tested (Indeed, the whole shuttle had not been tested) in temperatures as low as were experienced when it launched.

In my humble opinion, the launch should have been called off for better weather conditions, cost be damned. But there was great pressure from on top to get the thing launched, primarily for the PR value.

Gee, it sure got NASA some good PR, didn't it?

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By FITCamaro on 8/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By nah on 8/18/2008 10:34:23 AM , Rating: 5
Why use a human that can make mistakes?

Why travel at all ? Why not just sit at home and have a nice cup of cappucino ?

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By FITCamaro on 8/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By IvanAndreevich on 8/18/2008 1:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
You know the Russian Soyuz crafts are way, way older than the shuttle, right? They will be used more if the shuttle is retired now. I don't mind, I think the Russian space program could use some foreign cash.

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 2:21:57 PM , Rating: 1
Our own space program could use the cash far more. And as this article shows, why give money to a country as hostile as Russia?

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By Segerstein on 8/18/2008 5:36:31 PM , Rating: 1
Why give money to a country as hostile as Russia?

Do you think Russia is hostile? Hostile to whom? NATO???

Just imagine Alaska breaking away from the US in 1991 and now wanting to join a military alliance with China. With Mexico wanting to join the alliance as well...

Russia is going to be encircled with NATO countries that were once part of Russia.

As with South Ossetia and Abkhazia - these guys are not Georgian and have been put under Georgian SSR by Stalin (Georgian himself). They have been running their own affairs without any Georgian interference since early 1990s - there was no presence of Georgian institutions in those territories. Now Georgia attacked... Russian peacekeepers responded.

Who is being hostile here? But Russia is not going to be waiting to get the breadcrumbs, at the mercy of the West.

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By Ringold on 8/18/2008 8:33:11 PM , Rating: 3
So how's the FSB pay? Pretty good?

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By Maximalist on 8/19/2008 4:11:45 AM , Rating: 3
moron. another happy receiver of distorted media coverage.

RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By Aloonatic on 8/19/2008 6:11:05 AM , Rating: 2
The only moron would be someone who didn't realise that all media is distorted, as are education systems etc etc...


Apart from the BBC of course *waves union flag*


RE: Hopefully It Will Clear Up
By FITCamaro on 8/19/2008 6:11:39 AM , Rating: 2
From my understanding of the situation, yes Georgia went into South Ossetia first. But you can be pretty sure Russia picked a fight. And I hardly think responding as they did was necessary. Russia just wanted a reason to try and take back over Georgia. They thought they could do it quickly like we could. But their troops are poorly trained. The latest equipment means nothing when people don't know how to use it.

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