Despite the current tensions between the United States and Russia, the two countries continued their cooperation in space late Tuesday with the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut to the International Space Station. (Their arrival, planned for Tuesday night, has been delayed because of a technical glitch with the spacecraft, but the Soyuz is still expected to safely arrive at the ISS Thursday evening.) “It is important to note that NASA continues to cooperate successfully with Russia on International Space Station (ISS) activities,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden noted in a blog post yesterday shortly before the launch.
Bolden, though, used the launch to make the case once again for full funding of the agency’s commercial crew program in its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, arguing that was a better use of funds than continuing to pay the Russians about $70 million per Soyuz seat. “Budgets are about choices,” he wrote, echoing language from the rollout of the budget earlier this month. “The choice moving forward is between fully funding the President’s request to bring space launches back to American soil or continuing to send millions to the Russians. It’s that simple.”
Bolden was also subtly critical of past decisions by Congress to fund commercial crew at lower levels than requested. “President Obama has requested in NASA’s budget more than $800 million each of the past 5 years to incentivize the American aerospace industry to build the spacecraft needed to launch our astronauts from American soil. Had this 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.”