With the US Congress set to slash its budget by $300 millions, NASA is fuming as its astronauts will have to fly by Russian launch vehicles to go to the International Space Station at the cost of about $70 million per flight.
Already buoyant with its plans for another space station, Russia may take lead in the space race as the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee voted to cut over $300 million from NASA’s budget, that may cripple the US space agency to cancel its agreements with private players like SpaceX and Boeing to build rockets for missions from 2017.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA’s plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead focuses to write checks to Russia,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on Wednesday.
He said NASA will be forced to rely on Russia and pour into the Russian space program hundreds of millions instead of developing its own space program. “By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own,” he noted.
NASA has recently signed contract worth $4.2 billion with Boeing and $2.6 billion with SpaceX to send manned missions to the moon.Though the budget cut may go to the Senate subcommittee where an amendment is expected to take few more days.
Democrat Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has clarified the that the American flights still face two years of delay, forcing the US rely upon the Russian launches. “We need to wake up to what is happening,” he said.
The worst affected from the delay is SpaceX, which has pushed its plan to build a massive new airport hangar to keep its Falcon Heavy vehicle and two Falcon 9 rockets, just adjacent the Kennedy Space Center.