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Well this looks like an interesting example of why we should invest in our own science infrastructure here at home; and also a behind the scenes tug of war pulling NASA into politics.  

NASA suspends contact with Russia over Ukraine crisis

Citing Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereign and territorial integrity, NASA told its officials today that the agency is suspending all contact with Russian government representatives. In an internal NASA memorandum obtained by The Verge, the agency said that the suspension includes travel to Russia, teleconferences, and visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities. NASA is even suspending the exchange of emails with Russian officials.

This is interesting because back in March when tensions were rising, and our Astronauts who rely on Russians to taxi-them to and from the International Space Station faced the possibility of being stuck in space, NASA was very nonpolitical:

NASA's Mike Hopkins, Russia's Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy are scheduled to fly back to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Monday (March 10). NASA officials are confident that the landing will not be affected by the current political climate, however. U.S. and Russian relations have been strained in recent days due to the ongoing situation in the Ukraine. Crews on the space station have weathered political situations like this one before, Bolden said.

Currently, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft are the only vehicles that ferry NASA astronauts to space and back. NASA officials hope to change that in the future by using private spacecraft currently under development in the United States today. The U.S. space agency's Commercial Crew Program is designed to foster the growth of private spaceflight systems that may take astronauts into low-Earth orbit sometime in the near future.

"Right now, everything is normal in our [NASA's] relationship with the Russians," Bolden said. "I'm not an historian… but over the duration of the human spaceflight program, particularly over the last 15 years since International Space Station has been on orbit, it's very important to understand that it started with a partnership between the United States and Russia. That partnership in space remains intact and normal. We are continuing to monitor the situation. Our crews continue to train in Star City [Russia]."

The new policy still allows for ISS business, but to me that would only seem to be the case if Russia does not get pissed.
Ongoing International Space Station activities are exempt from this suspension, however, as are meetings with other countries held outside of Russia that include the participation of Russian officials. The directives come directly from Michael O'Brien, the agency associate administrator for International and Interagency Relations.

Earlier in March, NASA's chief executive, Charles Bolden, told reporters that "everything is normal in our relationship with Russia." But that relationship seems to have gone sour since then. Last week, Bolden used mounting tensions with Russia to blast Congress on its lack of space funding in a blog post, stating that the US' current reliance on Russian space missions was unacceptable.

At least one NASA worker is not happy:
"NASA's goals aren't political," said a NASA scientist who spoke to The Verge on condition of anonymity. "This is one of the first major actions I have heard of from the US government and it is to stop science and technology collaboration... You're telling me there is nothing better?"
The statement from NASA:
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.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Uh oh, this is NOT going to be good for (5+ / 0-)

    Howard Wolowitz's career.

  •  Cutting off one's own nose, huh? (21+ / 0-)

    Is there any better example of America's decline over the past 40 years than the space program?  From a "bold step for mankind" to "Hey, bud, can we hitch a ride with you?"

  •  maybe China will let us rent their spacecraft (7+ / 0-)

    instead.

    (snicker)

    My, how the once-mighty have fallen . . . . .

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 05:30:47 AM PDT

  •  Possibly they could jump. ;) (7+ / 0-)

    Dudehisattva...

    "Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"

    by Dood Abides on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 05:41:31 AM PDT

  •  Hi there!! I'd like to cut off my face .... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LieparDestin, rbird, terabytes

    ... to spite my nose. ;)

    This is what Republican scumbag assholes have wrought. Trying to do "space shit" on the cheap, just hire the Russians. Yeah, how's that working out shitheads.

    Time to build a NEW GENERATION Space Shuttle fleet. Use titanium this time, so that flaws in the tiles won't cause reentry disasters, etc. Build 10, with an option for 20 total.

    Then build an interplanetary battleship and call it the Enterprise.

    Military shit is the only JOBS program you can get through the Republican Congress after all.

    •  For once, GOP stinginess is not to blame here (0+ / 0-)

      Well, except of course for NASA's budget constraints.  In fact, some consistent GOP tight-fistedness would be welcome; we've consistently halved the only worthwhile effort to return manned spaceflight to the United States in favor of preserving a boondoggle we can't even afford to fly assuming it ever gets to the launch pad.

      Titanium has a density of 4500 kg/m^3, more than twice the density of RCC--the heaviest.  I won't go into details about how the previous generation Shuttle was a $1.2 billion per flight disaster.

      If you want to spend gobs of money in 28 states, then the GOP is for you.  Otherwise, you might want to consider other options.

      •  The Original design called for Titanium, but (0+ / 0-)

        at the time 99% of the worlds titanium reserves where held by the USSR. I t was impractical for the US to provide enough for the shuttle fleet within budget.

        Along with the fall of the Soviets came a revolution in Titanium discovery and mining ... which is why you can buy any number of meaningless Titanium widgets today that would have been OBSCENE in the 40's-80's.

        The point is, with the skin made out of titanium alloy, IF a tile ... you would still use tiles ... came off or was damaged like with Columbia, the exposed skin could withstand the reentry without disaster.

        We can build a bigger better shuttle, and should have to keep the skilled professionals involved employed. I'm perfectly happy with the effort being exploration, exploitation AND employment.

        I want to build an interplanetary ship to make runs between Earth and Mars/Asteroid Belt/Jupiter's moons. And I don't give a shit if it costs Trillion$, we've spent $8 Trillion in the last 24 years on "defense".

        The developments solving problems we don't even know of yet will and have led to massive returns on investment to our society. Not spending big bucks on space exploration = LOSING money in the long run for our economies.

        •  I don't have access to the "original design" (0+ / 0-)

          but I sincerely doubt that it utilized titanium exclusively for reentry thermal.  Cost and availability aside, you're talking about 16-17 tonnes if it just replaced RCC.

          Ideally, an RLV has an advantage of a cost to orbit per pound approaching the cost of propellant, but I don't see how you get there by building a bigger, heavier shuttle.

          We should build dedicated spacecraft on orbit so we can reduce the cost of operating in space.  If we're spending trillions on exploration alone, we're not building a sustainable space architecture.  We're building extremely expensive toys whose benefits are largely accessible only to select, highly trained few.

          •  The "original design" titanium (0+ / 0-)

            was discussed at the time the shuttle was being designed and approved by Congress .... IN PUBLIC. As well as openly after the Challenger. It wasn't a secret.

            Titanium is only 4.5g/cm^3, so using it for the skin, at least on the bottom/re-entry facing surface UNDER THE TILES would be a minimal weight issue. So much has happened with computer technology, those systems built now would be 90% lower weight and more than make up for any increase from using heat resistant Ti.

            •  Which is 4500 kg/m^3 (0+ / 0-)

              which is more than twice the density of the densest material used in the Shuttle's tiling.  Hardly minimal.  And computers don't change the laws of physics.

              Again, I can't really comment on early shuttle design use of titanium without actually seeing the work product.

              •  You seem to be missing the point (0+ / 0-)

                UNDER the tiling there is an ALUMINUM SKIN. The original design called for Titanium so that IF anything happened to the tile, the shuttle could still re-enter without melting a hole in the skin releasing a blow torch into the cabin .... as occurred with the damage Columbia experienced.

                We are talking about the weight difference between the Aluminum of the current skin and Titanium instead. And this would only be needed on the lower surface that would face re-entry heat. You STILL USE THE TILES, nothing else changes, it was a good system. Of course the tile technology itself has improved as well, so stronger thinner lighter versions could be used as well. And the new electronics AND the lower power levels would yield massive weight reductions in the electronics and the cooling systems for the electronics and the battery systems for the electronics ... a chain reaction of savings with 2014 technologies to make a new generation shuttle affordable, more durable, with a higher carrying capacity and more interior room, win win win win.

  •  Rogozin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rduran

    Russian vice-premier tweeted cooperation with US was only about ISS so it's not clear what NASA wants to cut if ISS excluded

  •  One of Obama's biggest mistakes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rbird, snoopydawg, Mr Robert

    When President Obama announced he would shut down the space shuttle program, before we had a replacement, and rely on the Russians, I just shook my head.  Everyone makes mistakes, and this was a big one.

    •  Disagree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chujb, rduran

      The shuttles were extremely expensive and unsafe.

      Of the four flightworthy shuttles that had ever been built, there were only two left (Atlantis, Endeavor) as the other two had been destroyed in accidents (Challenger, Columbia). I imagine that t's proportionately much more difficult and expensive to keep two shuttles running than four.

      The shuttle was always a weird program because it tried to combine heavy lift with human-supporting spacecraft, which creates a lot of difficult engineering issues. Better not to pour more money into it, IMO, even taking into account this latest kerfluffle with Russia.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:16:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One day... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bear83

        I want to read up on why the Saturn V / 1B got cancelled out of existence.

        The United States for All Americans

        by TakeSake on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:29:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  All manned flight is expensive and unsafe (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rduran

        IMHO we shouldn't even be talking about manned flight until we have safe, inexpensive craft.  The only reason we have manned flights is for politics and show.  Having to begging hat in hand to the Russians to give us a lift to our (rather worthless) space station, is bad politics and a really bad show.

        If you're really concerned about safety and expense, than lets drop the manned flights and use the money to send robots all over the solar system and even better sats to gather information about our own planet, and let's get back to real science and stop wasting $billions on bad shows.

        Don't forget Discovery in that shuttle list.

    •  No, it was the right decision (0+ / 0-)

      Would've also been a good idea to proceed with the original ISS decommissioning schedule.  Under constrained budgets, NASA's resources are best prioritized towards reducing aerospace costs (particular cost to LEO), Earth monitoring, and ongoing astronomical, cosmological and interplanetary work.  

      Instead we're plowing the lion's share of the budget building Constellation II: Electric Boogaloo to justify the existence of a space station that (barely) justifies the existence of the rocket.

  •  A dumb and petty move on the part of the (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, Odysseus, Mr Robert, chujb, rduran

    administration. In the manned space program, we need them more than they need us. We need to make international science off limits to these geopolitical disputes.

  •  Our geopolitics hasn't yet caught on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unfangus, rduran

    to the fact that we all have to share a single planet.

  •  Well, - how you say - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bear83

    boo-fucking-hoo.

    -- V. Putin

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 08:56:10 AM PDT

  •  Good thing the US aerospace industry has a (7+ / 0-)

    two year stockpile of Russian RD-180 rocket motors which are used as the booster for the Atlas V. The Atlas V has successfully put about 50 satellites into space and is set to send another 45 up until 2019.

    The Pentagon has been told it will take 5 years and a billion dollars to replace the 1 million pound thrust motors costing $10 million from Russia. These motors are built for reliability, not looks.

    Of course, the US could steal the design and make copies in the US.

    The decision dates from the Clinton years, so we can't blame Bush.

    From Russia, With 1 Million Pounds of Thrust
    Dec 2001
    ...
    Not only is the RD-180 more powerful than any of its American-made counterparts, but unlike US engines, it can be throttled up and down during flight, making for a much smoother and more efficient ride.

    The Russians devised a number of other simple but ingenious strategies to increase reliability and keep costs down. They applied special coatings to internal machine parts to protect them from extreme heat, and routed kerosene around hot rocket nozzles to cool them down. More important, they emphasized what's known as "producibility," handing off designs early in the process to the engineers who were actually going to be building the stuff. "It's a European design philosophy," Ford explains. "Over there, engineers are trained to produce things that work."

    If the Atlas V proves successful, the RD-180 may become the engine of choice for the US Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, which is charged with developing the military's next-generation disposable rockets. And this means that the success of future American space missions could be riding on an unsightly piece of machinery with MADE IN RUSSIA stamped on the side.

  •  Let's go to Mars. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:04:38 AM PDT

    •  Let's not and say we did. (0+ / 0-)

      Let's go to the Moon and mine the shit out of it.

      •  let's do both n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

        by River Rover on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 08:07:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Last time we said we'd do both (0+ / 0-)

          we ended up just doing the flashier one until people started asking what the hell we were getting for all that money.

          Mars is a trap.  From LEO, the surface is another nine and change klicks per second on top of the eight you just expended getting into space in the first place.  Instead of going for a Marshot now--where you have to lift everything from Earth--why not invest that money into cracking hydrolox on the Moon, storing at libration, and making an actual space-based industry that can support a far larger portfolio of manned interplanetary missions from a far more advantageous--energetically speaking--position?

          •  Good long range plan, and is the preferred mission (0+ / 0-)

            for true believer gravity haters such as you and I, but since the chances of creating the multi decade political will to it carry out are slim the Nasa office planning the Mars mission (where my wife works) is focusing on Mars alone.  This doesn't stand a chance either but is at least politically conceivable.  I agree that a return to the moon would be a good idea even if there were no fuel to be had, if only to let us relearn how to fly in deep space.  You shouldn't head off to Hawaii without making a shakedown cruise to Catalina.  

            Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

            by River Rover on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 08:45:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We apparently had the multi-decade will (0+ / 0-)

              to fly $1.2 billion per launch shuttles in order to erect and dock with a $100 billion space station that exists almost exclusively to justify flying said $1.2 billion shuttles.

              As it stands, you're correct that Congress and NASA will not heel to funding space settlement activity over anything connected to Mars.  Mostly for the same reason why we have an SLS--there're jobs on the line.  Fortunately, what pittance commercial spaceflight gets may be enough to spur action in spite of the myopia.

              •  We went to the Moon because of the Cold War. (0+ / 0-)

                For better and worse we are not that same country.  I am afraid that we will have to wait for future generation, motivated and inspired by something that we can't even guess, to go back to deep space.

                But we saw the beginning.

                Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

                by River Rover on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 09:52:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Congress and NASA may drop the ball (0+ / 0-)

                  but commercial spaceflight won't.  And if a private company can put a man on the Moon in the next decade, we won't really need NASA to get the job done.

                  •  But why? There's no killer ap for deep space. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    rduran

                    Science and bootprints are the only reason to go and they don't  put money on investors pockets.
                    Don't get me wrong - I support commercial spaceflight because it will give us non Russian access to space.  We don't have much stake in the ISS if we can't get to it.

                    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

                    by River Rover on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:15:39 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  There is one (0+ / 0-)

                      It's called the satellite.  Unfortunately, this killer app has some drawbacks.

                      1. You can't maintain it after it's been launched
                      2. You can't retank it after it expends its propellant
                      3. You can't move it more than a few hundred meters per second.
                      4. Cost of replacement is typically greater than $5000/kg

                      The dream is to solve all four problems while a) staying around or even lowering the total lifecycle cost compared to today and b) eliminate prohibitive capital commitments.

                      •  Satellites are near Earth orbit. They are money (0+ / 0-)

                        makers and information gatherers and will be with us from now  on.  What the Church of the Gravity Haters is focused on is deep space and putting humans there because... well it feels instinctively right.

                        Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

                        by River Rover on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:45:49 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Satellites are also >9 km/s away from Earth (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          River Rover

                          And less than 3 from the Moon's surface.  Barely a third of a klick per second from L1.  And the Moon has everything you need to make hydrolox.  And with cryogenic boil off, you have a continuous demand for propellant.

                          That's the broad strokes of how you pump prime cislunar expansion by providing services in LEO.

  •  What's the expected timing on SpaceX (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    polecat, terabytes, rduran

    and the other private systems being ready to transport crew members?

    The U.S. space agency's Commercial Crew Program is designed to foster the growth of private spaceflight systems that may take astronauts into low-Earth orbit sometime in the near future.

    Election Day is Nov 4th, 2014 It's time for the Undo button on the 2010 Election.

    by bear83 on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:44:29 AM PDT

    •  Need a man-rated capsule and rocket. (0+ / 0-)

      Have neither at this point.

      Don't know the status on the Orion capsule, but it would be difficult to advance the schedule.

      I'm sure SpaceX would be willing to do it, but NASA has (and rightfully so) rules.

      Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
      I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
      —Spike Milligan

      by polecat on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 11:20:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  for NASA crew to the ISS: 2017 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bear83, rduran

      But both SpaceX and Boeing will probably launch their own non-NASA test crews to orbit in 2016. Sierra Nevada is probably only ready for an unmanned test in 2016.

  •  What if the russians decided not to rescue our... (0+ / 0-)

    …astronauts because we invaded the sovereign nations of Iraq and Afghanistan? I'm pretty sure we'd be pissed. I feel bad for Ukrane, but then I feel bad for most of the countries in Russia's sphere of influence. This is not our fight.

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