View Full Version : Could Conflict in Georgia Block US Access to the Space Station?

2008-Aug-15, 02:10 AM
The conflict between Georgia and Russia over the disputed region of South Ossetia may have huge consequences for NASA's ability to send astronauts to the International Space Station in the future. The US has criticised the Russian military action, prompting concerns for the future NASA use of the Russian Soyuz space vehicle. This comes at [...]

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Warren Platts
2008-Aug-15, 05:44 PM
This situation clearly illustrates the pitfalls that come with foreign entanglements that George Washington warned us about. What are the options?

(1) Keep the shuttle going: but that's really a step backwards.

(2) Start a crash program to get the Ares rockets up and running: but that's going to require Congress to pony up many more billions of USD$.

(3) Just wing it: let's hope the Russians don't humiliate us too much.

(4) Preemptively withdraw from the ISS before the Russians effectively give us twenty minutes to pack up our toothbrushes before they change the locks (my favorite).

Why not? Sure we've spent $100 billion on the place. But we've already learned most of the lessons that are to be learned from the ISS. Let's offer to sell the US components for something like $30 billion payable over ten years at 0% interest. Russia is flush with cash for once, they can afford it.

Then we take that $3 billion per year plus the billions we save from our ongoing commitments to the ISS and use it to develop a brand new space station to be placed in a low inclination orbit that would actually be useful as a life boat for missions to the Moon and beyond.

The fundamental problem with the ISS is the 54 degree inclination of it's orbit. That takes a lot of extra rocket fuel to reach the ISS from Cape Canaveral or equatorial launch sites. Retreat to the ISS was never an option for the Columbia crew because the delta-v required was just too much.

Bottom line: the US and Russian space programs need to get divorced. It was a dysfunctional relationship from the very beginning starting with Apollo-Soyuz. The resultant codependency has prevented both the Russian and US space programs from being where they should be in the 21st century. As in any divorce, we need to figure out who gets the house. Since the 54 degree orbit is basically a "Russian" orbit, it's natural that they should get it; but the US should be compensated somewhat for their share of the asset. Better an amicable separation sooner rather than an acrimonious split later on.

2008-Aug-15, 07:45 PM
Excellent post Warren, totally agreed. All I can say is the US needs to spend just a tiny fraction of the defence budget on replacing the Shuttle asap. It cannot depend on foreign nations for its access to space. Here we have the world's premier space explorers and they are relying on Russians to get them to the ISS? This is the same Russian who today actually threatened Poland with nuclear war.

There is no doubt that all sides are to blame in varying degrees. However the really dumb part is how the US government did not consider this eventuality when they carried out risk asessment for mothballing the shuttle.