US ban on Russian rides to space set to end

时间:2019-03-02 07:02:02166网络整理admin

By Kelly Young (Image: NASA) Top US officials are working on amending a law that prevents the US from paying Russia for access to space. Without the change, NASA astronauts could no longer form part of the permanent crew of the International Space Station (ISS) after April 2006. The Iran Non-proliferation Act (INA) of 2000 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear technologies from Russia to Iran. But one incentive it imposes on Russia is currently forbidding the US from paying for rides to the space station until the White House is satisfied that nuclear technologies are not being sold to Iran. Fortunately for the US space programme, a pact made between NASA and the Russian Space Agency before the INA superseded the US Act. The pact stated that Russia was to provide 11 Soyuz spacecraft for US and Russian astronauts to reach the station. But the last of those 11 is scheduled to launch later in 2005 and would return to Earth in April 2006. After that, Russia could sell the seats previously reserved for US astronauts to other nations or space tourists. NASA could still take US astronauts to the ISS if the space shuttle is successfully returned to flight, but the astronauts could not stay on board when the shuttle returned to Earth. That is because a Soyuz capsule is the only vehicle always docked at the station and serves as its lifeboat. If an emergency arose, the crew would have to board the Russian lifeboat to come home. “If the act is not amended, NASA would not be able to have US astronauts onboard the station except when the shuttle is there,” NASA chief Mike Griffin told members of a Congressional science committee on Tuesday. That would limit station visits to just a few weeks. Griffin and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to the committee this week saying the administration was writing an amendment to the Act to allow the Russian-US space partnership to continue. They said they would present the amendment to Congress “in the very near future”, but did not give further details. US Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, who was involved in the wording of the original bill, explained: “It was a worthy effort at the time, intended to press Russia not to participate in developing a nuclear facility in Iran.” But he said the Act was now the greatest obstacle to completing the space station. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also criticised the US law, according to news reports,