NASA extends contract with Russia
The extension comes even as relations between the two countries have reached their lowest point since the Cold War.
“Unfortunately, for five years now, the Congress … has not adequately funded the Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight launches to American soil this year, as planned,” NASA chief Charles Bolden wrote in a letter to Congress.
“This has resulted in continued sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as our crew transport vehicle for American and international partner crews,” he added.
The United States has been dependent on Russia for trips to the space station since the space shuttle program ended in July 2012.
In the meantime, NASA is partnering with privately owned SpaceX and Boeing to develop space taxis that can ferry astronauts to and from the station in the near future.
Bolden warned Congress in the letter that Boeing and SpaceX may not be ready by the end of 2017 to carry out a plan to send up their first manned vessels if $1.24 billion in funding requested by President Barack Obama is not granted in the 2016 budget.
“The fastest path to bringing these new systems online, launching from America, and ending our sole reliance on Russia is fully funding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in FY 2016,” Bolden wrote.