May 28, 2016

"The space program that gave the United States much-deserved global recognition is looking very different today."

Modern Diplomacy: Somewhat embarrassingly, the United States relies on the Atlas V rocket, powered by a Russian rocket engine, to transport crucial space satellite technology. by Nenad Drca

'It is concerning to the US to heavily depend on Russia, at the moment still under sanctions for interfering in Ukrainian unrest. Thus it seems imperative that this situation needs to change for the long-term benefit of the American space program. In order to be ready for future conflicts, which may include space, US armed forces need to rely on space technology such as GPS, communication satellites, and intelligence gathering equipment.

'The United States must maintain uninterrupted and independent access to space due to 21st century national security interests. By heavily depending on Russia, Washington is supporting the defense industry of a state that carries, to put it mildly, deep skepticism toward American power. It is unwise policy to depend on Russia for vital space missions and even worse policy when this dependence might help Russia takes steps against US national security interests. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has described American fees for the space transport as “free money” that is invested directly into Moscow’s missile development program. NASA spokesman Mr. Allard Beutel stated recently that his agency still has a transport contract with Russia until June 2020.

'This idea of American space dependence on Russia is receiving increasing criticism in Washington. Recently Senator John McCain said: “today Russia holds many of our most precious national security satellites at risk before they ever get off the ground." His concerns were not unfounded because in 2014 Rogozin, in light of impending sanctions, openly threatened to prohibit the export of Russian rockets that facilitate deployment of the American satellite program. If that happened the United States would have no means of deploying its essential satellite technology into space. More disconcertingly, the new federal budget proposed to cut NASA’s Fiscal Year 2017 funds even further. In perspective, NASA’s budget is dangerously small when compared to regular expenditures. Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin stated that Americans spend more annually on pizza (27 billion USD) than on space. Due to such changes NASA’s mission today is much weaker than several decades ago. The United States, first to send men to the moon in 1969, now struggles in the 21st century to reach beyond low-earth orbit without expensive Russian assistance. How the mighty have fallen indeed.'

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