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Interfax.com  |  Interviews  |  Senator Bill Nelson: It is extremely unlikely that Congress would try to ban...



Interviews


May 26, 2009

Senator Bill Nelson: It is extremely unlikely that Congress would try to ban the purchase of Soyuz flights


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson from Florida gave an interview to the Interfax correspondent in Washington on some aspects of Russian-American cooperation and on further use of the Space Shuttle fleet


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson from Florida gave an interview to the Interfax correspondent in Washington on some aspects of Russian-American cooperation and on further use of the Space Shuttle fleet

1.How big is a chance that U.S. Senate and the Congress will introduce the ban on the contract between NASA and Russian Space Agency about the buying of the slots at the Russian "Soyuz" ships for the flights of US astronauts to the space station? Can you forecast the consequences?

It is extremely unlikely that Congress would try to ban the purchase of Soyuz flights. As much as we dislike being dependent on another nation for access to the International Space Station (ISS), the unfortunate reality is that the Soyuz is the only vehicle that can serve as a "life boat" on the ISS for the immediate future. I expect that once a U.S. alternative to the Soyuz becomes available we will stop buying Soyuz services, but that will not require a change in U.S. law.

2.If the Senate and the Congress ban the delivery of the astronauts to the space station with "Soyuz" ships will you anticipate appropriations to extend shuttle flights after 2010. Would you expect the budget cuts for the design of the new space ship "Orion"? Do you think that the resourse of "shuttles" could be extended and the Orion development will be postponed?

Again, I do not expect a Congressional ban on the use of Soyuz. However both the Obama administration and Congress will be studying the option of extending Shuttle flights after 2010. We have tasked NASA with providing us with an analysis detailing what that would cost and entail. We will have to look carefully at the safety implications of extending the Shuttle and what, if any, impact it would have on the Constellation program (Ares/Orion). If the Obama administration decides that it wants to extend the use of the Shuttle they will need to ask Congress for additional funding so that the Constellation program does not get cut or postponed.

3.Do the US plan to continue cooperation with Russia upon the completion of the space station project? And what are the dierections of the potential cooperation?

The ISS is only now nearing its true capability and I hope and expect that it will be a source of valuable research for years to come. I think that international cooperation in space activities such as that can be very beneficial. However there is a difference between cooperation and dependency, and I do not want to see the United States dependent on another country for critical elements of its space program.

4. Do you anticipate that because of the conflict in the Caucasus United States can break up its relations with Russia about the space station, Sea Start project and the purchase of the Russian missile engines for the "Atlas" missile?

I remain very troubled by last years conflict in Georgia. If Russias relations with its neighboring countries deteriorates, it could jeopardize collaborative efforts with the U.S. And, for the space program, this would be especially troubling, considering the U.S. will almost certainly have to rely on Russia for access to the space station.

5.United States has announced the project of the protection system against asteroids. Do you plan to have Russia involved in the project? On what grouinds Russia could participate since anti-ateroid system could be used against sattelites, ballistic missiles, space ships?

Congress has directed NASA to study the threat that asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs) might pose to Earth. The goal is to better detect and catalog NEOs that could someday impact Earth and to seek international cooperation in this effort. There are currently no plans to actually build a system to protect against asteroids.



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