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This past Tuesday, the House Science Committee held a hearing to discuss the future of NASA with its Administrator, Michael Griffin. In its hearing charter, the committee raised several issues that NASA will face in the coming months, and in so doing, voiced concern over the future of the International Space Station (ISS).
To complete construction and use the ISS, NASA needs the cooperation of the Russian space agency. According to the hearing charter, “the US is totally dependent on Russian Soyuz capsules for crew rescue, and without access to Soyuz capsules, Americans will not be able to stay on the space station for long duration missions.” Yet after April 2006, Russia’s obligation to participate expires, and we may no longer have their support. That is, unless we pay for it.
But this is not merely a matter of money. Section 6 of the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) “prohibits the US Government from making payments in connection with ISS to the Russian space agency, organizations or entities under its control, or any other element of the Russian government … unless the President makes a determination that Russia’s policy is to oppose proliferation to Iran, that Russia is demonstrating sustained commitment to seek out and prevent the transfer of WMD and missile systems to Iran, and that neither the Russian space agency nor any entity reporting to it has made such transfers for at least one year prior t such determination.” (From “The INA and ISS: Issues and Options” March 2005 CRS report). The President has almost no chance of making that call.
Thus, we must consider our options: