The United States will have to pay Russia $70.7 million despite the ongoing Ukraine crisis. The payment is meant for a single shuttle ride aboard Russia’s Soyuz rocket on Tuesday night. This payment comes at a time when the shaky relationship between the US and Russia seems to worsen every day. President Barrack Obama has been offering a series of penalties, warnings and sanctions against Putin’s government for its recent invasion of the Ukraine. However, according to NASA, the recent political stand-off between Russia and the U.S. fueled by the Ukraine crisis will not affect the payment for the space journey.
“The current situation in Ukraine should not affect our relationship with Russia when it comes to matters concerning civil space affairs. Our relationship has lasted for decades and the same case applies to the International Space Station program (ISS),” said Trent Perrotto, a spokesman for the space agency.
He added, “We hope that our two space agencies will work hand in hand as it has always been even during the days of intense political disputes between the two countries.”
The space rocket set off from a launch pad located at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Steve Swanson was part of the journey into space accompanied by Oleg Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov from Russia. The payment for the shuttle ride is mainly because the US does not have a suitable way of flying its astronauts into space at the moment, therefore relying on Russia for assistance.
NASA reached an agreement with Russia last April that lasts up to 2017 and includes six flights. The US will have to pay Russia $71 million per seat for the spaceflight despite the Ukraine crisis. According to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Congress is to blame for failing to release funds for a replacement space shuttle. NASA also revealed that it is planning to bring spaceflights back to the US anytime soon, probably within the next three years to avoid relying on Russia.
“We are trying our best to return human spaceflight to America so that we may not rely on Russia again anytime we want to get into space. NASA will also carry out an operation to select the American companies that can support its own astronauts to the space station to be launched in 2017. Currently, the relationship between NASA and Roscosmos will continue to be strong as we look forward to maintaining the space station where humans have existed for over 13 years.”
The mission, officially dubbed Expedition 39, will involve a 6-hour journey to the space station. The three astronauts on board, namely Swanson, Artemyev and Skvortsov will be joined by fellow astronauts Koichi Wakata from Japan, Rick Mastracchio from the U.S. and Mikhail Tyurin from Russia. Tyurin, Wakata and Mastracchio have been aboard the orbiting complex since November and are said to be carrying out scientific research, experiments, general cleaning and routine maintenance as they prepare for the arrival of their new colleagues. However, due to the ongoing Ukraine crisis, the U.S. will still pay Russia $71 million but there are reports that the Pentagon is planning to review the connections between the two countries in matters concerning space technology.
By Andrew Wandola