The Russian takeover of Crimea once again threatens American access to space


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A decision by the Russians to possibly shift astronaut training back to a base in the Crimea, now under their control, could lock American astronauts from future Soyuz flights.

Shifting the survival training to Russian-occupied Crimea will require foreign cosmonauts to accept travel there without Ukrainian visas, an explicit acquiescence to the new diplomatic status of the province. Refusal to attend survival training is equivalent to failing the training, which by existing training regulations is an automatic disqualification for flight certification. No Crimea trip, no space trip.

The Russians have not yet made this shift official, so it is possible it will not become a problem. However, the article outlines many reasons why it makes good sense for the Russians to do it.

6 comments

  • Robert Clark

    Thanks for that. It would be an interesting political scenario on both sides. If the Russians make the change to the Crimea, how would the U.S. respond? Would we call their bluff and refuse to train there? This would be intolerable since we have no other access to the ISS then.
    On the other hand the Russians need our cash so they definitely do not want the U.S. to pull out of training. My guess is the Russians will not play this political game. They have nothing to gain by it and much to lose.
    It does give further evidence though of how precarious the U.S. position is while dependent on the Russians for spaceflight. And makes it even more obvious, if it weren’t already, how important it is the U.S. to get its own independent spaceflight capability as soon as possible.
    Accelerate, not delay, commercial crew.

    Bob Clark

  • geoffc

    The docking system for the three competitors for US manned flight, the IDA (International Docking Adapter) is launching on the CRS-7 flight by SpaceX. No manned flights on the US side possible till the docking ring is launched. CRS-7 is set for Jun 2015 (before any cascading delays push it back).

    So even if SpaceX/SNC/Boeing was ready today, still need that docking ring.

  • ken anthony

    The more Russia pushes, the better chance we will face the realities.

  • Robert Clark

    You would think that would be the case Ken. But the current situation shows how much power the big aerospace companies have over Congressmen and Senators. Even staunch, hawkish Republicans prefer to keep us dependent on the Russians when these congressman have big aerospace concerns in their districts or states.

    Bob Clark

  • Tom Billings

    “But the current situation shows how much power the big aerospace companies have over Congressmen and Senators. Even staunch, hawkish Republicans prefer to keep us dependent on the Russians when these congressman have big aerospace concerns in their districts or states.”

    You are missing a vital point. Not only are the legislators being lobbied by the NASA Contractors Club, but they have their own fish to fry. The NASA Centers have always operated in a semi-feudal relationship with the congressional delegations in their states. The Centers are a large portion of their clout as pols, inside their states.

    In addition, most of those “staunch Republicans” started off as LBJ Democrats. They are less Republican or Democrat than they are LBJ’ians. It was Johnson who showed then how to get this political benefice going, and they are avid followers of his techniques. They haven’t stopped just because Democrats made themselves unpopular in so much of the South.

    At the same time, replacing the SLS/Orion with 20+ smaller projects for developing the tech needed to settle the Solar System would incur political costs inside the Beltway. DC operates on an economy of favors as much as one of taxed or borrowed money. Every vote for a NASA line item requires a favor be exchanged for that vote. Even though the SLS is a $1.8 Billion/year project, its only one favor. 20 smaller projects may be 10-15 times more costly in DC’s economy of favors.

    So, …self-interest aside from lobbyists donations play a very large part.

  • Kelly Starks

    And SpaceX/SNC/Boeing won’t have anything to launch until 2016, nothing ready to carry folks safely until after that. Boeing is the farthest ahead, and the most mature and efferent organization. So they might be able to shave a year or more off that – but you still have a gap the station won’t be able to sustain operations on without US crews.

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