NASA, Georgia, and those evil Russians

So the plan seemed simple enough: retire the Shuttle in 2010 and bring the new spaceship online in 2015 (at the absolute earliest). And in the meantime, pay the Russians to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station via the Soyuz. After all, they’re dirt poor and need hard currency, right? And since the Berlin Wall collapsed they’ve been more than happy to help out whenever we need it, right?

But now there’s Georgia. And the realization that if our diplomatic relations with Russia turn to shit, it’s going to difficult to persuade Moscow to continue to provide the world’s most expensive taxi service. All the more so as allowing NASA to contract with Russia will require Congress to pass a special waiver, as the Washington Post reports this morning. Which is highly unlikely to happen in an election year.  And even less likely to happen in a year in which Russian tanks are busy plowing Georgia.

Of course, the real question is What the Hell Did We Expect?  Defense Secretary Gates was quoted this morning as saying that Russia’s Georgian incursion has “called into question the entire premise” of U.S.-Russian relations.  That premise being, I suppose, that we can do whatever we want on Russia’s borders and if they say anything about it, then they hate freedom almost as much as, well, everybody else.  And when it turns out we can’t hitch a ride on the Soyuz, you can be sure the prez (whoever that might be) will decry Russia’s attempt to dominate the entire solar system.  Georgia today, tomorrow Mars:  it’s certainly a better gameplan than anything NASA has managed to come up with.

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