Russia has the edge in the space race now

Posted by David Gomez

The Olympics aren’t until summer 2012, but the United States is now losing an important race. The U.S. has fallen behind Russia in the all-important space race.

As you may already know, the U.S. is winding down its shuttle program, and that means that Russia will soon have complete control of access to the International Space Station.
    
According to a report by AFP, the Russian space agency isn’t celebrating; they’re allegedly playing down any sense of triumph. But the fact of the matter is that U.S. astronauts will have to depend on Russia to gain access to the ISS.
    
They will also have to pay Russia to get seats in their Soyuz space capsules.
    
"We cannot say that we have won the space race, but simply that we have reached the end of a certain stage," the deputy head of the Russian space agency, Vitaly Davydov, said in an interview.
    
On July 8, four US astronauts will board the Atlantis shuttle for its last flight. They will wrap up a three-decade-long program where the U.S. took turns to bring supplies and crews to the ISS with Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets.
    
The U.S. will have to pay Russia $51 million per seat in their space capsules, which is needless to say, very pricey. NASA thinks that a new space crew vehicle could be built by private companies sometime between 2015 and 2020.

Maybe the Russians aren’t celebrating in public, but you know damn well that the significance isn’t lost on them. At one time the space race defined America’s greatness, and now another industrialized nation can simply chalk it up as one of the many advantages they have over the U.S. in the post 9/11 era.  
    
You can add China to that rapidly growing list as well; they sent a crew to space in 2003.
    
It seems like there is an article like this related to the U.S. every week, but my, how the mighty have fallen.  It’s pretty sad to think that as the U.S. finishes celebrating its independence, reality is setting and we have to face the fact that our "space program" is now dependent on Russia.
    
I think that the space race is extremely important for all of mankind, but when the wealthiest country in the world is cutting most of its budget for their space program I’d say that’s a very telling event. Economic problems and budget problems are causing our status in the world to fall, and they need to be taken seriously.
    
If the U.S. ever wants to be a world leader in the space race, which I hope we do, then it will need to come from a different system. If we are ever going to get serious about a space program again, then this time it needs to be directed by the private sector.
    
The huge budget that NASA used to have is unjustifiable with the economic problems we are facing, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up on getting to colonize the stars. We can still have the best space program in the world; we just shouldn’t expect the taxpayers to fund it. We also shouldn’t let politicians be the ones who control it anymore.
    
They’re the reason why the program lost its edge in the first place. A private sector directed space program needs to happen in some way, shape, or form. It’s too important to humanity’s future to not pursue.
    
Our private sector space program could easily beat any other country’s government controlled space program. The only problem is getting it started. Does anyone want to put in a call to Richard Branson or some other eccentric billionaire?