Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Russians Put Kibosh On Joint U.S. -Russian ISS Missions and Dash American Space Hopes

Well, we knew some kind of blowback was in the offing after the Obama administration hit the Russians with trade sanctions (following the legal Crimea occupation) and then - two months ago- discontinued the sharing of key ISS info with NASA's Russian counterpart, the Russian Federal Space Agency. I don't know how Obama and his Crew believed or thought the Russians would just suck this up and take it, but they evidently did.

Now, however, we have the announcement from Russian deputy premier Dmitry Rogozim that there will be no Russian cooperation with NASA on the International Space Station after 2020. (The U.S. had hoped to have it through 2024, at least until a credible U.S. manned space program could be re-established.)

This move, while it might not seem like much to those not interested in manned space operations, is a big blow and serves the Americans right for acting like they own the only leverage in town. They do not. The U.S. depends entirely on the Russians for their maintained area of the space station, and while the Russians can exist independently of the U.S. area, the converse is not true. Hence, shutting that area off is a huge outflanking of the U.S. and its belligerent warhawks at State -who've finally gotten their stupid way.

This means many science experiments now won't get done, nor will there be much advancement in manned space studies, research which both the Russians and Americans had cooperated on. Minus such research it is very difficult to imagine a manned Mars mission anytime soon. (Of course, assorted "suicide" trip are always possible - like the 'Mars ONE' foolishness.)

The other hammer ready to drop is the Russians informing the Americans there will be no more ferrying of American astronauts to the Space Station. If the U.S. wants to get those guys there, it will have to push "Space-X"  to move a bit faster on readying a manned craft. (Which in any case, as per the Russian announcement, would only be practical until 2020- when the Russians effectively close the door to the ISS. To me, it is likely the Space-X ferry won't even be ready by then).

Oh, and to add insult to injury, the same Russian announcement made it clear no more Russian NK-33 or RD-180 rocket engines will be sold to the U.S. Air Force if they are to be employed in military space operations. The Russians are damned if they are going to subsidize the U.S. military with THEIR rockets, if the same military is dispatching troops to Europe - to potentially act against the Russians. (If "troop proxies" haven't already in the guise of 'Academi' i.e. the former 'Blackwater' renegades- stirring up trouble in eastern Ukraine, as assorted reports from ORF - the Austrian Broadcasting Network-  have suggested.)

None of this bullshit ever occurred during the Cold War because both the principals understood it was in their best long term interests to cooperate in space. Now, with the Neoliberal domination of the planet, and acting as if they own it, that appears to have 'gone through the eddoes' in Bajan parlance. Because the Russians displayed the temerity to merely defend their own sphere of interest from American-NATO encroachment they've been taken to task by the primary agents of the Neoliberal Global State - the U.S.

For all of us who've followed the manned space program since Alan Shepherd's historic sub-orbital ride in a Mercury capsule on May 5, 1961, this is a real setback and mightily distressing. That it came under a Democratic President's watch - who as a candidate repeatedly called out the words "hope" and "change" - makes it even more distressing. "Hope" and "change" all right-  in the wrong direction!

We were told, at one political confab in 2008, that "we were the change we were waiting for."

Well, evidently not, and neither was Mr. Obama. (Whose administration, again emanating from State, also announced a cut in Fulbright scholarships- one of the primary props for good international relations - because they encouraged cross cultural and cross-national understanding.)

Go figure.

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