The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s second major announcement in 24 hours said American astronauts will be launching into space aboard U.S. spacecraft by 2017.
The statement followed the release of an internal agency memo Wednesday that said NASA will break all contact with Russia due to its violation of Ukraine sovereignty and annexation of Crimea. Only work aboard the International Space Station is exempt from the break.
“NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space,” NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel said in an email according to Mashable.
Astronauts have relied on rides to the ISS, where both Americans and Russians are currently living, since the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet in July 2011. Those rides cost about $71 million-per seat on Russian Soyuz space capsules — a price widely regarded as unnecessarily expensive by experts, and taking gross advantage of NASA’s current predicament.
“We’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017,” Beutel said. “The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple.”
NASA astronaut Steve Swanson embarked on a voyage to the ISS last week with two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Soyuz.
Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk, who also heads the private rocket and spacecraft manufacturing company SpaceX, has repeatedly said it’s “embarrassing that the United States has to thumb rides from the Russians,” and the company has various contracts with NASA to develop new cargo and manned space flight platforms – the earliest of which could fly by 2015.