The U.S. should have its own transport method for moving astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station instead of paying Russia millions of dollars to do it, advised a government watchdog organization on Wednesday.
NASA contracted aerospace companies SpaceX and Boeing to meet certifications for human space travel by 2017, but neither will be ready until 2019, according to the report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. It warns that U.S. astronauts may not be able to travel to the space station after a U.S. contract with Russia expires in 2019.
“Without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the [International Space Station] in the event of further commercial crew delays, we concluded that NASA is at risk of not being able to maximize the return of its multibillion-dollar investment in the space station,” stated the report according to NPR. (RELATED: Officials Ignored Musk’s Mini-Sub And Instead Used Navy Seals To Save Soccer Kids)
NASA has paid Russia up to $82 million per astronaut for a ride to the space station on the Soyuz spacecraft since the U.S. retired its Space Shuttle in 2011, reported NPR.
For now, SpaceX and Boeing are competing to be the first company to transport astronauts to the space station. According to the report’s current timeline, Boeing will secure certification by January, while SpaceX will be ready to test its spacecraft by February.
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